Sergey Oboguev (oboguev) wrote,
Sergey Oboguev
oboguev

неоконсерватизм vs. либертарианство


(отрывки из Adam Wolfson, "Conservatives and Neoconservatives" // ed. Irwin Stelzer, "The Neocon Reader", NY, 2004)

The basic contours of neoconservatism most readily emerge against the backdrop of its two main conservative rivals: libertarianism and traditionalism. (I will have little to say of religious conservatives and Straussians, since they are frequently allied with neocons and have moreover helped shape the neocon impulse.) These three conservative approaches – traditionalism, libertarianism, and neoconservatism – first began to take the form we recognize today shortly after World War II. However, each also has deeper historical and philosophic roots. Generally speaking, traditionalists look to Edmund Burke, libertarians to Adam Smith or (more so today) to Friedrich Hayek, and neocons to Alexis de Tocqueville.

Each might also be said to find its origins in something more elemental and immediate. [...]

... at a deeper level traditionalism and libertarianism do find common cause, and it is here where their differences from neoconservatism first emerge. For both the traditionalist and the libertarian, and in contrast to the neoconservative, politics is of secondary significance. The traditionalist believes that culture or history is the primary factor in human affairs; for the libertarian it is economics. And thus, not surprisingly, they can oftentimes seem to have little affinity for modern democratic life. It is in neoconservatism's appreciation for politics generally and the politics of democracy in particular that its unique characteristics can be seen.

. . . . .

At least here if nowhere else neocons and paleos are in partial agreement: both share in opposition to traditionalists a sense that much of the past is irretrievable. The question is, where does one go from here? The lamentation for a lost tradition leads paleoconservatives in search of new gods, new heroes, and new myths. Full of disdain for what they consider the democratic idols of equality and commodious living, they seek not to rescue democracy from itself but to expedite its collapse, to make way for a postmodern, post-democratic age. In contrast, neocons seek to refurbish America’s founding principles, its constitutional forms, and its democratic way of life. They are aware of democracy’s shortcomings – its frequently low aspirations and dehumanizing tendencies – but they also recognize the fundamental justice of democratic equality. Neoconservatives seek to secure a genuine human freedom and dignity in the age in which we live now, the democratic age, rather than in some futurist utopia.

LIBERTY AND DESPOTISM

Neoconservatism’s political realism, its insistence that we begin our reflections with how life is actually lived by democratic peoples, has never meant simple boosterism for democratic capitalism. "Two cheers for capitalism", Irving Kristol once famously remarked – not three. The fault line between neoconservatism and libertarianism is to be found here.

Consider again the question of Big Government. Neoconservatives have also been highly critical of the welfare state, and in particular of the left’s exaggerated hopes in it, but their arguments have been more limited in scope than the libertarian’s. Neoconservatism’s hostility toward the welfare state has never extended, as it does for libertarianism, to the idea of the public good itself. Where libertarians worry that Big Government is liable to stamp out nearly all personal liberty, neoconservatives see things quite differently. In their view, democracies tend to encourage the pursuit of private interests to the neglect of all else, and thus it is the general welfare that is more likely to wither.

The Hayekian analysis of Big Government has always seemed to the neoconservative overly simplistic as well as somewhat naive. The dangers of soft (or hard) despotism against which Hayek warned are at once more distant than he realized and more insidious than he imagined. Most modern democracies have lived with more extensive welfare states and highly socialized economies than the United States, without somehow reaching a ‘tipping point’ whereupon they tumble into totalitarianism. There is in fact no road to serfdom through the welfare state.

