Ideas have no consequences | The American Conservative
When the University of Chicago Press published Richard Weaver’s book Ideas have consequences In 1948 it was immediately hailed as a seminal text on American conservatism. The title itself has become a kind of collective call for the conservative intelligentsia. I would bet that 98 percent of those who use the phrase “ideas have consequences!” I have never read the book or heard of Richard Weaver.
Ironically, Weaver hated the title itself. In fact, he hated it so much that he almost pulled the book. In retrospect, his objection was prophetic. When it comes to American law, ideas – good or bad – have no consequence.
Take the war in Iraq, the greatest political snafu in American history. Our crusade to overthrow Saddam Hussein was based on lies: that he was in possession of nuclear weapons, that he was protecting al-Qaeda, etc. Granted, many of these lies came straight from the “intelligence community”. But from day one there were voices on the right that B.S. Many of them gathered in a magazine called The American Conservative;; You may have heard of it.
Even if one can forgive for trusting the US government in those halcyon days, the war experts also promised Iraq would be over in five months. It wasn’t just wrong. it was crazy. The idea that we could purge the Iraqi government of ba’athists to the last postman, set up a stable transitional government and leave Afghanistan with a functioning modern democracy – all in all five months– was crazy. Anyone who repeated this line was either stupid, angry, or both.
Some, like Bill Kristol, went further. In November 2002 he said: “We can remove Saddam because it could set off a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy.” That’s crazy. It’s just insane.
Now tell me Has anyone lost their job after every single argument in favor of the Iraq war proved categorically wrong? Have politicians or experts suddenly disappeared from the waves in the air? Did their bad, stupid, evil ideas have any consequences? (For her career, I mean. Your ideas certainly had consequences for the hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers and civilians.) Of course not.
What about the hawks that the war critics called “unpatriotic conservatives”? Most of them make six-digit numbers in the legacy media. Others are “Senior Fellows” in one of the millions of think tanks across the Beltway. Because ideas have no consequences.
It’s not just Iraq (or Afghanistan or Syria or Yemen or …). Let’s take a look at the infamous Conservatives Against Trump symposium that was published in February 2016 and was accompanied by a cute little scribble of Donald in fascist guise. Or the open anti-Trump letter, “An Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics,” which was published a month later. How many of them are now positioning themselves as advocates of Trumpism? About half by my count. As soon as it became clear that they couldn’t get the grassroots to vote for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, they turned their cloaks on and posed as the President’s Praetorian Guard. Whole magazines tried to bomb the populist movement itself; When that didn’t work, they quickly put on their MAGA hats and joined the rabble. Because ideas have no consequences.
Look: I’m not saying that people shouldn’t change their minds. You absolutely should. In the real world, it takes a certain maturity – a certain intellectual humility – to admit that you were wrong and to accept the truth. But that’s because there are ideas in the real world to do Have consequences. If your stockbroker saw the rise of Netflix and invested all of your money in blockbusters, their bad idea would have ramifications – i. H. You would find another stockbroker. If your alma mater decided to name their new film school after Harvey Weinstein, there would likely be ramifications.
But conservative media is not the real world. Here ideas have no consequences. You can be consistently mistaken on all of the major political issues of the century and be absolutely sure to keep your magazine column, think tank community, and convenient bookstore. Ideas have no consequences.
In addition, you can be consistent Law on every major political issue of the century and still to be considered a pariah. Look at Pat Buchanan. The man coined the expression “culture wars”. He founded this magazine in 2002 to oppose regime change in the Middle East. He talked about raising tariffs and securing the border before Donald Trump launched The Apprentice. He has been warning us about the economic and security threat posed by China for decades. The same people who would later form the GOP’s war-friendly NeverTrump wing have tried to call Pat off since at least 1991. Have you ever apologized Of course not. Because ideas have no consequences. Not even good ideas.
You have heard all of this before, dear reader. And maybe you thought that after 2016 everything would change. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t look like it.
Take, for example, Mr. Charlie Kirk. Charlie is the prodigy of the Trump movement. He is a good friend of Donald Trump Jr. and served as DJT’s unofficial youth commissioner. On April 21, he tweeted:
The modern culture war that the left is currently embroiled in has done more damage to America in four years than the conservative boogeyman of “socialism” ever did in our nation’s lifetime.
Time to rethink our priorities and work out a proportional response.
– Charlie Kirk (@ charliekirk11) April 21, 2021
And you know what? Exactly! I have been saying the same thing for years – like many other, far more important thinkers. Paleoconservatives have always argued that the greatest threat to this country does not come from a big government, but from a big corporation. Corporate greed has eroded American industry and leveled American communities. These companies have used their profits to fund Democratic candidates and fund progressive think tanks like the ACLU. Recently, they have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into radical activist groups like Black Lives Matter.
How did the mainstream conservatives react? By calling on Republicans to cut corporate taxes, repeal regulations and cut welfare programs. All very stupid ideas.
So I totally agree with Mr. Kirk. And yet, at the time of writing, the Turning Point USA store still has an entire “Socialism Sucks” collection. This includes a wifebeater showing Uncle Sam as a bandito with the headline “Taxation Is Theft”. Give me a break, chuck.
