The intellectual trend away from the political right has been going on for some time, reversing the trend in the opposite direction that dominated the 1970s and 1980s. But this NPR interview with Richard Posner who says
there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking
is probably the most notable single example so far, for several reasons.
First, in intellectual terms, he’s a really significant figure. After Ronald Coase, he’s the most important figure in the field of “Law and Economics” which played a crucial role in the resurgence of conservative/free-market legal thinking. Moreover, while Coase wrote some brilliant papers in his long and influential career, he wasn’t an intellectual movement builder as Posner has been.
Posner is one of a small minority on the intellectual right who have responded to the economic crisis by changing their view of the world, rather than by finding more and more absurd defenses of the indefensible. There must be quite a few others who realise they have backed the wrong horse, but have chosen to remain quiet rather than making an open break.
Second, the terms of his attack on the US Republican party are scathing by any standards, but particularly for a professor and Federal judge, talking about his own erstwhile allies. His discussion is peppered with terms like “goofy”, “crackpot” and “lunatic”. That’s a pretty fair description of the US right these days, but it’s still not commonly heard on NPR.
Finally, it’s interesting to see him suggest that Chief Justice Roberts might follow the same path, in response to the campaign of leaks against him. I’m not sure I buy this, but even the suggestion should produce some interesting responses on the right.
fn1. In the US context, the shift started, I think, with Kevin Phillips and Michael Lind in the 1990s, but didn’t really get going until the Bush Administration.
fn.2 He’s still alive at 101, but obvioulsy hasn’t written much lately. His reputation rests primarily on two papers, one from 1937 and the other from 1960.