Whither Conservatism - EC331

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Whither Conservatism
Course: Course - Easy Chair Series
Subject: Subject:Conversations and Sermons
Lesson#: 29
Length: 0:54:48
TapeCode: ec331
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Easy Chair Series.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


This is Easy Chair number 331, January 26, 1995.

This evening Andrew Sandlin, Douglas Murray, Mark Rushdoony, John Upton and myself will discuss in this first hour wither Conservatism, the future of Conservatism. Now, before going into the subject, I think it is necessary to define the term because in different countries in the English speaking world the word has a different meaning. We are heard in several countries and therefore such an explanation is necessary.

Words very often change their meaning. I have often pointed out that at one time the word silly meant beloved. And one could in those days speak of one’s silly wife and did. But now the term has a totally different meaning and would be very unwise to use.

Well, the same is true of the words conservative and liberal. At one time the word liberal referred to those people who believed in the free market so they were what we call conservatives today. It is only in this century and especially in this country that the word liberal has come to mean someone who is a statist and this is very much the antithesis of what it once meant, a believer in the free market and laissez faire and a small state and so on.

The word conservative used to be associated with Monarchism and Toryism. So it was what we would call reactionary and anything but a free market, small state advocate.

It is important for us to clarify this fact because Conservatism as we hope it is advocated in this country by the majority of its professors has to maintain a tradition that is anti statist and free market. [00:03:05]

Now our concern in this hour, whither Conservatism...[edit]

Now our concern in this hour, whither Conservatism, what is the future of Conservatism, what is going to happen in the history of Conservatism is a lively question for us because one of the things that has happened is that various political philosophies have lost their roots. And while we would have to say our Conservatism is not like the older Liberalism in that the older Liberalism, while free market and small state in orientation, was a combination of two diverse forces in this country. On the majority side, those who had a Christian background, a Christian faith or an active Christian concern. On the other, those who had become devotees of Enlightenment thinking, who believed in the natural goodness of man, who held to the necessity to bring to bear a learned rationality on all subjects.

Well, there may have been in the early years of the country some who held that opinion. There may have been a few more who believed in the semi classical distrust of man which led to the checks and balances system in this country. But by and large those who had that kind of suspicion about the state and about man were Calvinistic Christians and the retreat of this type of Conservatism began with the decline of Calvinism in the first quarter of the last century.

Well, with that general introduction, why don’t you take over, Andrew, and make some general statements of interest to yourself and to us. [00:06:01]

[Sandlin] I was thinking maybe we should discuss what...[edit]

[Sandlin] I was thinking maybe we should discuss what most historians consider to be the founder of modern Conservatism, Edmund Burke, a British philosopher who wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France.

He set forth several marks of what we today would call Liberalism. And maybe we can discuss them. The first is a distrust of tradition. Burke was a very strong Traditionalist. Another was the idea of very gradual change. Burke believed in evolution and not revolution. Another, of course, was a distrust of Abstractionism, the idea of the abstract rights of man, the idea of providence in society and that providence ruling in the affairs of men. As Rush has indicated, a distrust of Abstractionism, human institutions and the goodness, especially the goodness of man. These were some of the main characteristics of what we today would call Liberalism as Burke saw it.

There is another point that may be a criticism that we have of modern Conservatism and that is a strong reliance on natural law. Many modern conservatives and much of the conservative movement is largely Roman Catholic and while there certainly are a number of favorable points in the Roman Church, one thing that we Protestants strongly disagree with, we biblical Protestants, especially Calvinists strongly disagree with is the strong Thomistic reliance on natural law. Maybe that is a basis for some discussion.

[Voice] When you... when you say that Burke was in favor of evolution are you talking about social evolution?

[Sandlin] Right. I wasn’t speaking, of course, of Darwinian evolution. The conservatives have always believed in change, but they have always believed in very gradual change rather than revolutionary change and that is why Conservatism tends to be very anti revolutionary.

[Rushdoony] Douglas, if I my interject something here, one of the strong emphases in Burke was that the radicals in society were dangerous men because they trusted in human invention.

[Voice] Yes.

