Monday, August 09, 2004

On the Sobran Question

I have been asked how I could "support Buckley after he pilloried Sobran." I do so, and I actually find it surprising that the comment assumed that I would favor (or have kind thoughts of Joseph Sobran. I find that I disagree with Sobran on a number of issues, and I will itemize them as responses to comments made by Sobran rather than guilt by association. The reason I will avoid guilt by association is that I find such attacks meaningless. Harry Jaffa, who I will actually defend in my comments (or at least agree with) is fond of these attacks and I find them fruitless. Unless you think that calling someone a Nihilistic Calhounite is productive, in which case let me know and I can use Jaffa speak. I am no Jaffite, but I do think that his first book on Lincoln was well done. His second seems less inspired. Now to the question at hand.

What are reasons I would disagree with Sobran:

1) He is a Libertarian. For the most part I don't like Libertarian political philosophy. I admire their defense of individual liberty, but they often do so at the expense of a discussion of personal responsibility. Sobran isn't of this variety, but does from time to time fall into it.

2) He is anti-NeoConservative. He uses the term as an Ad Hominem perjoritive regarding this political belief system.
In effect, it has capitulated to neoconservatism, even lending itself to smears of real conservatives like Patrick Buchanan and Samuel Francis.
Neoconservatism has no essence, no defining principle.
Neoconservatism has nothing to say about this most profound change in the American political system. It has no aspiration to reform it, because it sees nothing amiss. It regards those who do see a problem as “extremists.”

In the above, he asserts that Neoconservatives are not "real conservatives", they have no "essense" and do not seek to reform the current political system. I find this hard to believe given Leo Strauss' influence on the Neoconservatives and Neoconservatism generally. This is not to say that Straussianism and Neoconservatism are the same thing, but many Neoconservatives (Irving Kristol anyone) were heavily influence by Strauss who became the catalyst for them to abandon modern liberalism.

3) He is a Pro-successionist.
"I argue for the right of secession. And I also argue that if there is a right of secession, it follows that Lincoln had no authority to suppress secession by force."
In my mind there is no difference between, say of 13 colonies, twelve saying they wish to secede from the union and them saying they wish to expel the 13th from the union. The ends is the same. Besides which, if secession is legal then we are a Confederacy and not a Nation. I am fond of Calhoun's understanding of Majorities and majority opinion, I find him to be an intelligent man. But on his philosophy of anullment and of secession, I believe he was wrong. Not necessarily in the idea of whether a just regime could be formed on such principles, rather that America was founded on such a priori assumptions. The Articles failed and we needed a strong central government, not necessarily monolithic like today but central and strong none the less. I agree with the Federalists here and not Calhoun and Jefferson. So if you want to call me a tyrannical-athiest-Hamiltonian now is your chance. This is one area where I agree with Jaffa and disagree with Sobran and Lew Rockwell.

These are three small areas of disagreement, I am sure given time and energy I could list more and even defend the above in greater detail, but I have neither the time nor the inclination. Frankly, I found Sobran's comments regarding the retirement of Buckley to be petty: It’s a little late for such admissions. They amount to a confession that National Review, after a half-century, has failed in its mission:
It has merely tailed along behind the big-government Republican Party it once hoped to recall to a conservative philosophy.
All of these quotes can either be found at the Wanderer or at Sobran's own site.
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