The American conservative movement is dominated by gravediggers and hustlers. Both groups are Keynesian to the core.
This has been true ever since the movement began in the Hiss-Chambers hearings in 1948. The Old Right of the 1930’s was committed to tearing down the New Deal. The Middle Right, 1948-1980, was committed to strengthening the federal government to root out the Communists at home and abroad. The Middle Right refused to fight Truman’s creation of the modern surveillance state: CIA, NSC, NSA. They thought there should be more of it. They did not oppose the Truman Doctrine in foreign policy. They thought there should be more of it.
The exception was Senator Robert Taft. His death in July 1953 ended the last traces of the Old Right in Washington until Ron Paul was elected in 1976.
The New Right is the fusion of the neoconservative movement and the New Christian Right. It came together in the election of 1980: Reagan. To the extent that it still operates, it is marked by support for the Pentagon and the Social Security/Medicare subsidies.
They are all united in this confession: Keynesian planning works. The system will hold. “Medicare can be reformed, if Congress acts now.” We are assured this every decade. But Congress never acts. The off-budget deficit grows larger. The present value of the unfunded liabilities of the federal government are in the $200 trillion range. “There is still time for Congress to act.” No, there isn’t. But those inside the Beltway never admit this.
I am waiting for the Tea Party’s leaders, whoever they are, to announce: “Abolish Medicare now. It will bankrupt the federal government if we don’t. It is beyond the point of no return. No reform can save it. We must cut our losses.” Let me know if this changes. Until it does, the Tea Party is also Keynesian. “The system will hold.” The system is Keynesian.
Above all, American conservatism is focused on the Washington Beltway, not local politics. Here is where conservatives send their political donations. Here is where it has lost every major battle except Phyllis Schlafly’s Stop-ERA, which was conducted at the grass roots level, not inside the Beltway. This money never rolls back the warfare-welfare state. It sustains it. It cries out: “Thus far, and no farther.” Then, after the welfare system expands, it says it again. And again.
It does not say: “Roll it back to 1912.” Or 1787.
My father-in-law, R. J. Rushdoony, spoke of the gravediggers within the conservative movement and also within the evangelical community.
Gravediggers became famous during World War II. The Nazis and the Soviets would condemn dozens of people to death. They would then force these people to dig a mass grave. Then they would line the people up in front of the mass grave, and they would shoot them. The bodies would topple into the mass grave. Then local residents of the community would be required to shovel the dirt over the bodies, filling in the grave.
This was a cost-cutting measure. The executioners got the victims to do the hard work. Then they got the next batch of potential victims to do the rest of the hard work.
Anyone could have refused to dig his own grave. He was going to be shot in a few minutes anyway. He might as well resist. He might as well not make it easy for the executioners. What could they do about it? Shoot him? So what? He would get a little rest and recreation. Well, anyway, he would get a little rest, not having to dig his own grave, and all it would cost them would be the loss of a couple of minutes of life. But the gravediggers refused to attack the executioners with shovels. They refused to lie down on the ground and refuse to dig. They dutifully dug their graves, dutifully lined up in front of their graves, and stood there, making it easy for the executioners.
Rushdoony said that the conservative movement was filled with people who were convinced that the conspiracy is in total control of events. This is the mentality of the gravedigger, he said. That was in the 1960’s. Things have changed a little, but not enough.
Rushdoony’s point was this: an eschatology of gravedigging leads to the impotence of every group that holds this eschatology.
Rushdoony had in mind that element of the Right wing that is geared to exposing conspiracies. He said that the overwhelming majority of Right-wingers who adopt this outlook are convinced that this or that conspiracy is inevitably going to win. The conspiracy functions as God in their thinking. The conspiracy predestines everything. The predestinating conspiracy is unstoppable. He wrote about this in 1965, in his book, The Nature of the American System. It is online.
(For he rest of my article, click the link.)
No politician – any party – wants to touch that third rail of all things Keynesian. The country will never be led out of the welfare state . . . it must be educated out of it.
Gary North is no conservative. He's a libertarian! Part of the libertarian agenda, part of North's agenda, is to make conservatism more libertarian, that is, more liberal (such as by supporting same-sex marriage). So he attacks conservatism as not being authentic.