[Rushdoony] Rather than history and religion. They felt, as Job said of his friends, no doubt wisdom was born with you. They held, such men, that when they were born wisdom was born in the world and therefore everything had to be turned upside down to apply their human inventions—to use Burke’s term. [00:09:16]

[Voice] Another thing he despised was the idea that...[edit]

[Voice] Another thing he despised was the idea that we could spin a human Utopia out of the recesses of the human mind. Conservatives have always opposed the idea that we could sit down and create a blueprint for a perfect society and on some of these points, we, biblical Protestants, would agree, I would say, for the most part, Rush. There certain are points we will mention on perhaps in a few minutes on which there is some clear disagreement, but we, too, do not believe in revolution. We, too, believe that change must come gradually by the application of the Word of God to all spheres of life under the authority and strength of the Spirit of God.

[Voice] I just wonder today if generation X will know about Edmund Burke anywhere in their education.

[Voice] I... I...

[Voice] Unfortunately not, probably.

[Voice] I suspect that there will be Ph.D.’s. People get their doctorates from universities from generation X will never hear about him. They will rely on the popular press to tell them what Conservatism is. Today we are seeing Conservatism applied to the old statists in Russia who want to preserve the Communist system.

[Voice] Yes.

[Voice] Yes.

[Voice] ... in the popular press. Currently, within the past week or so the term has been applied to the Democrats who want to preserve the old order in Congress because they don’t want to lose their perks and privileges. So it is going to be very difficult for the average person growing up today unless they study Edmund Burke or go back a ways to even know what Conservatism is all about, because Conservatives have been demonized in the press simply being opposed to change.

[Voice] Douglas, you don't have to go to generation X for people not to hear Edmund Burke. I thought Edmund Burke was the guy that played Ironsides on television. That is Raymond Burr. So, you know...

[Voice] That wasn’t Aaron Burr.

[Voice] I am ashamed to say that the first time I have heard that name is from Andrew tonight.

Andrew, I don’t understand what the natural law is. Can you take us ... take me through that?

[Sandlin] Well, it is an old... largely an old Greek idea, probably older than that, but especially that men can discover the... what they consider to be the laws of God or the laws of some sort of higher power by looking at nature, man including nature. That is, without any recourse to special revelation man can come to a knowledge of what is right and wrong. [00:12:11]

[Rushdoony] Yes...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Yes. I think it is important to state, too, that the idea has changed.

[Voice] Yes.

[Rushdoony] ...over the centuries. In the medieval era while the term natural law was a big vague, it basically meant God’s law over nature and it was included... it included biblical law.

[Voice] Yes.

[Rushdoony] And you can find such usages very frequently in the Middle Ages.

With the Enlightenment it came to mean a law inherent in nature. Well, that to us is anathema because nature is fallen. It cannot be normative and if you believe nature is normative then you have to go down the line with someone like, oh, the Marquis de Sade. The Marque de Sade said rape, incest, murder, all these things were the law of nature and it was Christianity that was not the law of nature, but against nature. And he was right, because it is a fallen world and we are sinners and we do need to have something in the way of a supernatural power to counteract a fallen world.

[Voice] You know, I want to mention the relevance of this problem of natural law. Everybody participating in this Easy Chair is what most people would consider pro life. That is, we are opposed to elective abortion aborticide, that sort of thing. A number of natural law advocates are also. They tend to believe in what they consider to be he infinite value of human life.

Now the oddity here, some of those same people consider us inconsistent because we support capital punishment, because we obviously do not believe in the infinite value or sacredness of human life or we wouldn’t support capital punishment. That is why we have to support biblical law and not natural law.

[Rushdoony] Yes. If you don’t support biblical law, you ultimately wind up with the Marquis de Sade. Anything that happens in nature is valid. Now that is what Kinsey and the Kinsey Report held. He held it was entirely natural and therefore good to molest children. And the trouble was with those who felt it was wrong. It was natural. [00:15:04]

Well doing what comes naturally is to say doing what...[edit]

Well doing what comes naturally is to say doing what comes out of sin.

Mark, did you want to interject something?

[M. Rushdoony] Well, we often hear it said how Liberals think they know they... what... what is best for everyone. And, in effect, what that comes from is... is the original sin was to be as God, that man could make his own morality, man could decide. And that is what man tends to what to do and I often have to remind myself that that is man’s original sin. Man wants to play God. And when you give man a position of power as when we talk about Conservatism verses Liberalism we are ... you often talking about affairs of state and how many exercises authority and power and influence over others.

