Neoconservatism arose largely in reaction to the social tumult of the 1960s counterculture movement and to the perceived failure of ‘bleeding heart’ liberal and Keynesian ideas in the 1970s.1 Its idea of ‘good government’ entails neoliberalism as a moral system.2 Neoconservatives are very much at odds with traditionalist conservatives and with paleoconservatives, with traditionalists and paleoconservatives seeing neoconservatives as ‘usurpers’. Traditionalists, paleoconservatives, and capitalist libertarians often oppose war and emphasize limited government, but neoconservatives accept the risk of larger and more intrusive government in order to ensure national security, that is, the protection of purportedly “good government,” which they pursue preemptively and aggressively. Though capitalist libertarians are usually credited for neoliberal ideology, neoconservatives, haven risen rapidly to power during the 1970s, are probably responsible for its adoption as political orthodoxy.3 Daniel Stedman Jones points out that the arguments for neoliberal economic policy, as made by capitalist libertarians, avoid morality,4 so it would indeed seem that neoconservatives would be necessary to resolve the paradox of a somewhat social conservative president, Ronald Reagan, adopting an otherwise amoral economic policy.
Neoconservatism at least profits from a widespread and incorrect5 interpretation of the fall of the Berlin Wall, as a symbol for the failure of the Soviet system, among the United States political mainstream as vindication for the U.S. system and its associated ideologies.6 This is a false dichotomy combined with a red herring: First, it poses the failure of one system as validation for another; and second, it conflates authoritarian socialism with communism.7
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- 1. Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, 30th anniversary ed. (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006).
- 2. Gertrude Himmelfarb, “Irving Kristol’s Neoconservative Persuasion,” Commentary 131, no. 2 (2011): 25-29.
- 3. David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 2,” May 29, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2014/05/04/the-quixotic-quest-to-comprehend-conservatism-part-2/; see also David Benfell, “Nailing down the neoconservative-neoliberal link,” November 10, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2014/11/10/nailing-down-neoconservative-neoliberal-link
- 4. Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012).
- 5. Mary Elise Sarotte, “How the Berlin Wall Really Fell,” New York Times, November 6, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/opinion/how-the-berlin-wall-really-fell.html
- 6. Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism
- 7. Emma Goldman, “There Is No Communism in Russia,” in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. Alix Kates Shulman, 3rd ed. (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998), 405-420.
- 8. Nathan Glazer, “Neoconservative from the start,” Public Interest no. 159 (Spring 2005): 12-17.
- 9. Oliver Darcy, "The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine critical of Trump, to shutter after 23 years," CNN, December 14, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/14/media/weekly-standard-end/index.html
- 10. Paul Rosenberg, “Christian right secession fantasy: Spooky neo-Confederate talk grows louder at the fringes,” Salon, July 1, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/07/01/christian_right_secession_fantasy_spooky_neo_confederate_talk_grows_louder_at_the_fringes/
- 11. Edward Ashbee, “Politics of Paleoconservatism,” Society 37, no. 3 (2000): 75-84; Gary Dorrien, “Interrogating Neoconservative Religion: Richard John Neuhaus, Rienhold Niebuhr, and the Politics of Moral Consensus,” Political Theology 14, no. 3 (2013): 397-405, doi: 10.1179/1462317X13Z.00000000031; Ross Douthat, “Social Conservatives and Social Science,” New York Times, December 18, 2013, http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/social-conservatives-and-social-science/; Alexandra Homolar-Riechmann, “The moral purpose of US power: neoconservatism in the age of Obama,” Contemporary Politics 15, no. 2 (2009): 179-196, doi: 10.1080/13569770902858111; Jacob Weisberg, “Hunter Gatherers,” New Republic 205, no. 10 (September 2, 1991), 14-16.