Ron Paul, God bless him, is out in front in his role as the Chairman of the Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee (part of the House Committee on Financial Services). He held a hearing on Tuesday to examine the Fed’s role in contributing to unemployment. His lead witness was Thomas DiLorenzo. You remember DiLorenzo from such tomes as The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War and Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe. DiLorenzo is to historical research what Lady Gaga is to music, so it was a curious choice by Ron Paul. Then again, we should probably thank our lucky stars that he didn’t select his buddy Alex Jones, though I suppose it would have provided some entertainment to hear him rail about 9/11 conspiracies and the role of the Illuminati in trying to secure a one-world state.
As Greg Garrison at Red State notes, it’s kind of funny, but also kind of sad.
This subcommittee hearing is a great example of Paul’s inappropriate oddness. With all that government needs to do, and all that it needs to stop doing, the last thing we need is a series of hearings on how the Federal Reserve is causing massive unemployment. That’s probably what Dr. Paul will “uncover”, and while there’s obviously a relationship between monetary supply, inflation, unemployment, and the like, blaming all of our problems on “The Fed” (which he asserts we need to end) is lunacy.
But that’s Ron Paul. He wants to end fractional reserve banking. He claims that gold is “real money” and paper is not (to say nothing of debit cards), without thinking of how uncomfortable mattresses are when stuffed with gold coins instead of dollar bills. He blathers on about 9/11 cover-ups” and comes pretty close to blaming 9/11 on America (Many say that he crosses that line).
The last part is a bit more debatable, but that’s neither here nor there. I think a commenter nails the problem with Paul and those who are of like mind.
Essentially, Rothbard, the anarchistic libertarians, and some Objectivists are on the utopian right: they essentially envision worlds and systems that have never, and will never, exist, existing solely by virtue of their intellectual consistency. They then attack extant society from the mistaken notion that its demise will lead to anarcho-capitalism… somehow.
This squares with what I’ve long believed about the paleo-conservative right.
Now originally I was going to just write about Paul and the utopianism of his movement, but then last night I came home and watched a little bit of the Fox News “All Star” panel, which tonight featured a trio of foreign policy experts discussing the situation in Egypt. Included on the panel was Paul Wolfowitz, and he was by far the most optimistic about the potential for democracy to erupt in Egypt and for rainbows to sparkle everywhere and for unicorns to dance in the street. Okay, maybe he didn’t say anything about unicorns, but he was not terribly concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s potential to hijack the reform movement and create an Islamic theocracy in Egypt. To be fair he didn’t completely discount this threat, but he definitely appeared to be much happier about what was taking place than the rest of the panel.
This comes on the heels of Bill Kristol’s denunciation of Glenn Beck’s supposed hysteria regarding the situation.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.
Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.
Granted Beck does tend to get, shall we say, a little over excited at times, Kristol runs in just the opposite direction. What Kristol dismisses as “fearfulness” is nothing more than a pragmatic approach to events that epitomizes what real conservatism is all about.
They say that a neoconservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality, but it seems that there is nothing very realistic about an approach to foreign policy that hand waves away legitimate concerns. Shouting at the top of your lungs like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House that “all is well,” or will be well just as soon as a democracy is installed is, to put it kindly, naive.
This is not to say that Kristol and Wolfowitz are wrong in their prognostications. It may very well be that we are witnessing Egypt transform itself from an authoritarian regime to a relatively moderate democracy that is more ally than enemy of the United States, and which expands the personal liberty of its citizenry. But Kristol seems to think that democracy for its own sake is a good, and we should simply back the protesters without any concern that the end result is a regime far worse than what we currently have.
This moment in time may serve as useful line of demarcation between neoconservatives and traditional conservatives. The term neocon has been used willy nilly to apply to pretty much anyone who doesn’t take The American Conservative or the scribblings on lewrockwell.com as Gospel truth. Many of us have criticized this mis-labeling of much of the conservative movement, but here we have a case where the differences between neoconservatives and other conservatives becomes much clearer.
What’s funny about all this is that for all their hatred of neocons, it turns out paleocons and neocons have one fundamental thing in common: a kind of utopian outlook that is anything but conservative.
One other thing occurs to me about all this. It is said that the academy is dominated by the left, and this is empirically true. But for the 10-15 percent of academics not on the left, especially in the social sciences, neocons and palecons predominate. Admittedly this is a somewhat anecdotal observation, but I’d say that most right-wing professors tend be at least sympathetic to paleoconservatism, and another good chunk on the opposite extreme as neocons. So maybe there is something that ties all academics together: a preference for abstract systems over the real world.
(By the way, as I write this post it has been announced that Mubarak has really truly resigned this time. I guess we’ll get to know soon who is right, literally and figuratively.)