But this good news is overshadowed by a far deeper problem, one that Hayek and his libertarian followers do not see with sufficient acuity, but [which] was well delineated by Tocqueville. Their oversight is in some ways surprising, since Hayek claimed the French philosopher as the inspiration for The Road to Serfdom. But Hayek to some extent misunderstood Tocqueville’s argument about the threats to liberty in a democracy, while he lacked his predecessor’s evident solicitousness for the public realm. As Tocqueville explained, it is democracy itself that fosters the growth of government and threatens liberty. The origins of Big Government are several: democratic peoples have neither the inclination nor the time to engage in public business (being too preoccupied with their own business) – and so in their apathy they leave matters of governing to the State. Their otherwise admirable pride in their independence also feeds the State’s growth. Unlike the power exercised by a family patriarch, a local magistrate, or a religious minister, governmental authority, being more anonymous, is less likely to offend, and is thus more easily tolerated in a democracy. Democratic capitalism also plays a role. In times of equality, the middle class increases and eventually predominates. Their aspirations for comfort and ease become society’s, as does their strong aversion to whatever might upset their pursuit of well-being, and so increasingly the State is looked to for security and public order. For all of these various reasons, concluded Tocqueville, men in democratic times ‘naturally love the central power and willingly extend its prerogatives

Big Government is, as it were, written into the political DNA of democracy. Recognizing this, neoconservatives view the struggle against it as almost, though certainly not entirely, beside the point. The important task is to distinguish those expansions of government that are degrading from those that are a natural response to the middle class’s feelings of insecurity. The problem of the welfare state has less to do with political liberty than with the specter of moral corruption. Thus neoconservatives tended to oppose Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which was rescinded with the reform of welfare in 1996, but are generally supportive of something like social security. It became clear that AFDC discouraged work and inflicted considerable damage on the family and marriage, while despite its larger expense social security can hardly be considered detrimental to seniors. Of course, the form such entitlements take is of great importance in terms of national saving and investment and economic efficiency.

Neoconservatives object not only to the libertarian critique of Big Government but also to its cramped understanding of liberty. Libertarians rise to the defense of every conceivable freedom but that of self-government; they typically tend to be pro-abortion, pro-drug legalization, pro-human cloning, and so on. Their goal, also ardently advanced by the postmodern left, is the expansion of individual choice. But the ‘right to choose’ has generally been secured in contemporary America only by enacting a judicial prohibition, one that forbids individuals from acting together to determine what laws they shall live under.

Now, neoconservatives are hardly a moralistic lot. On some of these contentious cultural issues, they are as likely to be on the ‘pro’ as on the ‘anti’ side. Moreover, their analysis tends toward the urbane – perhaps too urbane given what is morally at stake. Religious conservatives not infrequently become impatient with what they see as the softness of many neoconservatives on these vital issues. However, dispassion should not be mistaken for approval or naivety about what is on the line. Neoconservatism, after all, came into its own in reaction against the left’s nihilistic revolt against conventional morality and religion. Moreover, neoconservatives are in agreement in their condemnation of the high-handed manner in which the libertarian agenda is enacted. Democratic discussion is circumvented, and ‘we the people’, as the phrase would have it, are disenfranchised. To the neoconservative, the true road to serfdom lies in the efforts of libertarian and left-wing elites to mandate an anti-democratic social policy all in the name of liberty. But it is a narrow, privatized liberty that is secured. An active and lively interest in public affairs is discouraged as a result. Everything is permitted – except a say in the shaping of the public ethos. Libertarian ideology would turn citizens into foreigners who live happily, if indifferently, in their country.

. . . . .

More often than not political labels distract us from what is truly important, and in the hands of pundits and politicians, they can become merely a way of scoring points against the opposition. Such labels are useful only if they further our understanding of political reality. The public’s rediscovery of neoconservatism is thus to be welcomed, for it returns us to certain fundamental and unresolved quarrels within conservatism. Contrary to general impression, neoconservatism never was subsumed into a broader conservative intellectual movement. This was in fact unlikely to happen, since neoconservatism represents less a mere reaction against the 1960s counter-culture than a recurrent conservative impulse in our democratic age, possibly its most vital. Conservatism’s other strands are strangely anti–democratic. Traditionalists pine for aristocracy; libertarians look to limited government by technocracy; while paleoconservatives dream vaguely of postmodern utopias. Only neoconservatism among contemporary conservative modes of thought has made its peace with American democracy. That also might be considered a serious weakness, but would be a subject for another day.
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