Waiting for Righty: Hey, Kids, Three Fun Books on Conservatives!

Categories: OC Bookly
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Young Noam with Mom and Dad
​ 
I considered titling this week's review "Conservatism for Dummies" but that seemed unnecessarily cruel. As someone raised with your basic anti-social, self-hating, ahistorical so-called "conservative" values, I enjoy reminding myself and others of both my shame as a young person at being cowed by that foolishness and celebrating my nearly infinite and enduring joy at being liberated from it today. Keeping track of what pass for ideas in RightWorld keeps the Bibliofella happy, busy, even entertained, especially in Orange County, where you assume at your peril that people share your satisfaction at exercising what Noam Chomsky calls "intellectual self-defense," especially against Reaction. Indeed, Mr. Bib meets citizens who imagine themselves "conservative" or "libertarian" or espouse the "Objectivist" worldview of a kooky second-rate fiction writer who is approximately to philosophy what Lafayette Ronald Hubbard is to, well, Lafayette. 
In my more charitable moments (which I try to keep at a minimum) I concede happily that this public OC default position of conservative is what sociologists call "culturally constructed," meaning that since so many have assumed it for so long, are seldom challenged, don't read books like the three recommended here, well, nobody really even knows what it is. 

Funny story:  Stopped at a light, behind the wheel of my bumper sticker-festooned VW microbus somewhere in the greater Irvine area once, I rolled down my passenger window in response to the sexy SUV-drivin' OC mom gesticulating my way. "You're not," she hollered, "a Republican, are you?" I grinned. She grinned back. I took her question for ironic, except that might have just been me, a guy who assumes people are funny, self-aware and playin' with their own stereotypes. 
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Hey now!
​After all, I was the longhair driving the hippie love bus. In the County of Orange, assumptions about irony make for risky business. Reminds me of the warning on narcotics. No, maybe don't use irony while operating a motor vehicle, not in Reaganland. Instead, try this challenge: Ask a Rightie if, knowing what they now know, they would have marched with Dr. King. Ask, politely, if they would have voted for George Bush. Seriously.

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Liberal elite
​All this to say that keeping track of the Right and refuting it is a hobby, passion, compulsion. I do it so you don't have to!  And,yes, I sort of have to. Except that, happily, three recent books succeed, with various strategies, at making this unlikely work kinda fun.

Thomas Frank, for instance, is a brilliant, funny writer.  You knew that.  His classic What's the Matter with Kansas? considered Frank's own benighted home state as a case study in mass voting against your own self-interest. The Wrecking Crew studied the evolution--you should forgive the phrase--of the modern Republican Party and took apart how it actually governs when in power. Frank is a cultural historian who writes about business and punk rock and is not--again, forgive me--an economist. His Baffler magazine once profiled, sarcastically, Newport Beach, world capital of mail fraud.

But here, we're in the present. In Pity the Billionaire, Frank marvels at how the obvious and clear failures of economic and social policy which nearly destroyed the nation resulted in revivals of the culture and politics of Wealth. By, weirdly, people who are not even wealthy! What to make of a revitalized Rightist "base" which responds to the greatest banking fraud in history by opposing banking reform?How to explain "populist" opposition to industry regulation after the Gulf disaster, or so-called grassroots protest on behalf of health insurance companies? How, in the face of the failure of corporate capitalism, can so-called conservatives, in some weird mockery of 1930's street protests, stand along the wide boulevards of Mission Viejo demanding, of all things, a return to the Gold Standard?
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I do mind!
​In Corey Robin's philosophically rigorous, polemical, and no less fun (if you go in for this kind of thing) The Reactionary Mind, we get answers. Mostly one. Robin says Conservatism doesn't really exist, taking giddy pleasure arguing that its boosters should correctly be called instead "counter-revolutionary" or "reactionary."  He begins, provocatively: "I seat philosophers, statesmen, slaveholders, scribblers, Catholics, fascists, evangelicals, businessmen, racists, and hacks at the same table: Hobbes next to Hayek, Burke across from Palin, Nietzsche in between Ayn Rand and Antonin Scalia, with Adams, Calhoun, Oakeshott, Ronald Reagan, Tocqueville, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Ernst Junger, Carl Schmitt, Winston Churchill, Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Nixon, Irving Kristol, Francis Fukuyama, and George W. Bush interspersed throughout." Some party! But where do we put Old Man Bren, or at least the corpse of John Schmitz?

Each of these characters represent opposition--French Revolution to women's rights--to any and every variety of social movement pressing for freedom and equality. The relative if slow success of liberation movements defines and animates the reactionary imagination, or lack of it. "Failure, argues Robin,"is the wellspring of conservative renewal." It requires defeat. No, they would not have walked with MLK. In fact, they'd have marched against Civil Rights.  
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Probably pro-choice. Ya think?

