Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Anyone who puts himself out there as a conservative thinker/commentator will invariably find themselves the subject of critics who hurl the phrase "neo-con" or "neo-conservative" at them, as if there is no difference in "conservatism" and "neo-conservatism". There is. Neo-conservatism adds to a core of conservative domestic sensibility a new sense of American exceptionalism in the world and a concomitant duty to spread the benefits of democracy and liberalism (classical, not modern) throughout the world. Most who use the phrase "neo-con" these days mean it as an insult, largely code for "support for the failed policies of George Bush" or some other such drivel.

I propose that we now begin to refer to the policies of the Obama Administration as "Neo-Socialism". Not in some childish game of tit-for-tat, but in the recognition of the fundamental differences in classic socialism and the brand practiced by President Obama and his administration.

Here are, as far as I can see it, the defining characteristics of "Neo-socialism".

1. A belief in the concept that capitalism has failed, but can be resuscitated by a new partnership between government and business. This new partnership will be inherently more fair to more people.
2. A belief that competition isn't necessarily bad, and that government can and should be permitted to compete with private industry.
3. A belief that big government isn't necessarily bad; what is bad is BAD big government. Big, effective government is desirable.
4. A belief in the transcendent quality of the world community while de-valuing national interests. A sense of American relative and actual decline in the world, one that demands of us a more compliant approach to problem solving. A perception that American decline is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'm sure there's more--but this is a good start.


Thor's Dad said...

Just a thought but shouldn't there also be a tenet about the detrimental effects of individualism and the wisdom, salvific nature of the community. The individual should always submit to the wisdom of the community and its socially evolved 'elders'.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Good point, TD--but is that substantially different than plain old socialism? I'm asking--I don't know for sure.

That said, I need to find a way to weave the word "salvific" into into my repertoire.

Anonymous said...

"3. A belief that big government isn't necessarily bad; what is bad is BAD big government. Big, effective government is desirable."

this belief is also characteristic of neoconservatism or "national greatness" conservatism. neoconservatives have long since made peace with the welfare/warfare state, they simply want to make it more effective. for all his blustering, reagan didn't actually shrink the federal government in any appreciable way, and everyone's favorite "conservative" george w. bush gave profligacy a bad name.

to find anyone that is actually dedicated to shrinking "big government" you need to go find some of david brooks' "unpatriotic conservatives". in other words, you need to go far away from the party hacks at national review online and the weekly standard

Anonymous said...

sorry, it was actually david frum who castigated anyone who wasn't on board with the lunatic invasion of iraq as "unpatriotic."

i have a hard time keeping track of my neo conservative civilization warriors (all of whom, of course, have never actually fought for anything) so i confused david brooks and david frum. since a paramecium could out-think either of the pair, i think it's a pretty forgivable mistake.

ixi jim ixi said...

Things seemed fairly reasonable there, until you seemed to go for the "He doesn't care about the country" low hanging fruit on the last point.

Admitting that we have been wrong about a few things isn't necessarily hoping for the country's decline...nor is realizing that our policies affect the world, and vice-versa

Anonymous said...

This post is more of a question than a definitive position.

Perhaps the alternative "neo-progressivism" should be considered for the policies of this administration.

Anonymous said...

I would replace "neoliberalism" with capitalism in that statement. As in, neoliberalism (that extreme form of capitalism) has failed. I don't believe that the Obama Administration thinks that capitalism has failed, just the kind we've been practicing for the last 30 years or so. It's possible that we'll see a kind of socialist capitalism hybrid emerge from this but honestly, this country is in the grips of capitalism and it won't really change anytime soon.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Sorry IXI--Obama has very prominently distanced himself from American exceptionalism.

I won't dispute your observations, I'll only indicate that a readiness to accept them is a tenet of neo-socialism.

Anonymous said...

A couple of brief notes on your idea (point by point):
1. "belief that capitalism has failed but can be..." Why exactly does a belief that some government/business partnership indicate a belief that capitalism has failed? Proposition does not follow predicate.

2. Assuming we accepted proposition #1, isn't capitalism (and ESPECIALLY the conservative brand thereof) based on competition? why should the government be excluded from competing? But again, if capitalism is dead, government doesnt NEED to compete.

