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.)