Kick-Ass Conservatism

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Lew
Rockwell’s commentary

on the Cincinnati beating of Nathaniel Jones mentions two groups
that are happy about the event: the redistributionist political
lobby and the law-enforcement centralizers.

But he left
out one more group of people cheering the beating on – the so-called
“law and order” conservatives who think it’s necessary for authorities
to beat people occasionally because it’s either good for them or
because some people just need a good beating.

These were
the “conservatives” I grew up with in southern California’s inland
empire in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were most of the
conservatives I knew as a teenager, and were the main reason I didn’t
like or identify with “conservatism” (and still don’t). They make
for interesting study: cultural conservatives with a deep dislike
for government and taxes, but far too much respect for the state,
largely because they work for it – in law enforcement, the military,
or as teachers. The closest most of them ever get to the “private
sector” is contracting for government with such fine firms as Boeing,
Lockheed, General Dynamics or a handful of other now-merged giants
— companies that simply cannot make a profit unless a cost-plus
government contract is somehow involved.

(Sell stuff?
To people? Excuse me, but we have some lobbying to do…)

If the "law
and order" types believe anything, it is that people ought
to get haircuts and jobs, and that the state should make them if
they don’t. And those who don't are suspicious characters who probably
deserve to get their asses kicked.

Because most
of the "law and order" types work for the state as agents
of executive power, war doesn't bother them much. In fact, they
see it as the beating that people who misbehave richly deserve.
It’s the ass-kicking that keeps them in line.

At best, they
believe that a little discipline mixed with love is good (though
often they get discipline and love confused), that the state can
apply that discipline and love, and that a person — or a society,
or a culture — will reform given enough "discipline and love."
At best, they believe anyone can learn the value of getting a haircut
and a job and become a productive member of society.

For example,
the cops are helping people by clubbing them and the US is liberating
Iraq by imposing martial law.

This is somewhat
akin to disliking guns but loving bullets. Eventually the love of
one yields to toleration of the other. It’s hard to celebrate beatings,
killings, hangings, and all-round bloodshed, while maintaining an
appreciation of liberty in the abstract.

At worst, the
most cynical "law and order" types believe some folks
simply cannot be reformed. No matter how hard you beat them, they
won't learn the value of a haircut and gainful employment. Some
people simply need to be beaten every now and again — clubbed by
the cops, thrown in prison, bombed, gassed, rounded up and “detained”
— because they will never learn to behave.

It’s not a
race thing. Long-haired white kids with tattoos always earned their
run-ins with the police just as much as the Latino or Black kids.
Trailer-dwelling “white trash” have it coming just as much as the
bearded weirdo in the turban picked up for loitering in Afghanistan.

These folks
may never have heard of Richard Perle, or Michael Ledeen, or Leo
Strauss, or "Scoop" Jackson, or might even think that
being “reformed” commies gives the neocons some special insight
into the nature of evil. (It does, but not the way they think.)
And they may not have given much thought as to what the United States
should accomplish in the "war on terror.” But they listen to
Rush Limbaugh, watch FoxNews, or even read the National Review (same
thing, more or less) and give themselves high-fives – “now we’re
gonna kick some ass – and about time too!”

Whatever love
of liberty they might have takes a distant second place to the glorious
moral order of the state. These folks are the GOP’s largest unorganized
constituency, and will probably vote for the Republican most likely
to wage war as long as their hearts beat and they can tune their
radios. They are the reason a couple hundred so-called neo-conservative
intellectuals — enough to fill the smallest of DC ballrooms with
room to spare — have as much traction as they do.

It’s sad, because
many of them have some very solid social values otherwise. But they
don’t understand that freedom is the highest political end, and
a society full of people striving for freedom creates its own order.
A much better order than anything beaten into people can make. They
also don’t understand the difference between patriotism and nationalism
– that is it possible to love one’s home deeply and not like
one’s government very much. If the GOP rank-and-file would grasp
these two points, the support for the neocon program would quickly
collapse.

December
8, 2003

Charles
H. Featherstone [send
him mail
] is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist specializing
in energy, the Middle East, and Islam. He lives with his wife Jennifer
in Alexandria, Virginia.


     

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