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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A tale of two rights and the legacy of William F. Buckley

This video by Charleston City Paper columnist The Southern Avenger is a good introduction to the postwar history of the American right. He follows two threads, the descendants of the Old Right which included such varied figures as H.L. Mencken, the Canadian Isabel Paterson, Senator Robert Taft, and the New Right which emerged in the pages of National Review as a combination of east-coast establishment Eisenhower/Rockefeller Republicans, Reagan Democrats, and a group of leftist internationalist intellectuals called the neoconservatives with Buckley and a few other traditionalists giving it cover as genuine conservatism.

I've just received from ISI Books a reprint of a 1993 book by Justin Raimondo called Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of American Conservatism, about which I'll post my thoughts when I'm further into the book. The descendants of the Old Right, the paleoconservatives of today and paleolibertarians like Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul recognize themselves as part of a long tradition of anti-imperialist Jeffersonian libertarians and decentralists stretching back through the America Firsters, the Old Right, the Southern Agrarians,the Anti-Imperial League, the antebellum radical abolitionists and anarchists, secessionists of all stripe,  all the way to the Anti-Federalists. About Raimondo's book, Ron Paul said:

"When I was deciding whether or not to run for President as a Republican, I re-read Justin Raimondo's Reclaiming the American Right and it gave me hope—that the anti-interventionist, pro-liberty Old Right, which had once dominated the party, could and would rise again. Here is living history: the story of an intellectual and political tradition that my campaign invoked and reawakened. This prescient book, written in 1993, could not be more relevant today."

When Ron Paul speaks to libertarian audiences, like in his "winding-down" youtube video or his recent address to the Future of Freedom Foundation, he talks about "the Remnant," a term borrowed from Albert Jay Nock which means the small minority who understood the nature of the state and society, aware of the necessity of freedom and the criminality and limitless failure of government. Unlike Nock however, Ron Paul (and Lew Rockwell) seem optimistic and claim that the Remnant is quickly growing and full of youthful vitality–as Ron Paul discovered in his presidential campaign over the last year.

Things may be what they are in the United States, but in Canada the prospects for liberty often look grim. When I look around me at the collectivist intellectual landscape of my country today, I often remind myself what one of the mothers of Canadian libertarianism once wrote: "right now it is a terrible thing to be a rugged individualist; but we don't know what else to be except a feeble nonentity."

Many Canadians declaim "Americanism," (who can forget lead investigator Dan Steacy of the Canadian Human Rights Commission saying "freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value"?) I embrace Amercanism. Ayn Rand, the friend and correspondent of Isabel Paterson, spoke of Americanism as "Individualism" based on "the principle that Man posseses Inalienable Rights"–that's something that all Canadians, as possessors of natural rights and the traditional and ancient rights of Englishmen under the Common Law, can get behind.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on June 10, 2008 | Permalink


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Now THAT's a solid post Mr. Kassam.
Thank you for that.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-06-10 8:49:58 PM

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