“Where the Right Went Wrong,” This Coming Tuesday

Borrowing the title of Patrick J. Buchanan’s 2004 book, I’ll be giving a talk on “Where the Right Went Wrong” this coming Tuesday at 7:30 pm on the campus of North Carolina State University, in Harrelson Hall, Room 107.

With Bush’s approval ratings in the 30s, Republicans set to lose ground — and perhaps lose control — in Congress this November, and the country mired in a war engineered by neoconservatives, it’s become increasingly clear, even to many long-time conservative activists and writers, that something is seriously wrong with the Right. I’ll be arguing that an overemphasis on politics (including fighting a “Culture War” by political means) and the conservative movement’s betrayal of the right’s anti-war and anti-statist roots have ensured that conservatism would degenerate into what it has become today. But things could have been different, if only the counsel of such disparate figures as Murray Rothbard and Irving Babbitt had been heeded…

Below are full directions to the lecture hall, courtesy of James Lawrence:

From the North:

Take I-95 South to I-85 South. Then take US 1 (which turns into Capital
Boulevard) to downtown Raleigh. Turn right onto Edenton Street. Edenton
Street merges with Hillsborough Street. Follow Hillsborough Street and
then turn left at Pullen Road. Follow signs to the Visitor Information on
Stinson Drive (at the traffic circle).

From the South:

Take I-95 North to I-40 West. Proceed on I-40 West into Raleigh to Gorman
Street, exit 295. Turn right at the stoplight onto Gorman Street and
follow it to the second traffic light. Turn right onto Avent Ferry Road.
After approximately 1.5 miles you will turn right onto Western Boulevard.
Take the first left onto Pullen Road. Follow signs to the Visitor
Information Booth on Stinson Drive (at the traffic circle).

From the West:

Take I-40 East approximately 25 miles to Raleigh. At the I-40/Wade Avenue
split, stay on I-40 to Gorman Street, exit 295. Turn left at the stoplight
onto Gorman Street and follow it to the third traffic light. Turn right
onto Avent Ferry Road. After approximately 1.5 miles you will turn right
onto Western Boulevard. Take the first left onto Pullen Road. Follow signs
to the Visitor Information Booth on Stinson Drive (at the traffic circle).

Best Parking Area Regardless of Where You’re coming from:

After passing by the Visitor’s Information Booth on Stinson Drive, take
the first left onto Boney Drive. Take the next right off Boney Drive into
the Riddick Parking Lot. You can park there freely anytime after 5:00 PM.

Directions to Harrleson Hall from Riddick Parking Area:

Walk along Stinson Drive until it T’s into Cox Hall. Make a right at Cox
Hall and proceed up the stairway to Harrelson Hall (it’s a large,
odd-looking round building, you can’t miss it). Take the closest Stairway
into Harrelson Hall after climbing the stairs and climb one flight to the
first floor. Follow the signs to Room 107.


Keeping Busy / More Fun in Sugar Land

TAC goes to print today, a little earlier than usual ahead of the Labor Day weekend. Between that and a few other things — catching up on some reading and writing, preparing for a talk at North Carolina State University on Tuesday, etc. — I’ve been neglecting the blog for the past few days. Proper posting will resume soon; I’ll also relate the full details of my scheduled talk in Raleigh shortly.

In the meantime, have a look at the latest development in Sugar Land, where there will now be two elections on the same day for the same congressional seat — Tom DeLay’s. According to TPMmuckraker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called a special election for DeLay’s seat to fill out his term from November through January before the winner of the general election takes office. It’s a roundabout way of making sure that a Republican is on a ballot of some kind: presumably voters will have an easier time spelling “Sekula-Gibbs” — the GOP’s write-in candidate in the general election — if her name is printed on the special-election ballot together with an indication of her party affiliation. All this just because DeLay insisted on running in the Republican primary back in March in order to make sure that party voters wouldn’t pick another candidate he didn’t personally approve of.

Church and State as Seen From Glastonbury Tor

At the denouement of Auberon Waugh’s novel A Bed of Flowers (about a hippie commune set up on a Somerset farm by a drop-out businessman and his ex-Jesuit spiritual advisor), a certain Fr. Rasputian officiates at a triple wedding on the Glastonbury Tor. The nearby ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, despoiled by Henry VIII in the 16th century, elicit some thoughts from him on the prospects for Church and State:

