Ideas

The Natcon About-Face

By going from purging anyone who does not pledge allegiance to the nationalist agenda to welcoming all comers, natcons have abandoned the original defining characteristic of their movement.

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When the political philosopher Yoram Hazony took the stage at the inaugural National Conservatism Conference in 2019, he sounded a giddy note. "Today I feel good, because I know that today is our independence day!" he said. "Today we declare independence from neoconservatism, from neoliberalism, from libertarianism, from what they call classical liberalism."

By the time the second National Conservatism Conference rolled around last fall, Hazony, one of the events' leading organizers, had changed his tune. "America's in a tough spot. The democratic world is in a tough spot," he said. "We're not going to make it through if there's no alliance between anti-Marxist liberals and hardcore, serious conservatives."

By going from purging anyone who does not pledge allegiance to the nationalist agenda to welcoming all comers, the "natcons" have abandoned the original defining characteristic of their movement.

No wonder. Three years ago, it was easy for attendees of NatCon I to believe they were the vanguard of a vast army ready to march into a virtuous mercantilist future. On the right, it was a given that the wave of popular support that had swept Donald Trump into the White House was explained by concern about the loss of manufacturing jobs and attendant disgust at free markets and free trade. So the main substantive themes of the conference were opposition to immigration and support for federal largesse in the form of industrial policy.

Today, things look different. Trump's signature accomplishments turned out to be a large tax cut (the priority of "Zombie Reaganists," as natcons love to say) and a program to expedite COVID-19 vaccines (which a large chunk of his own base rejects). Meanwhile, Trump's efforts to manhandle the economy failed spectacularly: Witness the ruinous effects of his tariffs and the empty shell that was supposed to be a $10 billion Foxconn facility in Wisconsin, touted by Trump as a shining example of his "America First" agenda.

In retrospect, cultural concerns—about runaway political correctness, assaults on religious liberty, left-wing bias in the media and academe—are what pushed so many voters into Trump's arms, and NatCon II reflected that realization. The event's top headliner was Dave Rubin, a YouTube personality ideologically closer to the classical liberals Hazony once wished to banish than to Hazony himself.

Not everyone was pleased. "If your main goal is cutting taxes, or dismantling the administrative state, or banning abortion, or opposing wokeness, or opposing vaccine mandates," Julius Krein, editor of the nationalist journal American Affairs, declared during a panel discussion, "you don't really need nationalism for any of that. And in fact, it's probably counterproductive. You might be better off just being libertarian."

NEXT: Brickbat: Old-Fashioned P.E.

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  1. "Today, things look different. Trump's signature accomplishments turned out to be a large tax cut (the priority of "Zombie Reaganists," as natcons love to say) and a program to expedite COVID-19 vaccines"

    I thought there was some little thing in the middle east - - - - - - - -

    1. Local news. That wasn't a real peace treaty.

    2. As long as Islam is the official State Religion of Saudi Arabia, The Abraham Accords will not last. It is just a hudna (i.e. a temporary truce with the Kuffir--the Unbeliever--until the Jihadis regroup and prepare to fight again.)

  2. Reason is such a joke. Massive TDS. Unreal.

    1. Seriously, Slade basically admitted all her accusations turned out to be lies but blamed the dreaded "Natcons" for not following her script.

      What an absolute joke.

  3. "If your main goal is cutting taxes, or dismantling the administrative state, or banning abortion, or opposing wokeness, or opposing vaccine mandates," Julius Krein, editor of the nationalist journal American Affairs, declared during a panel discussion, "you don't really need nationalism for any of that. And in fact, it's probably counterproductive. You might be better off just being libertarian."

    Because they've managed to accomplish so much for us already...

    1. OMG, anything but libertarians. Please don't throw me into that libertarian patch!

    2. Yep! We squabble with all the flavors of Statism and Collectivism and with each other so damn much, we could never be prospects to whip into a Witch-Burning Bee.

      Fuck off, Witch-Burner!

  4. The Natcons discovered that they are a small segment of the right that cannot get anything done without allies at least somewhat sympathetic to some of their goals.

    Might be a lesson for other movements, *cough* libertarians *cough*.

    1. Make alliances with the icky people against Marxists and Stalinists? As if…

      1. But they did in the USA for many years, as long as the Marxists and Stalinists were in other countries. Now that they're here, it's going to be hard to put that alliance back together. And even if it gets put back together...defined by opposition? Losing as slowly as possible?

  5. These grifters in American politics have been and always will be the same. They position themselves in front of whichever movement seems to be getting a share of the vote and claim to be the unifying voice as they hoover up funding and enriching their organizers. They insist that they have finally defined that alternative path for american politics, and just please ignore the fact that all the old geezers running the show have sucked money off of causes for dozens of years. From Perot/Ventura's Reform party to the Tea Party to today's morass of people, a few things are clear:

    1) Everybody is sick and tired of the establishment
    2) There are establishment grifters happy to take your money for empty promises about a revolution
    3) The established parties are absolutely fine with this.

