wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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*bzzzzzt* "I'm sorry, the correct answer is antifederalist devolution."

Ron Radosh » Kudos to the Claremont Review of Books, Waging the War for Cultural Hegemony:
The late Italian Communist and Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci was correct. Before any major social change can take place — such as the revolution he favored — those who seek it have to wage a fight for what he called cultural hegemony, via a war of position in which the intellectual and cultural issues that will decide the nation’s future are adopted by the people who desire a new path.

I want to begin by saying that I respect Ron Radosh one hell of a lot. The man started out as a red-diaper baby and converted to conservatism at a time when doing so was to sign onto what Whitaker Chambers once dolefully described as "the losing side." Certainly the Gramscian memebots who followed the advice of Gramsci and Genovese and spent the last fifty years doing the long march through the institutions of American education and media have done their best to depict conservatives as stupid, religion-fuddled losers who don't understand what's good for them; Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas? is probably the best-known single example of this kind of thinking, but the same sort of thing goes on 24x365 in our republic.

Radosh's praise of the Claremont Review of Books is on point; it is indeed an excellent publication, and I regret being unable to subscribe. However, his subtext that conservatives need to follow the Left's long march and reclaim the intellectual commanding heights from our socialist enemies is utterly incorrect. The social conservatives in the Republican Party already learned this lesson during the Reagan years, and the slower (or just younger) ones learned it during the administrations of Bush the Younger. The bureaucratic state built by FDR and his New Deal cadre, expanded by LBJ, and brought to its full politicized metastasis by Obama, is not now and never will be a useful tool in the hands of the conservative movement. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy never sleeps, and it will ensnare any movement conservative who lets down their guard and allows themselves to be seduced by the attractions of power. For there is so much power concentrated in the Federal government, power derived from libraries full of civil law and administrative regulations and fueled by an endless supply of money extracted from withholding taxes and credulous foreign investors.

By the same token, the conservative movement does not want or need to take back the Ivy League colleges, the dwindling band of dead-tree newspapers, or even the television networks. The Internet has put printing presses into the hands of Everyman, and its robotic newsboys carry the new pamphleteers' thoughts to every corner of the wired world. What need have we for the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the San Francisco Chronicle? Why would we want to bother with the broadcast networks, which every fall serve up a fresh batch of "outrageous" shows that fewer and fewer people watch? As for the colleges, the steady dilution of once-difficult curricula in favor of feel-good programs and fluffy majors programs has made most Ivy League degrees not worth nearly as much as the student loans wasted on them; it is noteworthy that while a Harvard degree no longer brings the respect it once commanded as a sign of wealth, privilege and learning, an MIT engineer suffers no such diminution of respect.

Conservatism has been accused of anti-intellectualism. It might more properly be accused of anti-intellectualoidism, because so many of the "elite" on the Left don't have anywhere near the knowledge to begin to qualify as intellectuals. If this was baseball, their skills and experience wouldn't qualify them for the co-rec softball leagues, much less the major league hardball experience where they beclown themselves on a regular basis, mistaking snark for wisdom and hoping nobody else would notice while playing the race card and any other shabby rhetorical trick they think they can get away with. Conservatism appreciates intellectuals who actually know something and can express it clearly- Thomas Sowell,and Walter Williams, for example, and any number of popular historians, of whom Victor Davis Hanson comes most readily to mind. Conservatives respect actual learning, and not mere credentials.

So, having little use for these tottering national institutions, what then is the conservative dog to do once it catches the Federal Government limo? The flip answer "Trade it in on an up-armored Hummer" is closest to what actually needs doing. The Federal government needs to be pared back to its original core functions - foreign relations, national defense, and other matters explicitly stated in the Constitution. Everything else must be either abolished or devolved to the states, if the states want to do those things. The Senate needs to be returned to the states as well; the 17th Amendment needs to be repealed so that Senators can once again be the agents of the state legislatures, and provide an active defense against the future expansion of Federal power into places it doesn't belong. Once the process of devolution is complete, and the outstanding obligations of Uncle Sam are paid off, we can repeal the 16th Amendment as well. The shrunken Federal government won't require nearly so much money with only four executive departments, the judiciary, and a Congress with much-reduced committee staffs, and what money it does require can be raised by excise taxes, service fees, and import duties.

Once all the power has been drained out of Washington along with the money, we'll have still less need for the national media institutions and nationally-ranked colleges. Which would make a Long March through them rather a waste of time, no? ;)

Tags: culture & politics
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