Original Thought & Triplicate Forms

George Roche: America by the Throat: the Stranglehold of Federal Bureaucracy; Devin-Adair; Old Grennwich, CT.

Edwin J. Feulner, Jr: Conservatives Stalk the House: the Republican Study Committee 1970-1982; Green Hill; Ottawa, IL.

Conservatives come in at least two types: those who wish to conserve principles and those who wish to conserve things. Deeply committed to unwavering philosophic integrity, the first group recognizes the need for flexibility and innovativeness in giving their ideals the most effective expression in new political and cultural circumstances. Conservative thinkers of this sort, including T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, James Joyce, and T. E. Hulme, have achieved some of the most daring literary innovations in this century. The second group of conservatives, comfortable in some satisfying arrangement of things, little cares what wisdom must be violated in order to maintain the status quo. Members of this group we often call liberals. Indeed in recent years, as the failure of Federal programs in education, social reform, and economic security has grown increasingly obvious, those who engineered them have blithely discarded every tenet of reason and decency in order to protect these lucrative artifacts. Unable to dispute the dismal fact of a deteriorated social reality, liberal lawmakers conveniently forget the idealistic fervor with which they originally announced the creation of tens of thousands of new government jobs as an un­ precedented attack upon crime, poverty, and illiteracy. They explain to citizens weary of decades of seeing nothing successfully at­ tacked but their paychecks that we mustn’t increase unemployment by laying off public employees. Thus, the very existence of the jobs has become the primary, almost the only, defense invoked to justify their continuance. (Besides, public workers unitedly vote for liberals who resist tax-reducing change.)


In America by the Throat, George Roche’s thorough study of bureaucracy, we see how the unthinking conservatism of liberals operates. Guided by no sense of functional purpose, only by a set of inflexible rules about how things should be ordered, our public servants have often become a public menace, when not an expensive public amusement. ‘What’s worse, these “conservatives” are supremely vigilant to see that their parasitic agencies are the things most fully con­ served, regardless of what such “conservatism” does to American prosperity or liberty. Unfortunately, legislators who might do something about this problem usually only aggravate it by for­ ever creating new bureaus and expanding existing ones.

The presence in Washington of such men as Edwin J. Feulner, Jr. does give some reason to hope, however. Conservatives Stalk the House explains how in 1973 Dr. Feulner and a group of far-sighted congressmen, who shared the perception that conservative principles were taking a beating under the existing legislative order, established the Republican Study Committee. This new organization “succeeded in greatly altering the institutional frame­ work of the U.S. House of Representatives” and consequently helped win unanticipated triumphs for conservative thought on such issues as welfare reform, situs picketing, and land-use ad­ ministration. The values of the Founding Fathers are as valid as they ever were, but in facing new political and social challenges contemporary conservatives of principle must demonstrate this kind of tactical inventiveness. As Henry Morley said about another astute conservative, Edmund Burke: “[He] changed his front, but he never changed his ground.” (BC)  cc

Pilfering and Pondering ‘Peace’

Leon Wieseltier: Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace; New Republic/Holt, Rinehart & Winston; New York.

Francis Schaeffer, Vladimir Bukovsky, and James Hitchcock: Who is for Peace?; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN.

No war has been officially declared and no American geography has been seized, but the peace has been broken. More precisely, peace has been stolen. In a brazen but brilliantly executed raid of expropriation, our most implacable foes neatly severed this word from its traditional, historical, and political significations and spirited it away from the shrines in Washington to the armories in Moscow, there to rework its semiotic substance. A replica of the word was, of course, returned to the District of Columbia and other Western provinces, but unlike the original (safely stored away with other Soviet trophies) the substitute was no longer the semantic property of free men. Instead of meaning “the harmonious expression of liberty, religion, and industry,” peace now means “unilateral disarmament, acceptance of communist tyranny, and national self­ immolation.” Rather than a safeguard for the West, this piece of our vocabulary has thus become a camouflage and a weapon for the Politbureau. Such pernicious theft and substitution would not have been possible if those charged with guarding cultural meaning, our writers and journalists, had been alert. But as their work in leading newspapers and telecasts testifies, most are nodding in liberal somnolence.

More wakeful than most liberals, Leon Wieseltier, senior editor of The New Republic, does recognize that peace has been misappropriated by those who use it to hide “philosophical exhaustion”; consequently, his discussion in Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace of the now-misleading “peace” label is insightful. But much more helpful in clarifying the Soviets’ illicit influence on the rubric is Vladimir Bukovsky’s essay in Who Is For Peace? With compelling evidence, this Russian dissident and refugee unmasks the ruthless thugs in the Kremlin and demonstrates how they cynically manipulate the pacifist dupes in the West willing to buy and resell a vocabulary of sparkling paste. His probing analysis deserves to be pondered by all politicians, commentators, and citizens who yearn for peace.

In arguing for a cold war deliberately kept cold, Wieseltier draws our attention in his book to another contemporary act of linguistic larceny, however. Those who talk about “prevailing over” the Soviet Union in a nuclear exchange are not supporting “deterrence,” though they say they are; they are talking about Armageddon. Yet Armageddon is not likely to be forestalled by the supernegotiators Wieseltier incredibly imagines negotiating with the communists before and after they have unleashed their first nuclear salvo. Indeed, when “deterrence” means only the cautionary promise of Mutually Assured Destruction, why should we zealously guard the word, as Wieseltier does, not only against those who fatuously believe that America could now survive the pushing of the button, but also against those who want to develop new antimissile technologies? Why not open our dictionaries wide to any word-robber who can reattach this awful signifier to a workable laser or satellite system of defense?

The key to long-term peace without bondage, however, cannot be technological, but moral and spiritual, a point Wieseltier perceives, though obliquely. Evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer and orthodox Catholic James Hitchcock look at the issue squarely in their essays in Who is For Peace? Together they show that peace has become the plunder of totalitarian atheists largely because of religious uncertainty and unbelief among American laity and clergy. Surely, no word is safe when the Word is forgotten. (BC)      cc