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March 7, 2012

The Fate of the Nation: Why Conservatives Need to Engage Intellectuals and Moderates

by Kyle Becker

We conservatives find ourselves in a state of bewilderment as to how our country could be slipping into socialism. ”This is the United States of America” we cry. “This is not supposed to happen here!” But a moment’s introspection can clarify what happened and what needs to happen in order to reverse the nation’s course.

The simplest explanation for our country’s incessant drive towards central government is that we conservatives have failed to advance the system of liberty and free enterprise on moral grounds. We who call ourselves conservatives, to our own detriment I believe, have relied too much on tradition while blindingly revering our values as self-evident truths.

While our Founders provided us with valuable insights into human nature and government, we mistakenly believed that the debate was over. Too many of us failed to recognize that new challenges to our beliefs had arisen that demanded to be directly addressed.

The intellectual terrain shifted, making the appeal to freedom seem to elites like an unblinking, unthinking argument. The intellectuals who opposed freedom were written off by conservatives as members of a lofty elite scribbling away in their ivory towers; and of no consequence whatsoever for shaping the direction of the country.  This attitude fed mutual resentment and divided the country into an “intellectuals versus the people” battle. No wonder the would-be ruling class members felt no compulsion whatsoever to be intellectually honest with us, nor have they sympathized with our point of view.

In retaliation for conservatives’ general unwillingness to acknowledge their brilliance, let alone engage their ideas, the hardcore left in academia ascribed everything we had to say as “capitalist false consciousness.” This mischievous argument dehumanized us further, radicalizing them against us.

The leftists won their ideological victories mainly because conservatives paid their time in academia as a kind of purgatorial pass to upward mobility, refusing to stand up to the left on moral grounds at the optimum time. After the defeat of collectivist nations in the second world war, and in the period after the Soviet gulag states were established, there was a prime opportunity to drive home the failures of central planning.  But most conservatives became overconfident and intellectually lazy, instead enjoying the country’s moment in the sun.

Those rare intellectuals who challenged the socialist consensus in that golden hour, such as F.A. Hayek, Joseph Schumpeter, and Milton Friedman, gained a modicum of respect even within left-leaning academia. That is because they openly and directly addressed the socialists’ arguments on a point-by-point basis and demonstrated their falsity. This was of momentous consequence, because these intellectuals’ ideas influenced future leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who helped lead the conservative effort to stall the collectivist tide. But our victories were temporary and fleeting.

Continued at Conservative Daily News.

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