One of the ways North attacks conservatism is by conflating "Republicans" and "conservatives." Since there are big-spending Republicans, North, who calculatingly categorizes Republicans and conservatives as the same, can claim that conservatives are big spenders.
North backs up that ludicrous claim by falsely accusing conservatives of being Keynesian, that is, favoring economic policies named for the 1930s British economist, John Maynard Keynes. Keynes believed that increased government spending put more money into the economy and therefore stimulated the economy.
Increased government spending may be "Republican," but does it sound "conservative" to you?
Among the critical flaws of Keynesianism is the fundamental one of ignoring the source of the government's money. The government can add money to the economy only if it takes money from the economy in some form. It may, therefore, succeed in redistributing that money in the economy, but redistributing money is not the same as adding money.
Another but simpler and more obvious defect is that Keynesian spending has never really worked in stimulating an economy whenever and wherever it was tried.
Libertarians are political hybrids of conservatism and liberalism. Liberals have rightly rejected libertarians for fear of their conservatism undermining the liberal agenda. Conservatives have accepted libertarians for their conservative views but naively do not understand that their liberal views adulterate and undermine the conservative agenda.
"Part of the libertarian agenda, part of North's agenda, is to make conservatism more libertarian, that is, more liberal (such as by supporting same-sex marriage)."
"Increased government spending may be "Republican," but does it sound "conservative" to you?"
Yes, I find plenty of conservatives defending Medicare and demanding more military spending.
Conservatives are not Keynesians; apparently the author of this article doesn't have a clue on what Keynesian economics is.
Keynesians believe that deficit spending will stimulate the economy and as a consequence we use debt as the driver of growth. Look where this stupid idea got us: big debt and no growth. Kennedy is credited with two accomplishments, bringing Keynesian economics to Washington (Harvard dream team) and second, unionizing government employees.
Conservatives believe in a small budget and small government. Example, Knut Gingrich saw to it that Clinton had three balanced budgets.
You know, I agree with you but there is too much truth in this article to discount it
" apparently the author of this article doesn't have a clue on what Keynesian economics is."
You are mistaken, he knows exactly what Keynesian economics is.
"Conservatives believe in a small budget and small government."
If only that were true.
" Example, Knut Gingrich saw to it that Clinton had three balanced budgets."
You commit several fallacies in this sentence. First, you associate "balanced budget" with "small budget" and "small government". They aren't the same thing, so you didn't provide an example of conservatives liking or achieving a small budget or government. The budget and government in 1998 to 2001 were enormous…every single year, there was nothing "small" about them. It could only be "small" if you compare it to the obese Bush/Obama budgets we have now, and that is specious and relative.
Second, you credit Gingrich for "three" balanced budgets. Gingrich could hardly be called conservative. Unless you mean conservatives are people with slimy ethics that look like ugly trolls. But you defined them as people who believe in small budgets and small government. So in that case, Gingrich is not a conservative.
Third, it isn't clear how you can credit Gingrich for three. Which years are you referring to? Clinton budgets were in the black even without counting Social Security payments as money for the general fund, but only for the years 1998 to 2001(the outgoing President approves the budget of the incoming President in the first year) approximately. But Gingrich resigned in disgrace in 1998…so he wasn't even around for most of that time! At best you could argue he was responsible for one year, and considering how many unbalanced budgets he worked on and voted for before that, I hardly see how Gingrich was the factor for 1998.
Now if you are counting years prior to 1998, those are only "balanced" by lumping Social Security revenues in with the general fund, which is fraudulent accounting.
This article (the entire one) is one of the most fascinating and richest articles I have ever read (and I've read quite a few). It is a textbook unto itself. Thank you.
Keynes is not the problem. The problem is that we've dismantled the intellectual habit of evaluating experimental ideas and when they're disproven, stop doing them. If we had done that, Keynesianism would have died in the 1930s and we'd have moved past a great deal of other nonsense since then. The scammers will always come up with a new scam. Until we improve our scam detection method, we're always going to be in trouble.
Which is what DGN is saying ! ! !