Bishirjian Continued

Larison writes, of this post:

It’s a little disappointing that of all the insightful points Mr. Bishirjian made about the threat of centralisation and regimentation to a sane and humane social order Ross finds the references to a flat tax and some kind of education reform to be the most interesting.

Actually, the fact that Bishirjian's essay made many theoretical points with which I agreed was precisely why I thought his completely unimaginative, Limbavian proposals for what conservatives ought to actually do were worth highlighting.

Larison goes on:

The link is to the NYT profile of Limbaugh, which includes his six-point list that overlaps in some places with policies Mr. Bishirjian supports. What is notable about this and Ross’ ongoing spat with Limbaugh is that when it comes to practical politics Limbaugh and Ross are effectively in agreement about what the government should be doing far more often than Bishirjian and Limbaugh are. Limbaugh may nonsensically complain that Ross and Reihan want to embrace the New Deal, as if the GOP hadn’t already abandoned overturning that agenda decades ago, but for all practical purposes Limbaugh generally proposes very little (except perhaps for Social Security privatisation) that could be fairly described as being in any way anti-New Deal.

Bishirjian is proposing a thoroughgoing repeal of the centralised administrative state that has grown up over the last century, but while he is making many proposals that might find an audience in conventional GOP circles he is also making a fundamentally communitarian case for building up intermediate institutions that would probably give Limbaugh hives.

I apologize for being somewhat reductionist here, but while I take Daniel's point, I think that conservatism - and especially its dissident factions - could benefit from fewer airy discussions of the ideal conservative social order, and more meat-and-potatoes discussions of what a renewed conservative movement that flowed from these first principles would actually be for. As a result, I don't have that much patience for sweeping calls for a "thoroughgoing repeal of the centralised administrative state" when those calls are wedded to a specific domestic policy agenda that is more or less identical to what Rush Limbaugh is already urging on the GOP. If Bishirjian had ended his essay simply by calling, as some other dissident-conservative writers have, for a depoliticization of the conservative movement, and a renewed focus on cultural activism and "building up intermediate institutions" that can eventually contest with the administrative state for influence, I would have disagreed with him, but I would have respected him for proposing an actual alternative to the current conservative mindset. But in point of fact, he marries very general calls for a renewed conservative communitarianism with a few very specific policy suggestions - a flat tax, Social Security privatization, and a reduction of the capital gains tax rate - that strike me as profoundly unhelpful to conservatives in their current situation, either because they're impractical or because they have very little to do with the broader state-shrinking project he claims to be engaged in. (An administrative state funded entirely by a flat tax would, I suspect, look exactly like the one we have today, except the tax burden would be more regressive.) Hence my frustration with the essay.