There was a time when conservatism was defined as a lack of ideology, by which Russel Kirk meant ideology in the Marxist sense. The Marxist defined ideology as a set of beliefs that were assumed to be true, but were, in fact, the product of economic and social conditions of the time. The ideologue, whether he knew it or not, believed in a collection of things he assumed were true in all times and all places, but were only true in his time and place. Conservatives rejected this argument.
That was a long time ago. For generations now, conservatism has succumbed to that old Marxist understanding of ideology. What that usually meant is the so-called conservatives would figure out the position of the Left on some issue and then take an alternative position. Not necessarily the opposite, as they have always been careful to avoid being called reactionary by the Left. This is, of course, evidence that they are reactionary, but reactionaries have some self-awareness.
A good example of this is this piece in the American Conservative. The writer is someone calling himself Charles Marohn, but his friends call him Chuck. He is the president of something called Strong Towns, which promotes itself as an advocacy group in support of rebuilding local community. Of course, it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Here is their tax filings. Their language and choice of media outlets suggest they are conservative or right-leaning.
The best one can say about it, however, is it is a mix of misguided libertarianism and Breitbart-tier reaction. Consider this line. “After all, there is no greater distortion of the market than local zoning codes, and there are few bureaucracies doing more harm to property rights and freedom than local zoning offices.” This is right out of libertarian market worship. An actual conservative would ask, “Do these local zoning laws reflect the attitudes and customs of the local community?”
Nowhere in the piece is there any discussion about what the local people may want or how these zoning laws fit in with local customs. Instead, the author is frazzled over the prospect that the market, peace be upon it, may be vexed with these laws. Even more vexing, suburban voters have somehow managed to get the Federal government to back these zoning laws. In this case, it means rules against building tenements and trashy commercial development in white suburbs.
In other words, his definition of conservative simply means opposing anything that impedes the marketplace. Further, he points out that these sorts of zoning laws started in the New Deal years. There’s where you see the Pavlovian aspect of modern conservatism. Instead of judging the thing in question against a set of accepted principles, they just ask if Democrats were for or against it. Conservative Inc. better hope the Left never takes a strong stance against suicide.
That’s where you see that conservatism, rather than being a rejection of ideology as the Marxists define it, has become an ideology, one that compliments and supports the prevailing ideology of the Left. In the case of single-family zoning laws, there is no consideration of their efficacy. The writer does not bother to ponder why these laws exist in the first place. Instead, he just assumes they are bad because the Left once supported them and they violate market absolutism.
Of course, he does not address why we have zoning laws prohibiting the demolition of the suburbs with tenement blocks. The Left destroyed those old white ethnic neighborhoods in the cities, by unleashing a black crime wave starting in the 1960’s that drove whites from the urban areas. Twenty years ago, the legendary quantitative blogger, La Griffe du Lion, pointed out just how quickly blacks began to prey on urban whites as their population grew.
At least with the Obama administration, they were honest about why they wanted to destroy the white suburbs with tenements full of blacks. They hated white people and they hoped to reclaim some urban real estate. The game is to change the zoning laws in these white suburbs, so builders can erect apartment blocks. The Federal government, coordinating with the local Democrat machine, then fills them with blacks from the nearest city, using Section 8 housing vouchers.
Toward the end of the piece, he writes, “The progressive left has discovered that single-family zoning has racist underpinnings. That’s great, because we should now have no problem finding common cause for repealing this most distorting of regulations, one that the federal government never should have forced cities to adopt to begin with.” Instead of using this observation to discuss why these zoning laws exist, he falls victim to the fallacy of Chesterton’s fence.
There is another part to the Marxist definition of ideology. Once one accepts that beliefs are shaped by conditions, you no longer have to think too much about the truth content of political beliefs. Your opponents are simply the victims of false consciousness, while your ideas reflect the interests of your side. This inevitably leads to both close-mindedness and fanatical zeal. Any questioning of your side is heresy, while the other side’s arguments are assumed to be without merit.
This is where conservatives find themselves today. They are confined to a moral ghetto created for them by the Left. On the one hand, any new ideas, especially those from the Right, are rejected out of hand. On the other hand, they are completely defined by their opposition to whatever the Left is doing at the moment, but snugly within the confines of the moral orthodoxy. Conservatism has been completely stripped of the ability to question and debate political reality.
This is also why conservatism has turned into a racket. The people inside this maze of right-wing institutions have been imprinted by ideology. They can only see the world in terms of partisanship, a term coined by Lenin, by the way. Of course, the same is true of left-wing institutions. They treat their enemy as an indefatigable foe that is always right there ready to pounce. In reality, both Left and Right are exhausted ideologies and exist like two drunks leaning on one another for support.
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