Big Money, Small Thinkers
WHY INTELLECTUAL CONSERVATISM DIED
Dissent, Winter, 1995, pp. 42-47
Michael Lind maintains that intellectual conservatism
collapsed over the
past decade. Before the collapse, the two main varieties of
conservatism "from the founding of National Review in 1955
disastrous Houston Convention of 1992 were Buckley style
neoconservatism, the former mainly Catholic and the latter Jewish
William Buckley and his allies "effectively wiped out the
major rival for
the leadership of conservative white Protestant Americans"
campaign against the John Birch Society (p. 43).
Alas, Protestant fundamentalists did not accept tutelage from
Lind deems their intellectual betters. With the onset of the
Coalition in 1988, the "institutions and the leaders of the
and Jewish conservatives suddenly became superfluous" (p.
response, the intellectual right surrendered. They have sold out
fundamentalists, abandoning the path of reason. Instead they act
consultants for Protestants fundamentalists" (p. 44).
Standards have been
abandoned, as intellectuals much as William Bennett and William
Kristol become "middlemen
between the uncouth fire-and-brimstone Protestant evangelicals
and the world of
serious journalism, policy, and scholarship" (p. 44).
Lind's analysis contains much of value, but the biased terms
in which he
encases it need to be pared away. Lind is clearly on target when
he notes that
the National Review crowd and neoconservatives no longer
dominates the right.
But why is this a mark of intellectual decline? Lind obviously
views in contempt; only a "pointy-hand" would dare to
Darwin, for instance. But the intellectual stature of a group
ought not to be
rated by whether its opinions meet with Lind's approval. The
credentials of the paleos at Chronicles, e.g. Tom Fleming, Sam
Francis, and Paul
Gottfried, easily outweigh those of Buckley and the Kristols.
Nor is the right
wing movement confined to Protestant fundamentalists - I do not
think either Pat
Buchanan or Murray Rothbard could be so described. And Pat
seems the central figure Lind make him out to be.
If one ignores Lind's value loaded descriptions, a striking
He has correctly seen that most American conservatives are fed
up with the
leadership that has been foisted on them. "The complaint of
`paleo-conservatives' that their movement was being taken over by
(and in many cases weird) foreigners was not completely without
(p. 47) Lind also notes another vital point. " One by one,
conservative publication or think tank over the past decades has
come to depend
on money from a few foundations - Olin, Smith- Richardson,
(p. 46). Lind errs in thinking that these foundations have
promoted a movement
toward the so-called far right, but the judgment of someone who
thinks that the
natural home of conservatism after 1955 was the Democratic Party
is hardly to be