July 3, 2006

Austin Bramwell on the Conservative Movement

Bramwell is the young lawyer recently appointed by William F. Buckley to National Review's five-man Board of Trustees just before Buckley's retirement. "I wanted somebody who is very young and very talented," Buckley said. "One likes to think in the long term."

In the July 17, 2006 issue of The American Conservative, Bramwell writes:

First, the conservative movement in large part exists to promote intellectual conformity. Few writers or scholars affiliated with the movement care to risk their sinecures (or their institutions' funding) by disagreeing too vociferously with the official movement position. Consciously or unconsciously, right-wing writers instead tend to suppress thoughts that may be deemed too eccentric or independent. Meanwhile, the movement selects and promotes the careers of young writers whose primary qualification consists of believing ab initio what the movement tells them to believe. One should not be surprised, given this incentive structure, if the movement has become increasingly bland, notwithstanding the usual humbug about how intellectually superior the Right is thse days. Blandness is part of the institutional design.

Second, those at the top of the conservative movement have wide discretion to set its movement's official positions. Bedrock or founding principles, whatever they may be, play very little role in determining what policies the conservative movement will embrace. Whatever may be said of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, for example, they were surely not deduced from immutable conservative principles. Nevertheless, the signature achievement of the conservative movement in the past decade has been to rally -- or, perhaps more accurately, manufacture -- public support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. With just one or two changes in personnel, however, one could easily imagine events turning out very differently. Reckless or prudent, thoughtful or ignorant, the opinion-mongers at the top set the movement line; the other constituents -- the donors, the directors, and other writers and the consumers of opinion -- then accept and promulgate whatever positions the movement tells them to.

By the way, Bramwell had kind things to say about me last year.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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