    1. 1) Everybody is sick and tired of the establishment

      Well, yes and no. I think a lot of people are sick and tired of "the establishment" as such, but they don't mind individual things that "the establishment" does. It is like those surveys which purport to find that people want to "cut spending" or "repeal Obamacare" but when pressed about WHAT spending to cut, or WHAT about Obamacare they want to repeal, they end up supporting most all of the spending/provisions of Obamacare when described individually.

      So they don't like "the establishment" but they mainly support what the establishment does. I think there is probably some of that going on.

      1. Is, "all of it not roads and military" too difficult to grasp?

      2. There's a lot of "Cut government spending! Just not the parts that benefit myself and my family" going on.

        1. Back in around 2014 or 2015 or so I saw a Gallup poll that asked specifically Republicans what was the spending that they wanted to cut, and it gave a bunch of categories of possible items. In this poll, the ONLY item that received support from a majority of Republicans was "foreign aid". That's it. Not even "health care" spending. And of course that was not long after we were all subjected to the supposed horrors of Obamacare. The takeaway I got from it is that based on this poll, Republicans were fine with government spending on health care, they just didn't favor Obama's plan for government spending on health care.

    2. The TEA Party people had something going before they were coopted by the talk radio crowd.

      1. So did Occupy before it was coopted by the woke crowd, and the initial issue was the same--that it was blatantly unreasonable for the large banks to get bailed out after years of committing securities fraud, and that the government should have allowed them to fail rather than be blackmailed by those same banks threatening to destroy the world economy if they didn't get paid (which happened anyway).

        And it's notable that the country not only hasn't really recovered from that, but a lot of the same "easy credit" practices are still being employed in the housing market such as rock-bottom interest rates, which has contributed to yet another housing bubble. So really, these fuckers got paid off for nothing, unless you happened to buy a house in 2010 that's now worth about $500K or more than what you paid for it.

  6. What is it about libertarians that they can't (or perhaps REFUSE to) understand 3rd grade English? No purge was announced at any time, no one was banned from attending their meetings, no loyalty oath is required, there are no membership criterea; so obviously there has been no change other than doing what EVERY similar organization tries to do - expand it's base with e.g. invite and include '..anti Marxist Liberals...' or listen to Hazony conducting a 1 hour interview with David Rubin to find common ground. Malcolm X tried to do the same thing when he left the Nation. As to the childish TDS diatribe, no response required other than to suggest that Reason bring in some open minded, common sense writers who know how to think critically.

    1. They desperately need new writers. Trump broke these ones.

      1. Robot writers would be more insightful and less predictable than some of the Reason writers.

  7. Republicans become less discriminating... Reason pounces!

    FFS, what a joke you are.

  8. you don't really need nationalism for any of that. And in fact, it's probably counterproductive. You might be better off just being libertarian.

    I think it's funny that Reason, in an article claiming the failure of nationalist conservatism failed to pick up in that quote that even they consider libertarianism to be a punchline.

    Let's face it, as great an idea as libertarianism is as a political philosophy, as a political movement, it's proven an abject failure. And spare me the "oh, people aren't good enough to accept our wonderful ideas" crying. Libertarianism was killed by libertarianism's leadership. It had its chance. It had its "libertarian moment". But, when the opportunity came, when people on the right started coming around to libertarian conclusions, the leadership of the libertarian movement rushed in to the arms of the statist left, citing "liberaltarianism" or "bleeding heart libertarianism" or "thick libertarianism". So much so that they'd lambaste a conservative who agreed with libertarians on 90% of issues, yet celebrate a statist progressive because "he plays video games!" And even now, establishment libertarians equivocate on societal lockdowns and vaccination mandates, avert their eyes to political prisoners and the suppression of dissent, and celebrate the untrammeled exercise of government power because "Orange Man Bad".

    Is nationalist conservatism the way to go? I doubt it. But, watching the libertarian establishment sneer at them while they trip over their own peckers trying to get a few crumbs from the progressive statists doesn't make libertarianism look like the winning ideology of the future.

    1. "Every man is equally entitled to protection by law. But when the laws undertake to add... artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful the humble members of society the farmers, mechanics, and laborers, who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.” -- Fuckin' Nationalist Populist

      Yeah. Reason laments the death of classical liberalism and the rise of nationalism in the GOP while lauding actions against and spitting at dissent that comes from Jackson himself.

    2. Let's face it, as great an idea as libertarianism is as a political philosophy, as a political movement, it's proven an abject failure.

