Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Curmudgeon Strikes Back

Note: Encouraged by the positive response to my essay about the Ron Paul movement, "The Conscience of a Curmudgeon," I've decided to expand upon the idea of political (or nonpolitical, as the case may be) curmudgeonry with the idea that it might make a fine little booklet unto itself. Below is a preface of sorts. I'm working on Chapter 1 with the hope of posting it later this week.

The Conscience of a Curmudgeon: Declaring Independence from Pointless Politics

This book is not written with the idea of adding to or improving on the Conservative philosophy. Or of "bringing it up to date." The ancient and tested truths that guided our Republic through its early days will do equally well for us. The challenge to Conservatives today is quite simply to demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy on the problems of our own time.
In 1960, the junior U.S. senator from Arizona Barry Goldwater issued The Conscience of a Conservative, a political tract of some endurance whose opening sentences appear above. A few years later, in 1964, Goldwater won the Republican Party's nomination to run for president, losing in a landslide to socialist warmonger Lyndon Johnson. His campaign has been frequently credited with laying the groundwork for later "conservative" political success, most notably the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Although, politically speaking, there is little I would disagree with in Goldwater's "Conservative philosophy," today I am an apolitical curmudgeon. And I'm here to call bullshit on the idea that conservatism, as defined by Goldwater (and Russell Kirk before him) has ever achieved any sort of electoral success whatsoever. After almost 50 more years of unchecked growth in government power, the results are in and the conclusion is clear: America is fucked.

As with Goldwater's tract, I'm not here to add to or improve upon anything we today might preferably call "the freedom philosophy." I'm here to point out that I don't buy one iota of the bullshit about liberty that we're fed from the allegedly conservative establishment, which encompasses everything from the modern Republican Party to the supposedly conservative and libertarian media outlets and think tanks. Things are decidedly not getting better and not only are these supposedly freedom-friendly institutions not the solution, they're part of the problem.

Conservative? We are one more 9/11 away from a military dictatorship. If you doubt it, ask yourself: What institutional safeguard is in place to prevent it? The spastic overreaction to the murder of one one-thousandth of one percent of America's population in 2001 -- a government failure, by the way -- has already brought us the murderous travesties of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations, the Orwellian piles of bureaucratic shit known as the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, and the freedom-revoking horror of the Military Commissions Act. Yes, citizen, you should be worried. But not about foreign terrorists.

Is this progress? Is progress -- a turn toward freedom and peace -- even possible at this late date? Let's consider. If the federal (sic) government was too big in Goldwater's time, guess what? It's way too fucking big in 2008. If it was electorally impossible to rein it in in 1964, guess what? It's beyond impossible to vote it into submission in 2008.

Politics has failed. Checks and balances have failed. Conservatism has failed. Democracy has failed. America has failed.

Yet life goes on. What now?