Who could have predicted that birth control would be an issue in this election?  But think about it. What if, tomorrow, all reproductive rights were abolished? The Right would lose half of its party, leaving the misogyny crowd standing there wondering what they ever shared with people holding signs about privatizing Social Security.
 
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Backwards ever, Forward never!

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10 comments
unclesmrgol
unclesmrgol

Really wonder what conservative think, kids?a) We think that if you don't have a dollar to buy a candy bar, you should not slug the rich guy on the street and take one of his dollars to buy it.  Save up and buy your candy bar using the work of your hands, not the work of someone else's.  In terms of Government, this means not printing lots of new money to finance things -- because every new dollar decreases the value of the old ones.  Think of it this way.  If the entire world has 1,000 dollars available, and someone prints 1,000 new dollars and starts using them, what has happened to the value of the old dollars?  A: They are now worth half of what they used to be worth.  What happens to prices when this occurs?  They rise.  If you had 50 dollars of the 1,000, what is your $50 worth now?  A: about $25 "old dollars".  What just happened to the cost of the loaf of bread you need to eatb) Few things done by the Government do not cause damage.  When you get to college, and wonder why tuition is so high, look at how easy it is to get a student loan and think for a moment -- you can't get rid of a student loan through bankruptcy; it's a form of indentured servitude.  You will be a slave to the Government for decades -- long after your professors have retired and are taking their well deserved bi-yearly vacations.  Then wonder why the Government has a student loan program, whose net effect is merely to allow colleges to increase tuition so much that only more Government loans can allow students to complete college. Look at your professors again.  And those who think that throwing money at something makes it better.c) The Government should be a referee of rights -- not an enabler.  If I want freedom of the press, I should not be able to obtain a press from the Government unless everyone else is able to obtain same.  If I want freedom of speech, I cannot expect the Government to give me a megaphone.  Religion -- not only is the Government specifically enjoined from giving me one, but it can't stop me from practicing my own personal religion -- whether that is atheism, Wicca, Islam, or -- gasp -- Christianity!  When the Government favors someone's right to write, or right to speak, or right to practice their beliefs, the Government intrudes on all others who might want to write, speak, or believe differently from the favored ones. d) Government should not be able to compel you to violate your beliefs.  When the Government tries to do this, it is not your friend, and must be restrained.  The best way to restrain the Government is via the ballot box (lucky for us -- we live in a democracy).  In spite of the Constitution -- which gives everybody the same rights to the extent that they exert themselves (you can only have Freedom of Speech if you assert your right to use it) -- there are those who will try to give some rights at the expense of others.  Don't fall into the trap of allowing this.END OF PART I.

bullamakanka
bullamakanka

Wow. Tell us how you REALLY feel about half (or more) of the population. The lede sentence is about as opinionated as any, and there's really no need to go further.

Canyon53ss
Canyon53ss

Thanks for the great reviews. Seems we attend the same meetings. I always wonder how folks so dead set against regulations can be so damn authoritarian.

LIBIntOrg
LIBIntOrg

Thanks for the article.

Rand and Objectivism attracted praise from other second rate philosophers of the last century such as Etienne Gilson, Robert Nozick, Anthony Flew, and Bertrand Russell, along with many Aristotelian thinkers. This is unsurprising, as Objectivism is a modernized form of Aristotle's--another second rate philosopher--approach; and advocated silly positions such as constitutional governance in law, logic in argument based on facts, interdisciplinary preparation for intellectuals, and personal self-empowerment.

For info on people worldwide using those kooky voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://www.Libertarian-Interna...  , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization....

Bill T.
Bill T.

Group Think = Right Think,got it, thanks for the clarification.

People supporting their opinion by claiming that it's the majority opinion are totally unconvincing.

The Bibliofella
The Bibliofella

It is a killer rhetorical opening strategy, I will give you that!  Just fyi Mr. Bib prefers analysis, critique and argument to opinion.  Sorry you didn't find a need to continue.  Will try harder next week.  Thanks.

Roy one canyon over
Roy one canyon over

Are you impressed with your OC Weekly readership yet?I did enjoy the letter from the Libertarian. "Rand is just updated Aristotle, so there."I had no idea.

Athirson
Athirson

The very first recognition of the Third Reich as the legit government of Germany came from the Vatican.  So their affinity for the Klan seems only natural

Rbauer
Rbauer

Love the Klan series--especially the piece on the now-obscure DA. Fabulous stuff that should be taught in schools.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

We boast a proud neo-Nazi audience—just check out the comments over at my Klan series. Why, we have Catholics saying the KKK was A-OK!

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