Monday, June 20, 2011

Modern Conservatism's Achilles Heel

I encountered this blog post from nearly four years ago, that is precisely what is wrong with modern conservatism.  Porter Stansberry, an investment adviser, was invited to dinner with Ann Coulter and Doug Casey.  He writes of the encounter:

It gives me no pleasure to tell you about my dinner with Ann Coulter…
I was thrilled when a mutual friend invited me to join him, Doug Casey, and Ann for dinner in New Orleans. I thought, regardless of her rabid political views, surely Ann Coulter is an intelligent, curious, well-read person who has insight into the world…
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Ann Coulter is stunningly ignorant of the issues outside of constitutional law (she is a lawyer) and politics. Thus, in her view, politics is both the cause of all of our problems and the only possible solution.
Over dinner she reiterated her obnoxious opinion that the “experiment” with woman’s suffrage is the root cause of big government. Like a child playing with an Etch-a-Sketch, she points to a straight line, leading back through history. There, she says… big government started right there, in 1920. That’s when the 19th amendment was ratified, ergo that’s the cause of the whole problem. After that, according to Ann, it was all downhill.
Doug and I looked at each other curiously… But Ann, that same line, if you move it just a bit further, actually seems to start in 1913, when the Federal Reserve was created, the prohibition of income taxes was repealed and the Republic was put to rest through the direct election of senators. Don’t you think these changes to the Constitution and the policies they enabled – like FDR’s gold seizure and our resulting experiment with paper money – were far more significant than woman’s suffrage?
Ann Coulter had never heard of the gold standard. She didn’t believe us when we told her that in 1933 FDR seized all of the privately held bullion in the country, then devalued the dollar – probably the greatest financial crime in history. She didn’t even know it was illegal for citizens to own bullion up until 1974. Bretton Woods? Coulter thought we were talking about tennis rackets. She told me flatly “I don’t know anything about finance or economics.” Not even the basics, like how inflation affects prices or the key role paper money and progressive income taxes have played in building the welfare state. We might as well have been talking to a horse. Ann just looked at us, her long face turned sideways with incredulity.
Lacking anything intelligent to say, she decided to simply insult us. “I was a libertarian as a teenager, but I emerged from adolescence…”
Good one, Ann. What a zinger.

Coulter, like most outspoken conservatives, is simply ignorant of economics.  They have no real understanding of America's economic history, the role the gold standard played, the way the progressive era undermined the liberties Americans once possessed, and simply give lip service to "free market" economics.  Conservatives have bought whole-hog into the progressive policies of the early twentieth-century and adapted to the way things are, rather than insisting on Constitutional government.  And perhaps the worst thing about it all, is that they are self-righteously simple-minded.  There is no true intellectual foundation to the modern conservative movement.  This anecdote about Coulter is a distillation of an entire movement.

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