Fusionism (pt 1 1/2)

I’d meant to post some thoughts on Frank Meyer over the weekend but got a little sidetracked. My recent American Conservative article on fusionism and “liberaltarianism” is now on-line here, however, and I’ll comment on Meyer sometime in the next several days.

Even better, TAC has also put online articles by Andrew Bacevich (on the Baker Reportand the surge) and Darryl Hart (on developments within the Religious Right). Check ’em out.


Winter of Discontent

National Journal‘s Chuck Todd on the Republicans’ problems:

A number of Republicans are quietly shaking their heads at the White House’s inability to make any domestic political progress on Iraq. Forget policy for a minute; the political ramifications of the president’s decision to ignore the Iraq Study Group may be viewed as the single biggest political mistake of the ’08 cycle.

The biggest complaint I hear from Republicans who may find themselves in competitive ’08 races is that Democrats don’t own a piece of the Iraq problem. And that was the beauty (politically speaking) of the ISG. There were a few things that didn’t thrill some Democrats, but they were generally willing to sign on to most of the bipartisan group’s findings. Had Bush bought in, the political pressure would have been on the Democrats to buy in. And the moment Iraq becomes an American problem rather than a Republican problem, the GOP would have a more level playing field.

With the White House wholly rejecting the “get the GOP out of Iraq” card, the president managed to do something many thought was nearly impossible: He strengthened the GOP’s ties to the war.

We’re going see some remarkable contortions from GOP candidates, particularly the presidential contenders, over the next 12 months. McCain, who for years has been cozying up to the Bushies and demanding a more aggressive line on Iraq, is now taking shots at Cheney. It’s a game of “hot potato.” Of course, Hillary Clinton has the same problem, even if her party has a little (but not a lot) more cover on this issue.

The Iraq War is vastly unpopular right now and is only going to be more so in 2008, by which time we’ll have been in Iraq for 5 years with about 4,000 U.S. dead and 30,000 wounded.  But will there be any seriously antiwar major-party candidates beyond Ron Paul and maybe Dennis Kucinich?

Meyer’s Fusionism (pt. 1)

Here’s how National Review senior editor Frank Meyer described his “fusion” of libertarian and traditionalist concerns — though he didn’t use the words “fusion” or “fusionism,” terms that other people tended to apply to his position:

Closely related to the false antithesis between reason and tradition that distorts the dialogue between the libertarian emphasis and the traditionalist emphasis among conservatives is our historical inheritance of the nineteenth-century European struggle between classical liberalism and a conservatism that was too often rigidly authoritarian. Granted there is much in classical liberalism that conservatives must reject–its philosophical foundations, its tendency towards Utopian constructions, its disregard (explicitly, though by no means implicitly) of tradition — and granted it is the source of much that is responsible for the plight of the twentieth century, its championship of freedom and its development of political and eocnomic theories directed towards the assurance of freedom have contributed to our heritage concepts which we need to conserve and develop, as surely as we need to reject the utilitarian ethics and the secular progressivism that classical liberalism has also passed on to us.

Nineteenth-century conservatism, with all its understanding of the preeminence of virtue and value, for all its piety towards the continuing tradition of mankind, was far too cavalier to the claims of freedom, far too ready to subordinate the individual person to the authority of state or society.

The conservative today is the inheritor of the best in both these tragically bifurcated branches of hte Western tradition, but the divison lingers on and adds to the difficulties of conservative discourse. The traditionalist … tends to reject the political and economic theories of freedom which flow from classical liberalism in his reaction against its unsound metaphysics. He discards the true with the false, creating unnecessary obstacles to the mutual dialogue in which he is engaged with his libertarian alter ego. The libertarian, suffering from the mixed heritage of the nineteenth-century champions of liberty, reacts against the traditionalist’s emphasis upon precedent and continuity out of antipathy to the authoritarianism with which that emphasis has been associated, although in actuality he stands firmly for continuity and tradition against the rising revolutionary wave of collectivism and statism.

All that sounds, for the most part, innocuous enough.  I’ll post some more excerpts over the weekend, though, to show why fusionism didn’t philosophically satisfy either libertarians or traditionalists, though it worked well enough as a makeshift credo for conservative activists… (The quotes are from Meyer’s 1964 essay Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism, first published in the Meyer-edited lib-trad anthology What Is Conservatism? and reprinted in the Liberty Fund edition of In Defense of Freedom. What Is Conservatism? is a bit a hard to find these days; I wound up paying about $30 or $40 for a well-worn copy just recently.)

The Candidate I Do Support

I’ve written a bit about the Republican 2008 contenders that I wouldn’t support for a million dollars (well, ok, maybe for a million I would — if it were tax free) but now there’s the prospect that someone I do support, wholeheartedly, might make a run: Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Here’s Brian Doherty’s recent interview with Rep. Paul.

Addendum: Here’s Bruce Bartlett writing about his former boss in the NY Times. (Link via the LRC blog.

We Now Return to Regularly Scheduled Blogging

Like Jay-Z or Too $hort, I was in temporary semi-retirement for a while there.  Well, not quite: actually I spent the Christmas and New Year seasons in Texas and have now moved to Wilmington, Delaware.  While I haven’t blogged for a while, I haven’t been completely idle.  My take on “liberaltarianism” is in the current (Jan. 29, 2007) issue of The American Conservative.  I have a couple of reviews pending at other publications — I’ll mention them once they’re safely in print.