Beginning even before the French Revolution I know with... with men like Rousseau and men who have followed in his traditions, they believed that it was their right, their... almost their moral obligation as they saw morality to throw off all convention and to defy convention and they were proud of the fact that they were doing this. They didn’t want to be like others. They didn’t wan to do what was traditional. And they were playing God. And Liberals sometimes get the idea that they are God and they want to play God and they don't want to be bound by convention and they don't want to be bound by the beliefs and the traditions of the past. And I think Conservatives have to recognize that if they are going to be true conservative and stand of anything—and a lot of Conservatives don’t really stand for anything. They only stand against some things—they have to believe that man is truly limited and that man has a certain sphere of authority that is his and that there are spheres of authority which do not belong to the state. There are spheres of authority which do not even belong to man. And, of course, this is the essence of the argument against abortion is that that is an area that does not belong to man and it is not within his sphere of authority to make such decisions.

But if we recognize that there is an area in which man can act there is an area in which the family can act, there is an area in which the Church can act, there is an area in which the state can act, it limits man’s authority over other men and it limits the extent to which they can limit other men’s freedom.

And then we look at what ... what obligations man has to obey God, what obligations man has to defend his own rights and that puts a limitation on our rights to interfere with others, liberty and the limitations of the state or any sphere of authority to interfere with anyone’s rights. [00:18:02]

And there is a moral context in which we have to understand...[edit]

And there is a moral context in which we have to understand the ... this... this Conservatism and if it doesn’t have a moral context like that, then it is usually just a Conservatism which is opposing some particular issue. And that is a problem that is going to be appearing, I think, amongst the new conservative Congress. Some of them are Christian. Some of them have a real philosophy of Conservatism. Some of them are just another side of the political coin that is just as ugly as the Liberals. They just want the power. And they want what they want.

[Voice] To... to back up your statement, Mark, the other night there was a state of the union address and the first sentence that the president said was, “In this sanctuary of democracy.” He called it a sanctuary. And then later, Andrew, did he say it was a ... a holy thing or a sacred thing?

[Voice] A sacred hall, the sacred hall.

[Voice] The sacred hall. So they are starting to make slips of what they feel inside. They are starting to let it slip out. And you are... you are right. These men are the priests and they serve in the sanctuary. And it is very interesting that they are starting to.... to acknowledge that. And I was stunned that when I heard that.

[Voice] Mark brought up an interesting idea and that is the whole concept of rights. We need to recognize that while that is bandied about quite a bit today, that is of fairly recent origin. It is largely an Enlightenment idea of human rights. For anyone to oppose those seems to set him against mankind itself these days. But a number of years ago someone wrote a book. I can’t remember, Rush. You probably can. What is Wrong with Human Rights? You have seen that one or... I can’t remember the author.

[Rushdoony] What ever happened...

[multiple voices]

[Voice] Yeah and then there is another one What is Wrong with Human Rights? The problem...

[Rushdoony] I believe that was by T. Robert Ingram.

[Voice] There you go. We need to recognize that men can’t spring the idea of rights out of their own mind either. The Bible doesn’t talk a great deal about rights. It talks about responsibilities. And I think that is one area in which Conservatives have simply bitten off the liberal agenda. And that is another problem we possibly need to get into and that is that for the most part modern conservatives are not much more than tardy Liberals which is to say that the Conservatism of today was the Liberalism of 20 years ago.

[Rushdoony] Yes. John Lofton observed in one of his articles that the Republican platform is usually the old Democratic platform. [00:21:03]

Well, I think that if you were to ask the men in Congress...[edit]

Well, I think that if you were to ask the men in Congress what they believed, you would have quite a variety of answers. What has happened in our country today is that we have a smorgasbord approach to ideas. And people left and right will have such a diverse collection of ideas unrelated one to another. It may sound good so they will pick it up.

There was a very popular country singer of a few years ago, a very devout woman who was a great lover of the old time religion. She sang at some revival meetings and she claimed to believe the Bible from cover to cover, but she believed in a number of non biblical things such as reincarnation.

