*Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea*

The author is C. Bradley Thompson and this new book is in broad terms an Objectivist ("Randian") critique of neoconservatism and Leo Strauss.  Here is one summary bit:

Inevitably, the neocons are epistemological relativists (though of an anti-egalitarian nature), which is the source, as we shall see momentarily, of their moral relativism.  Because the political good in their world is mutable and always changing, the neoconservatives do not want fixed principles to which they are hbeholden, nor do they strive to be morally or politically consistent.  Their power and authority is generated and sustained by the illusion that the world is in a state of constant change and that it is governed by what Machiavelli called fortuna.  The truth or falsity of an idea is, according to the neocons, determined by its usefulness in a particular situation and for particular people.  What is true today, they argue, may not be true tomorrow if an idea or an action fails to work in new and different situations.  In such a world, there can be no certainty, no absolutes, no fixed moral principles.

The author writes — correctly – "hoi polloi," instead of the redundant "the hoi polloi."

Thompson argues that Leo Strauss showed sympathies for the Italian fascism of Mussolini, at least relative to liberalism and religion.

At times the book sounds like Bryan Caplan criticizing me, though I take such ripostes to say more about Bryan than about me.

When I was young, I very much enjoyed reading John Robbins's Calvinist answer to Ayn Rand (revised here), even though I did not agree with much of it.  I often learn more when ideas clash in relatively stark forms.

In my view, principles and politics don't always mix but the problem is neither epistemological nor moral.  Ill-informed voters, especially in diverse societies, can only swallow so much in the form of principle.  If one is committed to intellectual discourse, but within the range of the politically feasible, a lot of intellectual principle is difficult to sustain.  I do believe in principles, but I don't see that any point of view has overcome this quite general problem.  In that sense I do not blame neoconservatism per se.  But am I a neoconservative?  No, and Brad's book gives some of the reasons why not.


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