3. Isn't effective governance the goal...period?

4. AMERICA, F$&*CK YEAH. History will bear out that an isolationist approach simply doesnt fly any more...and right now, we are not the powerhouse we once were. It is simply a fact. We are not the cool big brother any more...taking a more balanced and diplomatic (look it up) approach to workd politics may actually increase our stead and cache in the communities in which we engage.

Finally, your note that this is not a 'tit-for-tat' is laughable, as it clearly is designed to be just what it claims not to be (interestingly enough, you will remember that this is a common strategy of the Bush administration which brought to the fore neo-con thinking). This IS an attempt to create a new name to call, now that "liberal" isnt vile enough.

Mudge said...

"Why should the Government be precluded from competing?"

1. Industry (Government's would be competitors) are citizens who are subject to the Government taking their resources under penalty of law.
2. Government gets to make the rules by which industry (citizen competitors) must play in this would be "competition".
3. Citizens who create, through their intellectual and physical labors, have a Constitutional right to their private intellectual property. The government, however, uses those same citizens tax dollars to purchase "government purpose rights" that enable them to use those citizens' intellectual property as Government sees fit. (this is already the case...not this Administration's creation but you got me started)
4. When a private citizen establishes an enterprise, he or she is driven to innovate and create at a pace that out does his or her competitors lest he or she perish. Government knows no such motivation nor accountability. When government lags in schedule, it merely "replans" or "re-baselines". When it overspends, it merely demands more money of its citizens (and, as in point 1 above, its would be competitors)
5. This is still the United States of America. The founders never intended that the Government would be our major impediment in our pursuits of happiness. Unless and until we decide to exclude business owners of whatever size from the citizenry of the United States of America, the government has NO business IN business.

Tim Long said...

Bravo Mudge. Bravo.

ixi jim ixi said...

* Sorry IXI--Obama has very prominently distanced himself from American exceptionalism. *

In your post, you were talking more about a realistic sense of pride in one's country. I don't know if he distances himself from American Exceptionalism, but if he does, I'm all for it. It's about time we get off the "We're America! We're the best!" bandwagon, and actually take steps so that other countries won't continue to outperform us.

Anonymous said...

It's a matter of who's doing the defining, isn't it? For 21st century American capitalists these would seem to be a few of the defining characteristics:

1. A belief that when large businesses fail the government should and must provide financial support, for the good of the many.

2. A belief that government involvement in private business isn't necessarily bad thing, as long it means using taxpayer money to prop up a large business that would otherwise fail.

3. A belief in the transcendent quality of the corporation while de-valuing national interests. A perception that American decline is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as consumers can continue to afford to buy lots of cheap imports.

bbauer said...

i must also cheer Mudge

Anonymous said...

In my mind, neo-liberalism would refer to the rebirth of classic liberalism (circa John Locke) aka libertarianism. As far as being the grips of capitalism, as a small or medium size business owner if they are spend more time operating in a capitalist market or navigating the bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

"4. AMERICA, F$&*CK YEAH. History will bear out that an isolationist approach simply doesnt fly any more...and right now, we are not the powerhouse we once were. It is simply a fact. We are not the cool big brother any more..."

You couldn't be more wrong. America is very much the powerhouse it always has been. Do you realize we are currently fighting a two frint war on terror, as well as countless low level covert campaigns all over the world, and we haven't even had to touch our war stocks? We are doing this all from off the shelf, and convenience purchase items. America as a whole has no viable competition militarily, or economically. Even deliberate attempts to thwart Americas economic prominence like the creation of the Euro have met with mediocre success. Militarily we have no equal. Are their nations that will give us pause for thought? certainly. The "pussification" of the current breed of American has left us as risk averse as an old lady playing bingo. We lost a few thousand men in Iraq over the course of 8 years and act like it was the battle of bull run. In WWI 5000 men would die at the single low of a whistle. America is not inherently weak, it has just became so interested in sitting around on its laurels that we are almost useless. The simple truth is the average Joe today has never known a day of hardship, has never really worked for anything in his life, and is as weak as a newborn baby. America has lost it's way, and we need to find it again. We flirted with it after 9-11 but the MTV attention span wore off quickly. It was the combination of decadence and arrogance that is currently plaguing America that brought down ever great civilization in history. The simplest of truths is America is collapsing from within. Not because of a lack of strength, it is collapsing from a lack of fortitude.

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