Now I am afraid she was very American in that, because what we have seen—and I am afraid it is taking place all over the world, the western world—having abandoned a systematic theology, a systematic Christian faith. They are picking at ideas here and there that seem attractive to them. So you have a smorgasbord approach. And this is why a great deal of Conservatism is very shallow. The man who professes to be a strong Conservative can come up with very, very strange notions.

[Voice] Well, it is a ... the Conservatives have a selfish agenda. They want to preserve what they think is valuable. And what do they think is valuable? They think their money is valuable. They think their families are valuable. They point... hearken back to some mystical time. Maybe it was in the 50s or whenever when things were better and it is a smorgasbord. They haven’t internalized their faith like the liberals have. Their liberals have an internalized drive. It is a part of their soul and they are not going to quit until they die or until they win where Conservatives will say, “Well, the abortion issue is a loser. Let’s move on to something else.” They will continue to draw the lines back, where the Liberals, they will continue just to keep moving on because they have to. It is their faith.

[Voice] John, that is a crucial point. Only comprehensive world views can defeat other comprehensive worldviews. And the problem is that some modern Liberalism does possess such a worldview, misguided though it is. But most Conservatives do not. And the one reason that they have been defeated, I am convinced over the last 20 or 30, 50, 80 years for that matter in this country, is because they have refused… Conservatives have refused to abandon their natural law faith and affirm biblical law and Christianity in a full orb approach whereas the Humanists, the Liberals have had a rival religions. [00:24:46]

[Voice] There is a lot of factions in Conservatism...[edit]

[Voice] There is a lot of factions in Conservatism. Most fiscal Conservatism seems to have no moral center. They don't care who is running the country or running the world as long as they do well financially. I... I have some that, you know, I wouldn’t care to be friends with. I mean, they just... they are miserable people. Their own lives are miserable and they make the... make the people around them including their own families miserable. There are many factions in Conservatism. If you go to a large conservative gathering you see them clustered.

[Voice] Yes.

[Voice] ... in various groups. And you... you can see at a glance why Republicans, for instance, have been out of power for 40 or 50 years, you know, they just... they can’t it together. There is no center that holds them all together.

[Voice] Well, what are they, Douglas? Is it like the... the... the... the hard money crowd, no tax crowd. What are... what are... what are the different factions within the conservative movement?

[Voice] Well, it is... it is wealth at any price. It is wealth by whatever means. Basically it is greed.

[Voice] That is another faction here that is very important and we should probably discuss this and that is the whole area of Libertarianism and Ayn Rand and that sort of thing, because there are a lot of Conservatives who may not affirm that in word, but they tend to be what we would call economic Conservatives, but morally Libertarian. They want a free market society, but they also want a full free market to live like the devil. And that is something that we need to be aware of, because everybody around this table, of course, strongly believes in the free market, but not for the reason that Ayn Rand did, purely self interest. We believe that the Bible supports that idea. But the Bible also constrains moral action and, of course, that sort of constrains to something the Libertarians do not like at all.

[Voice] It is hard to get ... to put together a conservative constituency anywhere without education. You know, there is no saying like perhaps you can help me with this, Rush, but a man in his 20s who is not a Liberal has no heart and a man that is 40 who is not a Conservative has no brain. And this is the process that virtually everybody goes through. You don't get the education in school up to the age of 20 years old. You have go out in the world and get your head beat in and maybe, just maybe by the time you are 40 years old and you survive, and you realize what is at stake, you finally get to the point where you have got your head screwed on straight. And that seems to be, you know, the... the hard way process of arriving at a conservative world view. [00:27:40]

[Rushdoony] Mark Twain commented on that...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Mark Twain commented on that. He said when he was 17 it embarrassed him to have a father who was so stupid. And when he was 25 it amazed him how much the old man had learned over the years.

[Voice] Well, as the... the education, I think, is very important and today it is... it takes a herculean effort on the part of young people if they have any interest at all of maturing at a young enough age before they are ready for the grave, to find out what is really going on because they have got so much against them. The press is telling them and it is trying to define Conservatism. They are trying to demonize and there is this bickering, continual bickering in the public sphere about what Conservatism is and the issues are never discussed. And I believe that that is the core reason why the press tends to try to misdiagnose what Conservatism is about, is they really want to obscure the core issues with what Conservatism is all about.

