First Becker lamented conservatism’s straying from its roots of skepticism toward government action. Then Posner added his thoughts with some notes of optimism. Next, Posner responded to commentators and expanded on certain topics. Finally, Becker clarified some of his earlier points.
Overall, the posts and comments make for an excellent assessment of modern conservative movement. Best quotes after the jump.
Both men are of the Milton Freidman, “University of Chicago School” wing of the modern conservative coalition. As member of the “classically liberal” or libertarian tradition, both thinkers oppose government intervention in economic, social, or foreign policy matters.
Becker first summarized his views as:
The Republican Party under the leadership of Eisenhower and Reagan had a more consistent classical conservative philosophy of supporting private markets in the economy, little military involvement in other countries, and even little interference in social arrangements . . . The shift in the attitudes of the Republican Party toward more interventionist views on social issues, and to some extent also on military involvement to create more democratic governments in other countries, has created this crisis in conservatism. Better stated, it has created this crisis in the conservatism of the Republican Party.
Next, Posner chimes in, writing that conservatism is “running out of steam”:
I sense intellectual deterioration of the once-vital conservative movement in the United States. As I shall explain, this may be a testament to its success.
He leaves off with some notes of qualified optimism, however:
There are signs and portents of liberal excess in the policies and plans of the new administration. There will thus be plenty of targets for informed conservative critique. At this writing, however, the conservative movement is at its lowest ebb since 1964. But with this cardinal difference: the movement has so far succeeded in shifting the center of American politics and social thought that it can rest, for at least a little while, on its laurels.