There are those, of course, who maintain that the only thing which has really happened is that the State has won the argument; the Church as an institution now disintegrates before our eyes, while the State goes from strength to strength. Do not be deceived by appearances, my brothers and sisters. All that has happened is that the Church, with greater wisdom than our political masters can show, has decided to go underground. There are those who complain about the new order of services. The Mass, or what passes for the Mass, is now meaningless, ugly and an affront to religious sensibility. Nobody has yet understood that this may, through the ancient wisdom of the Church, be intentional, its purpose to discourage people from the empty gesture of church attendance, to drive them back on their inward spirituality, where all hope for the Church’s survival must reside. This is an age of formal distintegration, which the Church realises and the State does not. The State cannot realise it, since the State has no existence outside its form, unless you adduce the self-important and obsequious longings of a few indivdiuals as evidence of a soul. The Church is now engaged in a process of voluntary, formal distintegration, while the State is fighting the irresistaible forces of distintegration with more and more hyperbolical measures, unfounded in human aspirations or convenience, towards greater cohesion. Nobody can know what violence and what suffering will attend the State’s final disintegration, or for how long the wretched people who exercise their authority and feed their self-importance through the machinery of the State will manage to delay the moment, but of one thing we can be sure: when the moment of disintegration comes, the Church will re-emerge, through the will of the poeple and in response to their needs.

It’s a satirical novel, and this monologue is delivered by a character named “Rasputian” at that. Nevertheless, there’s good reason to think that at least a little of Auberon Waugh’s own view is reflected here. And there’s something to be said for it.

Strauss the Skeptic

There’s an excellent, thought-provoking essay on Leo Strauss and Straussians in the new (Sumer 2006) issue of Modern Age by Richard Sherlock of Utah State University. He’s sympathetic to Strauss in some respects and particularly values Strauss’s close readings of ancient texts. But ultimately he finds the project of Strauss and the Straussians sterile:

At bottom Strauss appears to be a skeptic on the most fundamental question of all: Can either philosophy or theology ground either wisdom or virtue? It is not that Strauss did not do all he could have done. It is rather that, on his own terms, such a grounding of natural right seems not to be possible. This is why in his masterwork [Natural Right and History — D.M.] the language of natural right is so fervent and pervasive while the pay-off is so meager. On the question at hand the project appears as rhetorical, not philosophic. In Natural Right and History Strauss argues that classical natural right is superior to modern natural rights, but he nowhere shows how classic natural right is anything more than rhetoric.

Nowhere does Strauss provide solutions to, or show how Plato or Aristotle provided solutions to, fundamental epistemological problems found in Plato’s own work. Nowhere does he engage Aristotle’s metaphysics or biology in search of natural right, in the way that Aristotle himself might have done. Nowhere does he seriosuly engage the nature of the physical cosmos. On his own view, philosophy must aspire to and thus assume a comprehensive account of the whole. But to invoke the whole–a cosmos–immediately raises the question of the grounds on which we can assume that whole to be intelligible. Such a move, of course, leads to classic natural theology, which Strauss studiously ignores.

… One strenuous critic of Strauss [Myles Burnyeat — D.M.] has attacked him as being a “sphinx without a secret.” I think that this is a limited and unsatisfactory response to Strauss and to Straussianism. In general, the secret of Strauss’s teaching is that there is no philosophic answer to the fundamental problems of human existence: What is the good? How shall I know it? How shall I live in its sight?

… [O]ne searches Strauss’s corpus and that of leading Straussians in vain for any serious encounter with Christian theologians, or for that matter with the real theologians of Islam like al-Ghazali. Straussians express their partiality for the ancients over the moderns as a preference for the high over the low. When confronted with the very highest, however–the claims of Christianity–they turn back on the road to Athens without any serious argument to justify their turn.

Of course, as Sherlock himself argues earlier, even that “road to Athens” is only followed as a rhetorical strategy.

There are several pro-Strauss books by Straussians out recently, by the way, including Leo Strauss: An Introduction to His Thought and Intellectual Legacy by Thomas Pangle and Catherine and Michael Zuckert’s The Truth About Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy. The latter appears to cover Strauss’s leading students and proponents particularly well. I’m looking forward to reading both one of these days when I have a bit of time on my hands. In the fullness of time, I’ll write up something at length about them and about Strauss generally.

Longing for Total War

A large swathe of the Right has lost its mind. The warlust runs so deep it’s not even related to any recognizable strategic goal anymore. It’s war as self-expression. It means “We’re serious.” Never mind that it makes as much sense as chewing glass. Sure, the post is hedged and qualified with weasel words and stated as a hypothetical (much like current right-wing discussions about whether we should kill a lot more civilians). But it seems apparent that like many other much-linked, funnynamed characters on the internet, “Tigerhawk” looks fondly on the prospect of total war and the regimentation it would require. Remind me again why I’m supposed to be so scared of the Left.

That’s Gene Healy’s response, in part, to a right-wing blogger who longingly asks, “What will it take to militarize the West?” See the rest of Healy’s take here.

Libertarian Sweat Shop

An unadvertised “bonus” at the end of Paul Cantor’s week-long seminar at the Mises Institute last month: at the end, we were all conscripted to roll up and package posters! Now you can order them — a snazzy Austrian economists gallery in miniature, possibly rolled by yours truly or by Professor Cantor himself.

p.s. My only quibble with the poster is putting Mises on a red background, but getting a few words from the Aeneid more than makes up for that.