[Rushdoony] One of the problems which we have, of course, touched on at great length, is that without a basic philosophy, any man who goes into politics is going to be like a weather vane and the weather vane mentality is important because it is so common in our time.

In Berkeley, California there is a very prominent and large liberal church. In my student days it had instead of a cross a weathervane and the associate pastor justified its validity as a symbol of the church because he said, “We must be sensitive and responsive to every temper of the times.”

And I said, “But then you are being determined by the times rather than the Word of God.”

And he said, “Well, that is an interesting thought.”

Well, I am afraid that mentality dominates the American scene in every sphere, in church and state and in life at large. We have a weathervane mentality. [00:30:36]

And as a result the Conservatives are very, very much...[edit]

And as a result the Conservatives are very, very much in trouble all the time because their soul goal seems to be to gain office. And when they gain office their ideals somehow get lost. So this problem, I think, points back to the churches. When you have churches that are proud of having a weather vane as their symbol, how can we expect the politicians to be any different?

[Voice] Rush, I may not be qualified to make this point, but I am going to try. The Conservatives today remind me of the Pharisees of our Savior’s time, because they were trying to recapture something that some glorious days of old. And the Liberals sometimes remind me of the Samaritans, because it is the Liberals that have taken away serving your neighbor. And the circles that I travel in, I am always mistaken for a Liberal because people can’t understand... they just say, “Well, you know,” that they assume I am a Liberal. And so Mr. Gingrich deserved ridicule when he started talking about orphanages and the best articulation of what a good orphanage is, is something that he watched in a Bing Crosby movie because the Conservatives have no claim to any type of ... of work like that.

[Voice] Social work is always... or almost always stereotyped as a liberal concern. And that is the failure of Conservatism, I believe. It is really... goes back to the old idea of the social gospel. Any time... oh, I have heard Rush criticized. People have said to me, “Well, Rushdoony, believe sin the old liberal social gospel.”

I said, “You don’t even know what you are talking about.”

[Voice] This is generational amnesia. [00:33:00]

[Rushdoony] Well, yes...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Well, yes.

[Voice] Every generation has to relearn this, but it is not being taught. That is the reason Gingrich doesn’t know about orphanages. He never lived in one. That wasn’t brought up in one and probably doesn’t now anybody who does. So he has got his education from Hollywood and that is, you know, essentially that is all people know anything about charity work is from reading about what Mother Theresa does or watching old Bing Crosby movies.

[Voice] Yeah.

[Voice] How much are they going to learn?

[Voice] Another point we have to make. I was quite pleasantly surprised when in reading volume to if The Institutes to see Rush’s comment that we need to be biblically progressive. That is not a conservative idea. Rush’s point—and it was certainly a brilliant one—is that everything else must change precisely because the Bible is absolutely infallible and unchanging. So whereas the Conservatives want to sort of conserve a tradition, we have to constantly be reconstructing things in terms of the Word of God. So for that reason we can’t be conservatives in the most proper sense. We have to be progressive in the biblical sense.

[Voice] Well, speaking of the churches then, there is no... there is no reason why we should expect a great deal of conservative... a great deal of consistency out of Conservatism because so much of Christianity has the same basic premises as Liberalism. It is man centered. It is without biblical law. So when the churches look... see a politician talk about human needs and helping people and being merciful towards these, the poor and the needy and so forth and how they are going to solve that problem, they say “Well, that sounds like a very spiritual and ... and godly thing to do,” because their religion has no basis. It is entirely man centered and so Conservatism doesn’t have a core belief that... that we can focus on.

[Voice] That is right.

[Voice] The churches tend to be so humanistic, they are feeding people into Liberalism.

[Voice] Yeah and they tend to be conservative in creed and confession, but liberal in approach.

[Voice] Very much so. And even the ... what we would call Evangelical or Fundamentalist churches, because their Antinomianism we know that there is gross immorality at times in these churches. And what do they do? Very often they are very disappointed to find it, but when somebody says, “I have asked God to forgive me,” because they have no basis in biblical law, all is forgiven. Let’s forget about it. And so how can they demand anything out of politicians? How can they demand consistency out of politicians when their own leadership in the church sometimes has great moral failings that they are willing to overlook?

