What We Can Learn

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Perhaps today’s “thought leaders” would think more clearly if they spent more time studying the thinkers of the past. “Richard Weaver believed that business develops a bureaucracy that can easily be merged into government,” Jeff Nelson of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Nelson, executive vice-president at ISI, has made a careful study of the works of Weaver (1910-1963). Similarly, Gerald Russello noted in the ISI panel at CPAC, Russell Kirk envisioned “a managerial class not tied by religion, tradition or locale” which sought “personal liberation aided by an omnipotent state.”

Interestingly, Kirk foresaw that such a state of affairs would “need constant war, danger or crisis” to maintain itself, Russello observed. Rusello edits The University Bookman, a publication Kirk founded.

Kirk authored The Conservative Mind, a 1950s best seller. Kirk, Russello noted, “thought that conservatives should use their own language, not that of the Left.” [Full disclosure: this correspondent was privileged to have known Russell Kirk (1918-1994).]

For those who think that media bias is a relatively recent phenomenon, Grove City College historian Paul Kengor offered a vignette that illustrates how far back it goes. Kengor, who has made a specialty of Cold War studies, related what sort of working environment Whitaker Chambers faced when he left the Communist Party and went to work for Henry Luce’s Time magazine.

“Luce was a Republican but hired these Leftists because he thought liberals were better writers,” Kengor stated. “Chambers got these dispatches from abroad that were so gushingly pro-Soviet that it made him sick so he would rewrite them and got into a lot of trouble for that.”

In like fashion, even those who think they understand “the long march of the Left through the institutions” might be surprised by what a lengthy trek it has been:

• “We have to realize that our side has been in decline for 400 years though still on the field,” Nelson notes that Weaver observed.
• Similarly, when Kirk wrote The Conservative Mind in 1953, Russello noted, “It seemed that there were few if any conservatives left.”
• Ironically, no matter how far to the left Richard Nixon moved, he could never placate the Left, who could never forgive him for supporting Whitaker Chambers in his charges against Soviet Spy Alger Hiss while Nixon was still a congressman. “If it wasn’t for Hiss-Chambers, I wouldn’t have been president and if it wasn’t for Hiss-Chambers I wouldn’t have had Watergate,” Nixon himself is said to have alleged. “It made him enemies on the Left who hounded him the rest of his life,” Kengor said.
• “What was the beginning of the Welfare State?” economist Harry Veryser, of the University of Detroit Mercy, asked. “It was when Henry VIII confiscated church property.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.