Which Sort of Conservative Was Hayek Not?

by John Holbo on October 29, 2008

Jonah Goldberg has responded to my “Spread The Wealth” post. A minor point: “My longstanding gripe with the use and abuse of that essay [Hayek’s “Why I Am Not A Conservative”] is that some libertarians and liberals deliberately confuse the fact that Hayek isn’t referring to American conservatives when he says he’s not a conservative.”

Well, I have always taken Hayek to be referring to American conservatives: “Conservatism proper is a legitimate, probably necessary, and certainly widespread attitude of opposition to drastic change. It has, since the French Revolution, for a century and a half played an important role in European politics. Until the rise of socialism its opposite was liberalism. There is nothing corresponding to this conflict in the history of the United States, because what in Europe was called “liberalism” was here the common tradition on which the American polity had been built: thus the defender of the American tradition was a liberal in the European sense. This already existing confusion was made worse by the recent attempt to transplant to America the European type of conservatism, which, being alien to the American tradition, has acquired a somewhat odd character.”

‘Recent attempts to transpant’? Russell Kirk, I presume. “Has acquired a somewhat odd character.” Frank Meyer and 1960’s National Review-style ‘fusionism’, I presume. A halfway Hayek, halfway Kirk hybrid. That’s Goldberg, too, give or take.

Now there is a diplomatic quality to Hayek’s essay, which could lead you to miss the fact that he is, in fact, talking about American conservatives. Pragmatically, Hayek regards American conservatives as his allies, but only because he thinks they can serve as a counterweight to socialism, not because he agrees with them philosophically. He thinks they have ‘a somewhat odd character’. The essay is, in part, an attempt to tell American-style conservatives this without really rubbing their noses in it – more flies with honey and all that.

What does Goldberg make of the essay’s epigraph, from Lord Acton? “At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.” I wouldn’t say this is flamingly self-evident, but I have always taken this to be Hayek’s way of expressing the somewhat delicate balance of his personal alliance/association with American-style conservatism.

Goldberg is definitely confused about the redistribution stuff. But, to be fair, my post wasn’t very clear. Later, later.

Pretty Soon You’re Talking Real Money

by John Holbo on October 29, 2008

I see Henry just linked to his bloggingheads exchange with Dan “the blogger” Drezner about the end of capitalism as we know it, and such minor political twiddles. I was just about to link to it for him (I thought maybe he was being modest.) Good stuff. I’m John Holbo and I endorse this podcast.

One quick note. Round about minute 21 Drezner remarks that “the $64,000 question is going to be: which bureaucracies are put in charge of these crises?” Funny choice of figurative figures. What is it really? The 640 billion dollar question? 6.4 trillion? (I’d link to that spot in the diavlog but, honestly, the site loads so damn slow for me. I recommend downloading the mp3 or getting it through iTunes or wherever.)

Short cuts

by Henry on October 29, 2008

(1) When I heard the kerfuffle about Obama’s radio discussion on civil rights and the constitution, I went back and listened to it, drawing two major conclusions. First – that anyone who expects him to appoint lots and lots of radical judges, is likely to be very disappointed; he has a small c conservative understanding of what the judiciary can do. Second, I was reminded how much I missed _Odyssey_ – it was the best radio show I have ever been on, and more generally, a really first rate contribution to public discussion. A full audio archive is “available here”:http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/audio_library/od_ra1.asp.

(2) Via Josh Cohen, Archon Fung and ABC news have put together “MyFairElection”:http://myfairelection.com/, which seems a very useful exercise for those of you who are (unlike me) eligible to vote next week. It combines Google maps with data on polling stations, allowing people to report problems such as long lines etc, and (if it works according to plan), provide a ‘weather map’ of voting conditions across the country.

(3) I did a Campaign Free edition bloggingheads “with Dan Drezner”:http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/15457 yesterday on changes in the global economy. The dialogue stopped early because Dan had to pick up a sick kid from school, but was pretty interesting for me, at least – in contrast to many of these conversations, which involve battles over set piece positions, I found myself actually rethinking what I understood to be going on and its implications during the process (so, a real conversation, or something like it).