What’s funny is that Mr. Kirk was always completely out of step with the Trumpian thing. With the Republican Party rapidly shifting towards protectionism, he has consistently advocated this socialist, sucking, tax line of theft. And just as American conservatism was turning to passionate nationalism, it declared:
Of course I love the Grand Canyon. I love the rocky mountains. And i love boston. And I love Chicago. But if everything is gone, if I just had ideas and we were on an island, then this is America. This is Israel. And people have to realize that. America is just a placeholder for timeless ideas. And if you also fall in love with the particular place and all of that, that is not what it is.
In my day we had a word for people like Chuck. We called her Neocons. And despite his close relationship with the Trump family, Charlie Kirk was always a neocon.
Well if Mr. Kirk has saw the fault of his ways, good for him. We should always be prepared for our mistakes. But if you’ve built a national platform and sizable war chest on ideas – neoconservative ideas in Charlie’s case – you shouldn’t be able to do a full 180 and carry on as usual. Like so many hundreds of conservative elites, Mr. Kirk clearly lacks good judgment. Yet good judgment is their whole job.
While Mr. Kirk’s honesty may be cheap, he at least admits his flaws. April 20th TACArthur Bloom has introduced the new “Trump Lite” -D think tank America First Policy Institute. As Arthur wrote:
The biggest name on the roster is likely Larry Kudlow, a staunch free trader who speaks out against social spending, not exactly the guy you’d expect to advocate creative ideas for restoring the American middle class. Other attitudes are even more puzzling, such as Javon Price, who came from the republican anti-Trump group GenZGOP. About Paula White, who will chair the “Center for American Values”, one thing is certain: the less, the better.
I looked at the AFPI team to see who else was prosecuting. Every employee has a small profile that is accompanied by a favorite quote. Some of them are ridiculous. Linda McMahon went with a Lucille Ball favorite: “If you want to do something, give it to a busy woman to do it.” (Authorization!) Pam Bondi chose Coco Chanel’s aphorism: “Keep your heels, your head and your standards up.” (Sexy!) Kudlow actually quotes self:: “Free market capitalism is the best route to prosperity.”
Arthur calls it “Trump Lite”; I call it “pure grip”. They took the same curdled, lukewarm fusionism and hit you America first Label on the jar, and now they are marketing it as a brand new product. And it is taking the market by storm! The base has finally found its champions!
Look, my beef doesn’t really go with Kirk or Kudlow. It’s not with these hundreds of conservative elites who were Reaganites in 1980, Bushists in 2000, and Trumpists in 2016. You always knew that ideas have no consequences. At this point, nobody should be surprised that our elites don’t really believe what they are saying. Expecting a conservative expert to have beliefs is like getting angry with Apple for releasing a new iPhone that is actually worse than the old iPhone. It’s not about offering a superior product to the public. It’s about making money. Kirk, Kudlow & Co. know their industry. Don’t hate the player like the kids say. Hate the game.
My beef is conservative: you, me, and Joe the plumber. We refused to hold these people accountable. We need guides, but we are satisfied with weather vanes. It’s up to us.
I have more respect for people like Bill Kristol and Max Boot. And I’m not just saying that. They’re consistently wrong, but at least they’re consistent. When their ideas went out of style with the GOP, they quit the party and found new platforms. Kristol started The bulwark;; Boot went to the Liberal Washington Post. I’ll make an honest fool of a cunning grifter every day of the week.
So I would like to suggest something called the “Kristol Boot Rule”. If you are a conservative politician, journalist, or activist and you have a change of heart, God bless you. But you have to do three things.
First of all, you need to publicly admit that you were wrong. You need to reject your old position and clearly state that you accept a new one.
Second, you must apologize to all the people who slandered and defamed you. If you’ve destroyed Pat Buchanan for about thirty years, you can’t buy a commission from the Buchanan Brigades. If you tried to torpedo the Trump campaign in 2015, you cannot establish yourself as some kind of nationalist vanguard.
Third, you have to step back from your platform. You cannot keep the fruits of your bad judgment. You have to start from the bottom rung and work your way up again – assuming, of course, that someone wants you on the ladder at all. Which they probably shouldn’t.
There would of course be exceptions. At the start of the 2016 election, Tucker Carlson had a sincere conversion to the Trumpist cause. He has repeatedly admitted that he was wrong about Iraq et al. He was taking a great professional risk and it paid off, but he might as well have fallen on Trump’s ship. Even after Trump won, Tucker was more than ready to turn against him when he broke his promises. He’s an honest man and deserves his platform.
Who will enforce the Kristol Boot Rule? We’ll be – you, me, and Joe the plumber. We will refuse to waste our time or money on these grabs as they are not entitled to them either. And that’s the furthest thing about it all: the feeling of legitimacy. “I’ve been your stockbroker for forty years! Do you think you can fire me just because I lost all your money? “ Actually yes. We do it. Because we don’t need all those weather vanes that mess up the waves in the air. We need leaders.
Ideas have no consequences, but they should.
Michael Warren Davis is the author of The reactionary spirit (Regnery, 2021). Read more under www.northofboston.blog.
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