Monday, January 5, 2009

Wingnut Welfare's Manifesto: Irving Kristol's "New Class"

When beganeth serious wingnut welfare? For a long time I wasn't sure. But so many things point to the work of Irving Kristol. One day, shortly before the Reagan era, Irving Kristol pronounced:
[The] New Class is not easily defined, but may be vaguely described. It consists of a goodly proportion of those college educated people whose skills and vocations proliferate in a 'post-industrial society'... We are talking about scientists, teachers and educational administrators, journalists and others in the communication industries, psychologists, social workers, those lawyers and doctors who make their career in the expanding public sector, city planners and the staffs of the larger foundations and upper levels of the government bureaucracy, and so on. It is by now a quite numerous class; it is an indispensable class for our type of society; it is a disproportionately powerful class; it is also an ambitious and frustrated class.
Wow. Scientists? Teachers? Journalists? That's a lot of suspect professions.
... they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call 'the welfare state' toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfil many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.
Yes. Administrators. Public Sector Workers. City Planners. Scientists. Teachers. All commie hippies.

This required action! The question is, how far are you willing to go in taking a stand against "THE LEFT!!!1!" (as you've defined it)? Just how far are you willing to distort reality, and circumvent "the reality based community"?

The answer, as we've learned over the past decade, is pretty far. So far that even conservatives themselves are worried about the fallout. As Jim Sleeper commented on Sam Tanenhaus's talk at the American Enterprise Institute a few months ago:
In Tanenhaus’ telling, Kristol showed conservative business and political leaders that New Deal managerialism had bred a liberal “new class” of academic, think-tank, and media experts who trafficked in words more than in deeds or missions accomplished. He counseled conservatives to outdo liberals at this game in order to rescue liberal education and liberal democracy for the kind of capitalism and politics conservatives can profit from and enjoy...

Through lavishly-funded initiatives such as those I encountered in New York City’s Manhattan Institute and on college campuses, and in vast private ventures such as Rupert Murdoch’s “journalism," conservatives generated a parody of the liberal “new class,” an on-message machine of talkers, squawkers, power brokers, and greedheads which Slate's Jacob Weisberg dubbed “the Con-intern.” Their social ideas resemble Margaret Thatcher’s more than Disraeli’s, driven by a corporate capitalist materialism that's as soulless as the Marxist dialectical materialism of their elders’ nightmares...

So far, the conservative “new class” has excused the displacement of the liberal counterculture with a degrading over-the-counter culture; of the New Deal’s oft-lampooned make-work programs with the public non-response to Katrina; and of the dreaded “Vietnam syndrome” with the worst strategic blunders in American history. Beneath their civic chimes and patriotic bombast, the spirit of republican vigilance writhes in silent agony, forsaken by conservatism itself.
Update: This is Tanenhaus more recently, after the past election:
What seems to have impressed [Republicans] is Mr. Obama’s attunement to the problems afflicting the country and the hope he offered that they might be solved. [Really? Solving problems?]

If so, then Republicans may have to jettison some of the most familiar items on their agenda. “The issues that have provided conservatives with victories in the past — particularly welfare and crime — have been rendered irrelevant by success,” Michael Gerson, the Bush speechwriter turned columnist, wrote last week. “The issues of the moment — income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health care access — seem strange, unexplored land for many in the movement.”

In fact these “issues of the moment” have been with us for years now, decades in some instances, but until recently they were either ignored by conservatives or dismissed as the hobby-horses of alarmist liberals or entrenched “special interests.”

The key word in Mr. Gerson’s analysis is “movement,” a term more applicable to moral or spiritual crusades than to the practical matters of governance, particularly governance in a two-party system, where success almost invariably requires compromise, consensus and a mind open to all manner of workable solutions.

These have not been, historically, the strength of “movement conservatives,” who prefer arguments built on first principles often expressed in supercharged rhetoric.
Oh, you mean like, literally, yelling?

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