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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bruce Webb has left a new comment on your post "Robert's List of Reasonable and Reasonably Honest ...":

Oh boy. Of the few on that list with whom I have had one on one interactions I would have to say they were agreeable in much the same way opposing counsel in a civil or even criminal trial are agreeable. And in most ways willing to fight pretty fair.

As long as you understand that many of them have their own agenda, as of course do I.

The problem with the whole concept of 'honest conservatism' is inherent in its origins. The philosophy and associated economics was formed in a time and place deeply hostile to the whole concept of democratic majoritarianism, which was associated (often rightly) with ideas about communitarianism and utilitarianism.

In the middle half of the twentieth century we saw the advance of the concept of one-man, one vote to the point that it seemed impossible to openly oppose. Which led 'honest Conservatives' to have to resort to tying themselves into rhetorical knot trying to advance a theory that had its roots in a non-majoritarian mileau.

In retrospect Supply Side came to be regarded as a failure not because it didn't work, because I would argue it worked splendidly from a traditional Conservative perspective, it maintained and intensified political and economic control in the hands of those that matter, primarily the controllers of capital and the managers of traditional societal structures. The massive concentration of wealth that came during and after the Reagan Revolution would not have shocked Pitt the Elder, or the Duke of Wellington while he was Prime Minister, or dare I say William McKinley, the acquisition and conservation of economic and political wealth was kind of the point.

Modern Conservatism seems to have found its own solution to existing in a political system fundamentally based on democratic majoritarianism, they simply brought into coalition people from traditions far removed from 19th century conservatism: populism, nativism, evangelical religions and tried to build majorities from the back end. But leaving their economists in a bind, because twist as they might there is nothing egalitarian in conservative economics, at best they can make gestures at a wholly theoretical "equality of opportunity", that never has existed, and to which when attempts are made to put it into place (affirmative action, contract set-asides), they react violently.

Which would lead me to add one name to your list. Though I consider him a total loon, there is no doubt that Bryan Caplan stumbled on the only possible solution to this Conservative conundrum: simply rule that people who don't agree with conservative economic theory are irrational and take away their vote. Simple, elegant, but really hard to sell to a democratic majority.

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