Conservatism qua Conservatism

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

A
trio of sentences by National Review editor Richard Lowry
shows that establishment conservatism has hope:

“Skepticism
about the drug war is often associated with libertarianism. But
it also reflects a conservative distrust of utopian schemes, with
impossible goals (eliminating certain forms of intoxication in
the United States) to be pursued by nearly limitless means. Government
can’t straighten the crooked timber of humanity, the impulse for
euphoria and/or oblivion constituting one form of that crookedness.”
(“This Is a Bust,” National Review, July 9, 2001)

Exceptional
is Lowry's opposition to the drug war's premise, not its practicality.

A
lust to remake mankind is the leitmotif of all totalitarian regimes:
the Soviet Union's Homo Sovieticus, Communist Cuba's El
Hombre Nuevo, the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero." It is
an essentially heretical project; these tyrants seek to supplant
God. David Horowitz observes in this vein:

Fascism
and Communism were both rooted in the messianic ambitions and
Gnostic illusions that the Enlightenment had unleashed; both invoked
the salvationist claims of the socialist promise; both looked
to a historical transcendence, proposing final solutions to what
had been timeless problems of the human condition. Both set out
to create their socialist futures by first destroying the bourgeois
present, then erecting their utopias on its smoldering ruins.
Both intended to restore the lost unity of mankind by first dividing
humanity into opposing camps: the politically saved and the morally
damned, the children of light and the carriers of darkness, Us
and Them…The means of purification, for both messianisms, was
political terror. (The
Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future
)

Mindful
of radicalism's sanguinary fruits, Russell Kirk's sixth canon of
conservative thought notes that "innovation is a devouring
conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress."

In
their endorsement of the drug war, professed conservatives such
as Commentary managing editor Gary Rosen and Attorney General
John Ashcroft betray their creed. (Rosen writes in the July-August
issue of Commentary that "our drug-control policies
have performed pretty well" and "The basic premise of
existing policy…is that drug use should be illegal…I share this
premise." Ashcroft's
Department of Justice homepage affirms his post-confirmation pledge
"to renew the war on drugs."
Counter to federalism
and freedom – intertwined principles, as Felix Morley demonstrates
in Freedom
and Federalism
– the War on Drugs has scarred if not incinerated
American traditions with its puritanical flames.

There
is nothing conservative about wrecking families by incarcerating
a parent who smokes marijuana occasionally; there is nothing conservative
about nationalizing a quintessential concern of the several states
in contravention of reserved powers; and there is nothing conservative
about enlisting the most centralized state power in displacement
of domestic and community roles. There is everything authoritarian
and subversive about these policies.

For
an American conservative to support federal anti-drug coercion is
the equivalent of a Jeffersonian in favor of kritarchy. It has been
and continues to be a ruinous incoherence.

Lowry's
drug war-apologist peers can call themselves conservatives,
just as supporters of price controls can call themselves
capitalists. If they seek to embody and not further betray their
creed, however, the establishment Right must not only repudiate
the War on Drugs but spearhead its abolition.

Lowry's
sentiments should be contagious.

July
11, 2001

Myles
Kantor [send him mail]
edits FreeEmigration.com
and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida

Myles
Kantor Archives

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts