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Russell Kirk—the Conservative Giant That Conservatism Inc. Wants to Forget
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birzercover-199x300 He was once credited as the leading figure of the “Conservative Intellectual Movement” (to borrow George Nash’s phrase) but today Conservatism Inc. wants to keep Russell Kirk in obscurity. Luckily,Bradley Birzer, the Russell Amos Kirk Professor of History at Hillsdale College, has written what may be the definitive Kirk biography Russell Kirk: American Conservative. It will hopefully have the valuable effect of showing how what masquerades as “American conservatism” has almost nothing to do with the vision or values of the man who once defined it.

Birzer’s impressive accomplishment is especially noteworthy because there’s been no lack of Kirk biographies. Two such works, one by my late colleague H. Wesley McDonald and the other by Gerald Russello, were published by University of Missouri Press with my heartfelt recommendations. But neither book shows the breadth and exhaustiveness of Birzer’s Herculean research.

georgenashconservativemovement Clearly the author was aiming at being thorough. He covers just about everything his subject published and left behind in his correspondence over a fifty year period. Unlike the commendable works of McDonald and Russello, Birzer is not offering an engaging picture of Kirk, viewed from a particular angle. He is telling us everything that one might care to know about a leading figure of the post-World War Two “Conservative Intellectual Movement”.

But aside from his obvious appreciation of Kirk as a mentor, Birzer may have undertaken this labor of love to rescue his subject from the oblivion to which Conservatism Inc. has consigned him. After the publication of The Conservative Mind in 1953, Kirk was considered the leading thinker of the American Right. Today, a widely-consulted list of the one hundred most influential conservative books by Goodreads doesn’t even bother to mention Kirk’s once-widely praised books The Conservative Mindand The Roots of American Order. Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism places fifth on the same list.

There’s also been an increasing trend of publications such as National Reviewpromoting some of Kirk’s intellectual opponents, such as the late Harry Jaffa, into conservative icons [Harry Jaffa, RIP, by Richard Brookhiser, National Review,January 12, 2015]. Jaffa stressed “equality as a conservative principle” and viciously disparaged Kirk whenever the occasion presented itself. In his work, Birzer quotes Jaffa-disciple and Reagan biographer Steven Hayward, who extolls Reagan for having saved “conservatism” from a fate worse than death—that is, from “having gone in the direction of Russell Kirk, toward a Burkean tradition-oriented conservatism.” [The Vindication of Harry Jaffa, PowerLineBlog, July 4, 2011]

Birzer is understandably upset by this, and by Jaffa’s relentless invective against Kirk as someone who had been “rabid in his denigration and disparagement of the Declaration of Independence and of the principle of human equality.” But Kirk’s critics are writing generally as defenders of the present version of “liberal democracy.” Meanwhile, they attribute a “counterrevolutionary” impetus to a political holding action that barely even delayed the assault of radical egalitarianism. The truth is Russell Kirk became a convenient punching bag for the Establishment, and men like Jaffa simply swung away.

As Birzer surely recognizes, Kirk was never in tune with American political realities. His “gothic imagination” and his fondness for English romantic critics of the Industrial Revolution never fit in with what passed for the American Right, especially in political and journalistic circles. Kirk’s gifts, like those of his friend Flannery O’Connor, were literary. On this point I agree entirely with my longtime adversary David Frum, who depicted Kirk as an aesthetic conservative who left behind an arresting literary vision. Kirk offered us “a vivid and poetic image—not a program, an image” of what a good society would look like. [The legacy of Russell Kirk, New Criterion, 1994]

Kirk’s version didn’t fit with the Beltway. Kirk’s vision was premodern and aligned with early nineteenth-century classical conservatism. Kirk praised its defense of social hierarchy, its stress on the sacramental and supernatural elements of human experience, and Kirk’s revulsion for all efforts at homogenizing human societies. There was nothing in this vision that could possibly appeal to the present Republican establishment or what calls itself mendaciously the conservative movement. I speak as Kirk’s personal friend—Birzer presents me as his subject’s political ally in the Sisyphean task of opposing the (probably inevitable) neoconservative takeover of Conservatism Inc.

And there may be very little in Kirk’s vision that could now translate into any political movement, even of the Right. The current celebration of Donald Trump as the bane of the Leftist-neocon establishment may have much to recommend it. But what I and many readers like about Trump has nothing to do with what Kirk set out in The Conservative Mind as “canons of conservatism.” Trump is not defending the diversity of human experience or inherited social hierarchy. He is simply taking a wrecking ball to the Leftist establishment.

Even Kirk had to compromise to a changing American society. He watered down his canons in successive editions of his seminal work, lest he offend the changing readership of the movement that he supposedly helped created. But he was never a part of that political movement. He and it simply moved along parallel lines, at least for a time.

If there was anyone Kirk did influence, it was isolated intellectuals of the cultural-social Right. I myself was one of them in the late 1960s. Birzer recounts how I sat in Kirk’s office in his home in Mecosta, Michigan circa 1970 and watched with wonder how my host typed well-turned sentences on an antediluvian typewriter. Every sentence came out in perfect sequence no matter how often Kirk was interrupted by his wife or took time off to puff on a cigar.


The figure of the American intellectual Right whom Kirk may have paralleled most closely was his friend, the social theorist Robert A. Nisbet (1913-1996). Birzer notes that Kirk’s magnum opus came out in the same year as Nisbet’s Quest for Community (1953) and that their works overlap thematically. Both authors deplored modern atomistic societies and the use of political ideology as a substitute for traditional organic ties. Such ties could still be found, we are told by both authors, where the premodern world was allowed to survive. Kirk and his more academically prominent friend worked equally hard to revive the classical conservative legacy (although unlike Kirk, Nisbet was more heavily marked by Continental traditions of conservatism than he was by British ones [Robert Nisbet, 82, Sociologist And Conservative Champion, by Robert Mcg. Thomas Jr, New York Times, September 12, 1996]).

Although both men were once celebrated by Conservatism, Inc. as part of its largely contrived pedigree, it is impossible to see how either luminary influenced its evolution. Hayward and National Review rightly identify whatever movement they’ve cobbled together with progressives like themselves.

Birzer tells us far more about Kirk’s cultural and literary achievements than he does about his political stands. This may be appropriate: Kirk was hardly a political activist. But Birzer makes it appear as if Kirk and Ronald Reagan belonged to a mutual admiration society and their relation was marked by complimentary references to each other.

This isn’t quite true. Reagan and some other politicians paid Kirk tributes, but I doubt any of them read any of his books. Kirk was never honored by being asked to deliver a Jefferson Day Lecture sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, an honor given to, among others, Robert Nisbet. The reason, we are told, is that William Bennett and other neoconservatives who ran that operation despised Kirk as an eccentric reactionary. But while this is true, as an observer at the time, I can say there was more to it.

As the Reagan presidency wore on, Kirk became thoroughly disillusioned with an administration he had once welcomed. His disillusionment with Reagan is well documented in Wes McDonald’s biography of Kirk. And one can trust Wes’s veracity since as a fervent Republican loyalist as well as Kirk’s onetime assistant, he would have had no reason to exaggerate the difference of opinion expressed by one of his heroes about the other one.

Moreover, to whatever extent Kirk indicated his political views, they were certainly not conventionally Republican ones. Although Kirk graciously sheltered refugees from then-Communist Ethiopia in his own home, he became critical of “immigration reform,” a position that he shared with the former liberal presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. Kirk supported McCarthy’s presidential bid in 1976, but not simply for the reason that Birzer gives—that Kirk admired McCarthy’s “independent judgment.” He also shared McCarthy’s growing concern about immigration from the Third World getting out of hand.

Nor do I recall Kirk ever saying anything sympathetic about the Civil Rights movement, although to his credit Birzer does not suggest anything to the contrary. The reason was certainly not that Kirk was any kind of scientific racialist. However, he was profoundly distrustful of the agitation that accompanied the Civil Rights upheaval and the demand that a centralized administrative state reconstruct social relations.

A memory that Birzer’s monumental work confirmed for me was Kirk’s largely nonpolitical Anglophilia. But although one would be hard put to find anyone who embraced the Anglo-American cultural tradition more fervently than Kirk, this never translated for him into the kind of foreign policy associated with liberal internationalists and more recently, neoconservatives. Kirk shared the negative attitudes of his hero of the 1940s, the libertarian Alfred J. Nock, toward Wilsonian internationalism. He deplored American intervention in World War One, even on the side of the Mother Country. He viewed America’s participation in the Great War as contributing to greater European discord.

At least part of Kirk (and this was equally true of Nisbet) belonged to the American isolationist tradition. Given this inclination and given his emphasis on Christian humility, he must have cringed in disgust when he heard the neocon beneficiaries of the Reagan administration call for spreading “human rights” to the entire human race.

The truth is that Kirk is a subversive figure for the contemporary American Right. His legacy is more complicated than serving as the intellectual founder of “American conservatism.” His thought was infinitely more sophisticated, and insightful, than anything coming out of the official “Conservative Movement.”

It’s no wonder the Beltway Right seems to have forgotten him. Hopefully, this new work will introduce him to another generation.

Paul Gottfried [ email him ] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Conservative Movement, Russell Kirk 
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  1. Johann says:

    Thank you Proffessor Gottfried, a tribute to a rare thing, a noble and brilliant American mind.

  2. Excellent piece! Anyone who hasn’t read “The Conservative Mind” is in for a treat. Ditto for Nisbet’s “The Quest For Community”. Both should be read to appreciate what REAL conservatism is about. Both were written in the early 50s. They are more relevant now than ever before.

  3. iffen says:

    I understand the concept of social hierarchy. What I can’t understand is who gets to decide if one can move up, or if the relationships between the layers can be changed, or if a new layer can be added. Who gets to say, “This is it; this is the hierarchy that we need”? Leaving that aside, if we just say that we accept the hierarchy as it currently exists, how does it ever change and who gets to decide if it’s okay to make changes? By example, we had a certain hierarchy in the USA in 1860. Few would say that we should still have that hierarchy today. When did it become okay to change that hierarchy, or should it never have been changed?

    • Replies: @nickels
    , @Tulip
    , @Tulip
  4. nickels says:


    Well, to flush that out, God through nature, through the talents and drives of individuals.

    Of course, the obvious problems follow, but they are not as bad as the egalitarian propaganda would have one think.

    Decay, decadence and decline are inevitable anyway. Equality is often an obsession after the Ideal is lost and the state is flailing. Totalitarian egalitarianism seeks to contain the decline, but never works for long…

    At least that’s my PaleoAnarchist take…

  5. iffen says:

    God rewards the righteous with power and wealth.

    I have power and wealth, therefore, I am righteous and it is favored by God and it is just.

    • Replies: @nickels
  6. Tulip says:

    Off topic, but when is a certain P. Gottfried’s new book actually going to be released?

  7. Tulip says:

    “Sovereigity is never given, it is taken.” – Mustaffa Kemal Ataturk

    I would refer you to Vilfredo Pareto’s Circulation of Elites if you want a deeper understanding of the process of political change.

    Modern democracies always claim their hierarchies are really “equality” and modern radicals always claim their politics will actually realize “equality”, rather than the new hierarchy they will create. Since they are promising you a chimera, you can never realistically assess modern political systems and parties on their own terms, because they are all idiots or liars. [This does not mean that one eschews the political rhetoric of “equality” of course.]

    Only if you dispel the false illusion of equality and accept the inevitability of a hierarchy are you in a position to realistically assess whether a particular hierarchy is beneficial or destructive. As a practical matter, such a judgment is impossible unless you are willing to awaken to the truth of who you really are.

    • Replies: @iffen
  8. nickels says:

    No, I wasn’t referring to righteousness.

    Nature, innate talent. God given gifts.

    That would be different than the Joel Osteen school of ‘thinking’ and ‘theology’.

    I believe that was the 19th century Liberalism way of looking at things, those with gifts excelled…

    The trick being, of course, society has to be such that gifted people CAN excel, which always seems to be the trick.

    And then you have the Alt Right monarchist weirdness. Your question might pose more of a dilemma for them.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    , @iffen
  9. I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Russell Kirk on a number of occasions. My memory above all is of his courtesy and congeniality. His political philosophy flowed from deep insights into human nature. I’m glad to see him again given attention.

  10. @nickels

    Inequality is a natural outgrowth of liberty, which permits people to realize their differing potentials (for good or for bad). Equality of condition can only be realized by suppressing liberty; the tall flowers are cut off, the nail that sticks up is pounded down till it no longer does.

    The much-vaunted “equality of opportunity” is a mirage, for only equal persons can seize opportunities equally – and no two persons are equal in any sense – not physically, not mentally, not morally. This, as another great conservative now unjustly ignored, Mel Bradford, once said, is the truly self-evident proposition.

    The only equality that a free society can or should expect to offer is the equal application of its rules. Liberty permits each player of the game of life to bring his unequal talents to the contest, and lets the best man win.

    • Agree: nickels
    • Replies: @iffen
  11. iffen says:

    Thanks. I read the Wiki on Parento and part II of a series by James Alexander in OQ. I knew of the Principle but that was all. I intend to read more.

    Modern democracies always claim their hierarchies are really “equality” and modern radicals always claim their politics will actually realize “equality”, rather than the new hierarchy they will create.

    Hard to argue with this.

    Only if you dispel the false illusion of equality and accept the inevitability of a hierarchy are you in a position to realistically assess whether a particular hierarchy is beneficial or destructive.

    I can do this, when can we break out the guillotines?

    Interestingly, I am just into a history of Bolivar. He and the other Creoles are getting their rebellion going and all the “wrong” sorts are going into rebellion as well. Revolution for me, not for thee.

    • Replies: @Tulip
  12. iffen says:

    Bad use of the language by me.

    I wasn’t talking about righteousness in the religious sense.

    I am saying you can’t justify your wealth and power by saying that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    • Replies: @nickels
    , @Tulip
  13. iffen says:

    I disagree with the whole of your argument.

    The slave is free to develop his potential to be the best slave that he can be while the aristocrat is free to be the best aristocrat. I don’t think so, Tim.

    the equal application of its rules.

    Rules are made to enforce inequality of opportunity.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
  14. nickels says:

    Yes, that is a natural mode of corruption.

  15. Tulip says:

    To address 1860, first, the issue in 1860 was not slavery but the expansion of slavery to the territories, which really struck at the balance of power between the North and South (which had already tilted North due to population and industrialization).

    The decision-makers in the South determined (correctly) that the election of Lincoln posed an existential threat to their way of life and they seceded. Lincoln then decided to suppress the rebellion, maybe for geopolitical reasons of not desiring a hostile power to his South, maybe for other reasons.

    Lincoln was, of course, in the right because he won, the rebellion was definitively suppressed. Just as Roosevelt and Stalin were in the right, because they won. You could say that the history books are written from the vantage point of the winners, and so, of course, the children get to be indoctrinated in the vantage point of the winners.

    It is also important to acknowledge the mystical power of blood. It is through shedding the blood of innocents that a contract becomes a covenant. So while one can argue in the abstract in defense of slavery (most cultures and societies have), the voices of the dead close off certain inquiries, so long as the dead are remembered. The 16th century religious wars of Europe lead to the closing off of certain political questions around religion. The 19th century civil war in America lead to the closing off of certain political questions around slavery.

    Long-term historical success is generally the criterion of Divine Providence, although sometimes the Lord first builds up those for whom he intends a great Fall. . .

  16. Tulip says:

    Bolivar and his followers knew who they were, and so they knew (from their perspective) which rebellions were legitimate, and which were illegitimate. The meaning of hierarchy is really the principle that the rules should work one way for one group, and another way for another group.

    Justice is the state where the rules benefit our friends, and harm our enemies. Who and Whom. There can be no universal justice, but a system of justice can be imposed with the ax universally.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Albert Jay Nock.

  18. Tulip says:

    What bothers me about affirmative action is not that it rewards one ethnic group preferentially. The grant of legal privileges to one ethnic group is pretty much a de facto feature of every political order.

    What bothers me is a form of legal supremacy is conveyed on an ethnic group because it is weak, and supposedly lacks “power”, and supremacy must be conveyed to insure “equality”.

    It would be much better if legal supremacy was conveyed on an ethnic group because it had greater merit, and the legal privilege was intended to reflect that group’s higher merit.

    The second strategy would trigger political struggle between rival ethnic groups whereby each group could demonstrate its superior merit, whereas the first strategy sets off a competition between groups for which group can demonstrate itself to be the weakest and most pathetic. [This fuels the phenomenon of ethnomasochism I suspect.] So here are two ordering principles for any hierarchy, merit or equality.

    However, in the real world, it is my observation that the ordering principle of loyalty to the leadership is probably most prevalent. In a nominally egalitarian order, leadership consists of the wolf who can best dress in the guise of a lamb.

    • Replies: @another fred
    , @Hibernian
  19. Tulip says:


    A man CAN justify his wealth and power by saying that is the way it’s supposed to be. . . if that man truly possesses what the Romans called “auctoritas”. To some belong the innate capacity to command.

    This is very hard for a modern person to understand, because we have spent the last two and a half centuries trying to erase real “auctoritas” from our societies, and doing our best to feminize “virtu”. I think these type of men interfere with the bureaucratic project of herding of sheeple.

    • Replies: @nickels
    , @Drapetomaniac
  20. @Tulip

    What bothers me about affirmative action is not that it rewards one ethnic group preferentially. The grant of legal privileges to one ethnic group is pretty much a de facto feature of every political order.

    Derb made the point on one of his radio sessions that it was the Civil Service Act that saved the USA from that kind of ethnic spoils system and what the Dems have done is disassemble that (or re-assemble a spoils system). Jimmy Carter as one of his outgoing exec orders did away with some of the exams because blacks were failing at too high a rate and it has spread from there. We are well on our way to a political spoils system.

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
  21. iffen says:

    I do not deny the reality of hierarchy. I can’t see any other way for a complex society to flourish.

    People should not be denigrated because they are followers, most of us are followers, there are only a few leaders. Each person should have an honorable place within the society.

    The nation state has established its legitimacy. The evolution of the definition of a leader is someone who can “lead” the nation state. By definition, a leader that cannot lead the entire populace of the nation state in an equitable manner is a failure.

    Nothing requires me to acquiesce in the destruction of my nation state by vile, corrupt and incompetent leaders.

    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
  22. nickels says:

    Yes, this makes sense.

    Although power eventually will entrench without out regard to auctoritos when a society begins to age and decay, as they all have.

  23. @Tulip

    So how about your type embracing “auctoritas’ and let others choose their own way? I prefer to be free from those who are less evolved.

    Thousands of years of carnage and destruction wrought by “auctoritas” is best appreciated by those savages hard-wired to want it. Let them keep it.

    Perhaps that way “red in tooth and claw” can finally be relegated to the animal world.

  24. Tulip says:

    If we understand the power of blood, the shedding of the blood of innocents, that seals a people into a particular covenant, then we have a means of understanding differences between the nations of the world.

    America fought a Civil War, and lost over 500,000 young men, whom we still remember, so no one wants to revisit slavery, lest by breaking the seal, we lose 500,000 or more again. But that is America.

    A Sunni in Syria has no such cultural and historical memory, so the question of slavery is open in a way it is not in America, and if closed, closed in a manner that is distinct from the way it is closed in America.

    Now there is nothing a priori that prevents America from invading Syria and imposing their customs on Syrians, this is colonialism. If this goes on long enough, presumably, the Syrian will forget his own history and internalize American history and values, become American in this sense.

    But the difference between the peoples of the world, while based on blood, is based primarily on the different ways in which their ancestors have shed their own blood or bathed in the blood of their enemies in order to resolve political questions in the territory in which they inhabit. So blood and soil, but in this sense, which is very different from something like a biological conception of race.

    • Replies: @iffen
  25. Art says:

    Kirk praised its defense of social hierarchy

    The notion or thought of “social hierarchy” is a bad thing – a hierarchy is a prescription for trouble.

    A visual word describing hierarchy is the vertical pyramid. All human pyramids have rulers and supplicants. This is antithetical to American idealism. “We the People” is antithetical to “social hierarchy.”

    We must think horizontal not vertical. We want to think flat circle not vertical pyramid.

    We want a social order that is horizontal. We want a shared social order that radiates outward from a set of ideals. These ideals can have leaders – they can be seen at the center of the horizontal social order. Those who accept and share these ideals do so volitionally. There is no up or down when all share the same idea or ideal.

    • Replies: @5371
  26. @iffen

    I do not deny the reality of hierarchy for those with your mindset. It is, after all, a product of life’s ancient past and a successful adaptation in the animal world.

    Which is the very reason you “can’t see any other way for a complex society to flourish.” Flourish, hardly, its history is one of death and destruction.

    You want it therefore you need it. It is only needed by your rulers – they don’t have the guts to do the killing and stealing themselves.

    Possibly as much as 4% of the population doesn’t share your belief, preferring that civilization being the norm rather than a deviation. They choose freedom over government enslavement and that hierarchies to be voluntary.

    • Replies: @iffen
    , @iffen
    , @Harshmellow
  27. iffen says:

    so no one wants to revisit slavery

    What people want is not the determining factor. The historical existence of slavery in America is what defines us as a nation state. The downstream effects of slavery visit us every day and night. The failure of our leaders to deal with these effects is one of the main reasons (if not the main) that we are a failing state.

    You seem to be saying that the only way to accomplish something of consequence is through the shedding of blood. I am not sure that I buy into this premise.

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
  28. iffen says:

    history is one of death and destruction

    Yes, dust to dust.

  29. iffen says:

    I thought your moniker was familiar. I have had you on CTI (you are going back) and I am not sure how you got off the list. Your 1st two paragraphs are normal; the 2nd two are incomprehensible.

  30. @another fred

    This is a good example of hierarchy/”equality”/hierarchy coming into play.

    The spoils system was a reflection of urban ethnic political machines rewarding ethnic supporters, which the WASP Progressives replaced with civil service requirements (which I think benefited WASP’s over say Irish and Italian immigrants), then with the decline of the WASP’s and the rise of the “most favored ethne” status for loyal Democratic Constituencies, viola, the Civil Service Act starts to get excepted away.

  31. @Drapetomaniac

    It is called the Iron Law of Oligarchy, and it is one of the most well validated theories in sociology:

    It’s not about what people believe, it is about how groups of people actually behave in the real world over protracted aeons of time. From past behavior, we extrapolate future human behavior, we don’t presume some magic dichotomy just because people started taking mushrooms in the 1970’s.

    There is a reality-oriented politics, and there is a lotus_eater school of politics.

    Most people can’t handle the truth, that is why you have monarchies where the dirty work is carried out by a few elites, or in democracy, politicians sell policies and wars with pie-in-the-sky BS.

    • Replies: @iffen
  32. @iffen

    I think the point is that if you want to create a taboo around certain kinds of political questions, it helps if 500,000 people died in the recent past over that question. For example, I think the Holocaust has resulted in shutting down a broad swath of political questions, and I don’t mean through criminal laws, I mean mostly unconsciously. [Yes, I am sure that some groups have self-consciously used the Holocaust for political ends, but I imagine that these taboos would still be in place if these groups did not even exist.]

    If you don’t believe me, try to publish an essay on why Southern Christians were correct that Christianity permits and encourages slavery, or write an essay on why Hitler was a great leader of the same stature as Roosevelt and Churchill and has been unfairly maligned. See what happens.

    Why? Is it because no cogent case can be made for these positions (even though many such cogent cases were made during the time that these were open questions)? No, I think it is the power of blood that prevents it.

    • Replies: @iffen
  33. Blood & Soil:

    My country, ’tis of thee,
    Sweet land of liberty,
    Of thee I sing;
    Land where my fathers died,
    Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
    From ev’ry mountainside
    Let freedom ring!

    Our joyful hearts today,
    Their grateful tribute pay,
    Happy and free,
    After our toils and fears,
    After our blood and tears,
    Strong with our hundred years,
    O God, to Thee.

  34. And here is the verse of a different nation, set to the same melody:

    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
    May by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush,
    and like a torrent rush,
    Rebellious Scots to crush,
    God save the King.

  35. 5371 says:

    There’s a place for both horizontal and vertical transmission, just as for both inheritance and adoption.

  36. iffen says:

    I’ll get back to you if you like. You make some good points and some good comments. I have to take care of other pressing obligations.

    My neck is red and so is my cap, however, I apparently got a workable splash of time preference.

    One of my arguments to you would be that the hierarchy that left the blood of 500,000 and the other that left the blood of millions were failed hierarchies.

    Failed hierarchies deserve the guillotine.

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
  37. Conservatives are plugging into Kirk, sometimes unknowingly, when they wax longingly about Tolkien’s depiction of the Hobbits and the Shire- free people, different people, living in their own communities, side-by-side, in peace, making their own industry, being different people and different communities.
    The conservative loss of this notion is in part due to a generalized demotion across the political spectrum that’s been applied to the rights of communities to exist, in their own right.
    That takes many forms. Undermining freedom of association is one, although the decimation of unions and organized labor is another. Of course – organized labor has a bloody hand in its own decimation but that’s another story.
    Trump doesn’t represent the opposite of this. Trump is correctly understood by those with perspective, across the pond, who see him as manifesting ethnonationalist proto-fascism. Fascism is “capitalism in decay” (h/t: Vladimir Lenin) – it is the attempt to use force to impose order when self-organizing methods of preserving order fail, or “decay”.
    Conservatives should resist the temptation to turn to fascism, as we’d expect of the hobbits and of Tolkien. Instead: conservatives, in the spirit of Kirk, should organize to reverse the atomizing forces everywhere they are. Fight atomization. Strengthen the ability of communities to cohere and to remain coherent, while also co-existing.

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
    , @Twirlip
  38. @iffen

    I note your remarks on failed hierarchies, but it is important to remember that Enoch Powell was right when he observed:

    All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.

  39. @BlueMonkey

    If we are interested in the real world, there was nothing in the Italian Fascist movement or the German National Socialist movement that related in any way to immigration. Both Mussolini and Hitler encouraged emigration from their countries, and Mussolini was angry when Americans restricted immigration in the 1920’s. If he was alive today, he would be taking the same policy tact that Soros takes on American immigration policy. So if anyone is siding with the positions of the actual fascist movement, it is the open borders crowd.

    The actual parallel for Trump would be the Israeli Right, both with respect to immigration restrictions on Muslims, and building a wall. Is it is a fair comparison to say the Israeli Right are Nazi’s or fascists? Whether or not the Israeli Right are your political cup of tea, it is a grotesque distortion to call them Nazi’s.

    So if you are a dissembling dishonest leftoid vomiting agitprop, feel free to continue to do so. If you are a conservative, stop spreading the enemies lies.

    • Replies: @BlueMonkey
    , @Art
  40. There is a very deluded crowd of neo-conservatives who understand and appreciate that Israel must do what it has to do to insure its survival.

    The delusion they suffer from is that somehow that if America does not do what it has to do to insure its survival, Israel will be able to make it on their own.

  41. @Harshmellow

    Harshmellow – that’s a lot of invective, aimed very narrowly and acutely on the one rhetorical point in my post, ignoring all of the other substance.
    In any case, though rhetorical, it isn’t just me whose noticed. The guys on the other side of the pond know something about fascism, and what it looks like, when it starts up. Ignore at peril.

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
  42. Art says:

    Whether or not the Israeli Right are your political cup of tea, it is a grotesque distortion to call them Nazi’s.

    Is not hiding 200 nukes from the world grotesque?

    Is not apartheid grotesque?

    Is not murdering 1,400 defenseless men women and children grotesque?

    Is not the endless stealing of property grotesque?

    Is not pushing all your neighbors into war grotesque?

    Is not keeping 1,000,000 people in a virtual prison grotesque?

    Is not detaining thousands people in jail without trial grotesque?

    Is not white prostitution slavery grotesque?

    What is not grotesque about Israel?

    • Replies: @Harshmellow
  43. @BlueMonkey


    As you probably know, Vox magazine not regarded as either right-wing or particularly friendly to Trump. Nonetheless, they sat down to speak with several experts who all concur that Trump is not a fascist:

    You note the names four experts who all conclude Trump is definitely not a fascist: Roger Griffin, Mathew Feldman, Robert Paxton, Stanely Paine. You will find that many of these individuals are associated with left wing political movements and hostile to fascism.

    It gives one the distinct impression that anyone who says that Trump is a fascist is either ignorant, a liar or certifiably delusional. Perhaps you are simply speaking an “emotional truth” like those who deny that Obama has valid U.S. Citizenship?

    I would recommend going back to reading Jonah Goldberg. As you know, he believes all liberals such as Hillary Clinton are fascists, so I am sure based on his exacting scholarship that Trump is a fascist too.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  44. @Art

    Interesting comment. I don’t think anyone has seriously tried to equate the Israeli Right with the political program advanced by the Nazi’s, except by way of rhetorical hyperbole, but as I said, they may not be people’s cup of tea.

    However I note that none of the policies you accuse the Israeli Right of engaging in resemble any of the policies that Trump has advanced in his campaign.

    However, if Trump is a fascist for seeking restrictions on immigration by Muslims and building a wall, then by that standard the Israeli Right would be fascist, even though I doubt I will find that precious fact anywhere in the pages of Commentary. Which is strange, because neither policy had anything to do with any of the main objectives of either fascism or Nazism, but are consistent with what would have been common sense for any democratic government in the 19th Century.

  45. iffen says:

    Most people can’t handle the truth

    People use icons and taboos to inform their behavior and thinking. What the taboo is attached to currently may have only a tenuous connection to the original circumstances. We change and meld the meanings based on our current needs and desires.
    You say people can’t handle the truth, and I agree with you, but that is because there is no truth; there is only perception and we have a vested interest in what we see and think.

    The inability of many to see the slave owning aristocracy of the Old South for what is was is a perfect example.

  46. @iffen

    “The slave is free to develop his potential to be the best slave that he can be while the aristocrat is free to be the best aristocrat. I don’t think so, Tim.”

    You neglect to entertain the possibility that the only ability the slave has is to be a slave – that such is his best and highest function. Thomas Carlyle argued in “Shooting Niagara” that blacks would never accomplish anything on their own, but would work only when whites held their noses to the grindstone.

    We need only look at how sub-Saharan Africa has reverted to its native savagery and squalor since the withdrawal of the colonial powers, or right here in the United States at the examples of Detroit and other black-run cities. There is much empirical experience since Carlyle wrote the essay to support his argument.

    • Replies: @iffen
  47. @Harshmellow

    As you know, he believes all liberals such as Hillary Clinton are fascists…

    Whether or not Mrs Clinton is “fascist”, she sure as hell is a long way from liberal. At least in any genuine meaning of the word.

  48. iffen says:

    You neglect to entertain the possibility that the only ability the slave has is to be a slave – that such is his best and highest function.

    100% correct, I do not entertain this possibility.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
  49. @iffen

    If you don’t, then how do you refute Carlyle? The present condition of sub-Saharan Africa is evidence to support the truth of “Shooting Niagara.” So does the condition of Detroit, East St. Louis, Camden, etc. These conditions reflect what happens when a population having a median IQ in the 80s is left without the supervision of persons having superior intelligence and the determination to maintain order.

    • Replies: @iffen
  50. iffen says:

    Saying that a certain group X has not accomplished A is not proof that an individual from group X cannot accomplish B. An individual is more than the sum of the different groups of which he is a member.

  51. @iffen

    Very well then – what individual has appeared among the sub-Saharan Africans to lead them out of their squalor and savagery? What individual, for that matter, has arisen amongst American blacks to lift them from their degradation? I fear the problems of these people are too great for any great man.

    Carlyle wrote in 1867 that “One always rather likes the N****r; evidently a poor blockhead with good dispositions, with affections, attachments, — with a turn for N****r Melodies, and the like: — he is the only Savage of all the coloured races that doesn’t die out on sight of the White Man; but can actually live beside him, and work and increase and be merry. The Almighty Maker has appointed him to be a Servant…”

    Harsh words, perhaps, but what has become of the “poor blockhead” in the years since they were written? He has lost his “good dispositions” and has become rancorous and sullen in attitude – and in behavior, riotous, even habitually violent and criminal. Even his “N****r Melodies” have degenerated from the relative sophistication of jazz into the crude cacophony of rap. The brighter men among the race in America have found it convenient mostly to become either demagogic “reverends” like Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, or Jesse Jackson, or leaders of criminal gangs.

    In my lifetime all the “civil rights” movement has accomplished is this country is the transformation of this country’s helot class into its dacoit class. It hasn’t been an improvement. Things have been even worse in the old African colonies of Britain and France, where rulers of the stripe of Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko, or Robert Mugabe have come to the fore, and even cannibalism has been revived.

  52. iffen says:

    Becoming President of the US is considered by most to be an accomplishment of sorts.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
  53. @iffen

    Yes, and what has Obama done with that office?

    To the extent he could, he’s conducted himself like a Third World despot, and has been frustrated in his aims only by the procedural inertia provided by such residues of Constitutional government as still remain extant. He has used the nominally-independent civil service as a bludgeon against his political opponents (e.g., “Fast and Furious,” or the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups) and has attempted to rule by decree (as in his immigration policy). He has defied and stonewalled the Federal courts.

    He’s just a little more subtle in his corruption than Kwame Kilpatrick, Ray Nagin, Marion Berry, Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, etc., and a little less feckless than David Dinkins, Coleman Young, or Richard Hatcher. Furthermore, the United States is, fortunately, more robust than the cities and districts these Demosthenic Tinmen managed so criminally, incompetently, or both. There’s a lot of ruin in a nation, and it is on that observation of Adam Smith’s that whatever hope there is for the poor old United States of America must rest after 8 years of B. Hussein Obama.

  54. @iffen

    Iffen and Co. take this elsewhere. It has no relation to the Biography or the man and is jejune.

    • Replies: @iffen
  55. iffen says:
    @Bob who say take this elsewhere

    I have not read Mr. Kirk, so I will take your word that he never concerned himself with the relationship between the individual and the group.

  56. @iffen

    I am well aware that in the scheme of things I am like one of the cattle under the Michigan oaks. Your childish attribution of things never said clearly reinforces my invective.

    • Replies: @iffen
  57. iffen says:
    @Bob who is among the cattle

    Bob of many handles

    Thanks for the link to the 10 principles. I find agreement with several of the points.

    Sorry if I have interfered with some sort of hero worship. I think that I would prefer a hero that would likely bust me in the face if I entertained such worship.

    If your comments pass for invective, I can see why the commies, Trotskyists, neos and establishment cons take your lunch monies.

  58. Twirlip says:

    Trump is correctly understood by those with perspective, across the pond, who see him as manifesting ethnonationalist proto-fascism.

    Ethnonationalist, perhaps, though even that is a big stretch. But “proto-fascism” is just a cheap insult and completely devoid of any meaning. What, has Trump been espousing the need for America to conquer Latin America to acquire “spazio vitale” – living space? The desire for corporatism?

  59. @iffen

    It is not hero worship to acknowledge ones betters. Even the gracious ones that treat us lessor lights as peers in every day life.

  60. Hibernian says:

    Liberals, at least extreme ones, believe weakness IS virtue.

  61. woodNfish says:

    I, for one, do not want most of the old social hierarchy back. Why should I have to cow-tow to some elitist prick I have no respect for? We have a hierarchy now that needs to be overthrown – the private citizen and the unaccountable government criminal. And after it is destroyed, the unaccountable government criminals need to be prosecuted and serve time if they are not executed for treason or other capital crimes.

    The republican party has never been a conservative party. Why people think it was is because most people are propaganda-believing stupid grubers. (Yeah, I know that is redundant.)

    Kirk may have had some good ideas, but that doesn’t mean some of them are not dated.

  62. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Hmm. So there are multiple versions of The Conservative Mind? The one I bought from B&N’s ebook storefront doesn’t say which but it might be slightly dodgy… Google just pointed me to an article at theamericanconservative that says there are seven. I can now say mine is between version one and five and should be able to narrow it more with more work.

    Anyway, that article pointed up something I caught while reading it. The title was wrong; His original The Conservative Rout” would have been much better. It really is the story of Conservatives, long holding actions punctuated by routs with never the slightest notion that capturing ground is an option… or even desirable. Conservatives fight to preserve the routs of their previous generation, positions previously anathema quickly become hills to die on.

    • Replies: @iffen
  63. iffen says:

    His original The Conservative Rout” would have been much better. It really is the story of Conservatives, long holding actions punctuated by routs with never the slightest notion that capturing ground is an option… or even desirable.

    They seem to spend most of their time fighting over the label.

    Maybe that is the road to success. I don’t know whether it is or not.

  64. domain says: • Website

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