This is a roundup summary of an article by John O’Sullivan, ‘After Reaganism’, National Review, April 21, 1997. A prescient piece.
O’Sullivan takes conservatives to task for being too slow in matching the shifting positions of radicals who have nimbly moved on to map out new directions to Utopia. ‘The Left ought to be more confused than the Right by the ideological flux of the post-Cold War world [but] it is moving more quickly to redefine the ground rules of the new political game’. This game, as O’Sullivan calls it, is the disintegration of existing society and the replacement of traditional relations with bureaucratic management. He examines this process at work in three areas – the economy, social and moral issues, and the national question of cultural or political identity.
The economy is undermined in the interests of consumer protection, workplace safety and the environment. He notes some estimates of the opportunity cost of clean-air and clean-water regulation (6 per cent of GDP) and affirmative action (4 per cent of GDP). ‘A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money’. Beyond the dollar cost is the agenda of control, bringing industry under bureaucratic control without the responsibility of owning it, which might be called “socialism without tears”.
Concern for the environment has extended to indoctrination of school children with a quasireligious obligation to the earth or Gaia which is higher than the long-term interests of the human race. O’Sullivan points out that this gives the interventionist Left a whole host of silent constituents who cannot answer back, namely, the environment and the beasts. ‘Listening to Al Gore one wishes that the animals really could speak. If would be interesting to hear the candid opinion of the sloth on welfare, of wolves on foreign policy, and of the cuckoo on family values’.
In the moral domain the Left first discredits the values of traditional society (duty, fidelity and chastity) which help society to work without close bureaucratic supervision, then tries to resolve the resulting moral problems by law and regulation.
At the level of national identity, O’Sullivan finds the greatest threat of all in the multicultural agenda, apparently aimed at the disintegration of the
American people into a babble of contending interests. According to this agenda, the ancient symbol of failed communication, the Tower of Babel, becomes the Utopian dream.
From CIS Policy, Autumn 1997.