Frank Meyer Recovered from the Memory Hole (Updated)

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UPDATED (12/1/12)

Writes DB:

Thanks for the good words you blogged about Frank Meyer. I need to look for that book.

In my youth when I thought eastern intellectual conservatives like WFB were cool, I found columns by Frank Meyer and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn the most challenging and stimulating among all the NR writers. Meyer’s “fusionism” may have been the kindling that eventually ignited the fire so many erstwhile conservatives experienced when their journey took them to Rothbard, Hayek and Mises. At least that was my experience, after an early dose of Hazlitt via Newsweek immunized me from the Keynesian fever college econ courses often brought on.

I can’t cite a specific article because my boxes of National Review issues were discarded some time ago in a move, but I do recall that Buckley wrote a lengthy tribute to Frank Meyer, perhaps right after his death. In it, he told of Meyer’s conversion to Catholicism in his final days, which of course WFB took credit for. He also wrote of the late hours Frank and his wife kept at their home in Woodstock, and that he never worried about waking him up. He would be either calling or answering the phone all night, talking with people across the country who shared his political views (and, I’m certain, some who did not) when long distance rates were set by the FCC to ensure AT&T stockholders received healthy dividends.

Original Post:
Conservatives don’t care about their own intellectual legacy. They’d rather listen to the rantings of Ann Coulter and call that conservatism, than consult their own intellectual tradition.

National Review doesn’t archive much of their own past articles online at all, although this is probably done so that you can’t look to see how many times National Review referred to “Negro backwardness” in its multiple articles defending Jim Crow.

Nevertheless, when National Review wasn’t defending forced segregation or rooting for a nuclear holocaust, many of the magazine’s writers had insightful and interesting things to say.

One of the most insightful writers was Frank Meyer. Meyer was terrible on foreign policy, but on domestic and constitutional matters, he was quite good. Meyer, for example, was (and remains), as far as I can tell, the only major figure among conservatives who denounced Abe Lincoln as destroyer of constitutional government and as the man who paved the way for FDR and the New Deal. On many other issues, Meyer was quite libertarian. He’s never mentioned today by conservatives, of course, but Meyer was once one of the most important senior editors at National Review.

Since I’m teaching a class on conservatism and libertarianism in the spring I was excited to see that my vintage copy of Meyer’s The Conservative Mainstream had arrived. This is a book from 1969, published by Arlington House, that is mostly a collection of Meyer’s columns, and many of them are very good. Many of his more libertarian views are simply too extreme (in a good way) for the modern intellectual giants of the conservative movement, so I don’t expect to see his now-obscure name resurrected at NR any time soon.

Meyer was an interesting fellow. (I wrote a bit about him here.) He homeschooled his children back in the 1960s, for example, which was definitely eccentric, to say the least. The State of New York wasn’t much happy about that either.

Here’s the hideous dust jacket. (Graphic design has come a long way since 1969.):

And who can totally dislike a guy who poses like this? (From the back of the dust jacket.)

10:28 pm on November 30, 2012