      The LP is an abject failure for the simple reason that it doesn't really advocate libertarianism, but rather a free market form of progressivism and utilitarianism. The idea that free individuals might want to get together in a community and impose rules on how that community is run is anathema to much of the LP.

      Actual libertarianism embraces subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that local governments ought to be free to ban anything from drugs and prostitution to gay marriage, and subsidize anything from libraries to churches, if the property owners choose to. Actual libertarians are pretty much OK with the way the US was originally set up.

      A political party and movement rooted in progressivism and utilitarianism cannot be libertarian or classically liberal, nor does it provide a compelling alternative to either the Democrats or the Republicans.

      1. Actual libertarianism embraces subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that local governments ought to be free to ban anything from drugs and prostitution to gay marriage, and subsidize anything from libraries to churches, if the property owners choose to.

        Not in any Universe I live in and there's just one Natural Universe.

        Individuals are free to abstain from drugs, prostitution and gay marriage if they want to and individuals are free to pass the hat to build libraries or houses of worship, but not to force anyone else to do so.

        Any Subsidiarist who doesn't like that can stay Sub-6 Feet and drop dead.

        1. Individuals are also free to form associations and covenants that prohibit drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage. That's part of liberty and libertarianism as well.

          You don't like this because your view of "liberty" is that of a communist, not of a libertarian.

    3. Let's face it, as great an idea as libertarianism is as a political philosophy, as a political movement, it's proven an abject failure.

      Not exactly.

      Libertarianism is a fine idea and a great political movement. One can see this by the success of libertarian policies --real ones-- that have been implemented by republicans.

      The failure stems from the infiltration of leftists, which came about because of the notion that libertarianism isn't right wing, that it's a 'third way'

      Doing this opens the door to leftist takeover, as Bob Conquest immortalized in his Second Law, and libertarianism, the organized variety anyway, has succumbed to this.

      Their ideas are sound--except one. Libertarianism is right wing. And will not be viable until it accepts that fact. Until it does it will be a haven for the kind of soft brained leftists who write for Reason.

      1. Libertarianism is a fine idea and a great political movement. One can see this by the success of libertarian policies --real ones-- that have been implemented by republicans.

        Except the worth or success of its policies doesn't, unfortunately, determine the success or failure of a political movement. That movement's ability to capture the ability to implement those policies defines its success or failure. And, on that ground, libertarianism has been a failure. It's failed to capture a significant part of the public's support and the share it has captured is shrinking. Even the conservatives who were willing to give libertarianism a hearing are starting to turn away. As a political philosophy, libertarianism simply isn't winning, even if it does produce favorable results.

        I'm not saying this happily. Because, I do consider myself a libertarian. And because I like to see policies with good consequences enacted. But, the truth is, as a political movement, libertarianism hasn't only been infiltrated by leftists. It's essentially dominated by them. As a consequence, it's failed to gain traction because it's been willing (as a movement) to violate its own ostensible principles to alienate those who it should most be trying to court (on the right). But, those on the right aren't blind. If they see libertarianism willing to violate its own ostensible principles to alienate them, they have little reason to subject themselves to being restricted by those principles.

  9. No wonder. Three years ago, it was easy for attendees of NatCon I to believe they were the vanguard of a vast army ready to march into a virtuous mercantilist future.

    What you mischaracterize as "mercantilism" is actually the idea that the US government shouldn't promote unrestricted trade with totalitarian, hostile regimes and unfree markets like China. You'd think that even the dumbest person would have figured that out after Putin invaded Ukraine, but apparently not. Maybe you'll come around after China invades Taiwan.

    And conservatives and libertarians are far, far worse than your progressive little mind imagines, Stefanie: we aren't just "nationalists", we believe in local government, subsidiarity, and self-determination. That's in sharp contrast to what you and Reason advocate, where the entire nation and then the world is restructured to maximize liberty exclusively at the individual level. In other words, Stefanie, you favor the vision of national and international socialists.

    1. This is too funny.

      Socialists: We want a global order centered on socialism!
      Reason Libertarians: We want a global order centered on individual liberty!
      NOBY2: See? You both want a global order, you're no different than socialists!

      1. Reason "Libertarians" favor private property and mostly free markets, while opposing central planning; that makes them quite different from socialists in terms of policy.

        1. So what did you mean by this statement?

          "In other words, Stefanie, you favor the vision of national and international socialists."

          1. Utopian socialists dream of a future in which there is a global order and set of rules based on scientific principles and that maximizes individual choice. That's what Stefanie seems to desire, as do many self-proclaimed "libertarians" here.

    2. we believe in local government, subsidiarity, and self-determination.

      It was much easier to believe that before 2020, but that just isn't the case now. We now have example after example of state legislatures in red states pre-empting local governments over mask mandates, vaccine mandates, school curricula, etc. I think the pro-subsidiarity faction within Team Red is definitely losing the battle now.

      1. Given the way the different levels of government currently function in the US, I think states are a reasonable level at which to set rules on mask mandates, curricula, etc. After all, it is at the state level that the costs of poor local educational and healthcare policies are currently incurred.

        For achieving more subsidiarity, it would be necessary to split up states further, to devolve more power to local governments, and to privatize education and healthcare.

        1. Given the way the different levels of government currently function in the US, I think states are a reasonable level at which to set rules on mask mandates, curricula, etc.

          Sure, it is one of many reasonable levels. But that is not necessarily the most reasonable level when it comes to the principle of subsidiarity. And especially with how things actually transpired in the US, i.e., local governments already enjoying their subsidiarity-compliant local control to set mask mandates or school curricula, and the state government affirmatively stepping in to take much of that power away from them because they didn't like how they were exercising that power.

          Again if you are going to invoke the *principle* of subsidiarity, you need to walk the walk. Saying "we believe in subsidiarity, but only when those local governments behave according to my preferences", is not the *principle* of subsidiarity.

          For achieving more subsidiarity, it would be necessary to split up states further

          No, all that would be necessary is for state governments to decline to take control away from local governments.

    3. what you and Reason advocate, where the entire nation and then the world is restructured to maximize liberty exclusively at the individual level.

      I don't think that is what Reason actually advocates, but even if it was: what is so bad about that? Sounds pretty good actually.

      1. I don't think that is what Reason actually advocates, but even if it was: what is so bad about that? Sounds pretty good actually.

        Yes, it "sounds pretty good" to you because that's essentially the socialist/communist view of liberty: a global order that maximizes choices available to individuals. That just happens not to be the libertarian vision.

        1. No, the "communist" view of liberty is that liberty is a collective property, not an individual one.

          I am baffled by why you think maximizing individual liberty is somehow incompatible with libertarianism.

        2. Collectivistjeff, like Reason, believes in "citizen of the world" bullshit - an idea that inherently works toward one central world government

  10. The only reason the Libertarian Party hasn't supplanted the GOP is because the LP decided it wanted to be a purity club instead of a political party.

    The GOP was actually heading in a libertarian direction for a while, then the NatCons showed up. Worse than event he NeoCons. Today the Republican Party is essentially the contrarian party. Whatever the Democrats do they must advocated the diametric opposite.

    1. It's the Reactionary Party.

    2. The Democrat attitude is that anyone who doesn’t sign on to any one of their policy ideas can go fuck themselves. Since that’s a large majority of the population, it only makes sense for the Republicans embrace those people to build a winning opposition team.

    3. The GOP was actually heading in a libertarian direction for a while, then the NatCons showed up.

      Yeah, that's it! The NatCons used their jedi mind tricks to impose their political beliefs on Republicans. Curse their Svengali-like hypnotic abilities! Or maybe it was orbital space-based mind control lasers. Who ever knew the NatCons were so technologically adept?

      I'm sure it had nothing to with arriving and finding a libertarianism that was willing to cede their rights and liberties, at best, regrettably, to be sure, and, at worst, was willing to ignore or evade their rights and liberties. I'm sure it had nothing to do with a libertarianism that insisted they "bake the damned cake" (G. Johnson) while proudly standing in support of Big Tech's God-given right to deplatform them. I'm sure it had nothing to do with them finding a libertarianism that celebrated various identity ideologies as triumphs for self-actualization while pretending that the infringements on liberty these identity ideologies demanded were just trivial inconveniences.

      No, none of that stuff had anything to do with it. The NatCons just showed up and were just so damned irresistible.

      1. I see the same complaints from neocons, as well. "Why can't you just stop focusing on icky culture war issues that don't mean anything?" Why the fuck should any political group that doesn't want to get steamrolled adopt that position, when it forms the very foundation of how a society controls and maintains its identity?

        Reagan, who these guys supposedly worshipped as the perfect conservative, was a gleefully unapologetic American nationalist who saw the US as a "first among equals" of Enlightenment-inspired western governments during the Cold War.

    4. And in what direction is the Democrat party heading?

  11. From the 98% fantasy department of Reason.

    A few individuals might or might not have slightly adjusted their thinking and Reason writers think a revolution occurred.

  12. Sullum "I'm pretty sure I'm the most retarded writer at reason"
    "hold my beer" said slade

  13. graft agents to the left of me, graft agents to the right

  14. "We're not going to make it through if there's no alliance between anti-Marxist liberals and hardcore, serious conservatives."

    So; What's the difference between those two? Heck in my book they're but the same - fighters for Individual Liberty and Justice.

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