[Voice] Well, you saw this in its ripeness or vileness in Janet Reno who asked for forgiveness for killing all those people in Waco, Texas and silly as we are, we figured that we would be priests and hear her and forgive her. I am glad that these survivors, I heard yesterday the survivors of the family are suing them for how many millions of dollars?

[Voice] I don’t remember. I can’t remember exactly.

[Voice] But it was a high number and... and I hope that they prevail, because it was a terrible thing. But as long as this silly type of theology Mark was talking about prevails, we are not going to be able to say, “Wait a second. That was... You know, you murdered those people.” [00:36:45]

[Voice] I think the lack of principles has shown that...[edit]

[Voice] I think the lack of principles has shown that... we keep hearing it every election that people vote with their pocketbook. And I think that is true because voting with your pocketbook, what you perceive is your financial best interest is an entirely self centered motive.

[Voice] Most of the so-called conservative vote I don’t think is really based upon any principles. It is based upon what they conceive to be common sense. The government is going a little too far that maybe Clinton is a little outrageous. Maybe they are sick of Rostenkowski and corruption, but they don’t have any firm principles and so they have trouble expecting this of their politicians or even seeing something a politician or a candidate that they really admire.

[Voice] Well, Rush, you have been called the guru of the conservative movement. You have been around a long time. You have been to the inner circles of Conservatism and their silly meetings. Why don’t you tell us about some of the things that you have seen over the years and ... and the things they have been doing?

[Rushdoony] Well, the reference to me as a guru of the conservative movement is nonsense. The conservative movement as a whole has no use for me. And no more than the Liberals do, because they are no more Christian than the Liberals.

As was said earlier by Mark and I think you, too, Andrew, the central thrust is man centered in both conservative and liberal circles.

Some years ago before people knew more about me, I was asked to speak to a gathering which included the dignitaries of the county on the bench, at the bar and in other spheres. And I was asked to state what the difference was between the Liberals and the Conservatives, only they put it the Democrats and the Republicans. [00:39:17]

And I said, “Well, it is one of degree...[edit]

And I said, “Well, it is one of degree. The Democrats are promising to take us to the destination which is off the cliff as quickly as possible at 75, 80 miles an hour, whereas the Republicans want to take us off the edge of the cliff at a safe and sane 45 miles an hour.”

You can see why I have not done well with either group over the years.

In recent years I have been a member from the second meeting of an organization founded to bring Christianity and the conservative cause together. And I haven’t gone to a meeting for years and years because very quickly the Christian thrust was forgotten, except for having someone say grace at the dinners.

And basically not only did it become a matte of inviting prominent people to speak, rather than good speakers. And let me tell you, prominent speakers will say as little as possible as sweetly as possible. They don’t want to say anything that will be criticized.

And I gave up going because these were becoming really social events, not political meetings. And I would have been interested in an intelligent discussion of political issues pro and con, but in a social event, not at all.

First I didn’t think there was much intelligence in a sizable group in that body. And, second, I was not interested in a social event where all the women could demonstrate their expensive gowns and their remarkable hairdos. And I am ashamed to say that the most flagrant among the women were the wives of the very prominent clergy. They were the most empty headed people there.

[Voice] No.

[Voice] A lot of these meetings, Rush...

[Rushdoony] Dorothy excepted.

[Voice] I am sure as you have figured out as they are looking of names. [00:42:00]

[Rushdoony] Yes...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] They are trying to flush people out of the woodwork for fundraising mailing lists.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] And that is really is the only substance at any of these meetings. Nothing is discussed of any depth.

[Rushdoony] And they don't get much money because important people go to be honored and to be seen.

[Voice] Yeah.

[Voice] Rush, speaking of your relation to Conservatism, about three or four years ago I read a journal article in This World, a conservative journal by the late Russell Kirk in which he just severely excoriated you and your book Christianity and the State and he, of course, as you well know was just about the leading light of modern Conservatism.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] He was.... wanted to distance himself as far as possible from all of this post millennial fervor which he equated with the fifth monarchy men which, of course, is total nonsense. But we have to recognize that in many cases these conservatives are not our friends.

[Rushdoony] No. Russell Kirk was a sad sack of a character. I recall at one meeting he got up and was quite indignant and spent his entire time speaking attacking what I and one or two others had said about the relationship of the left to Humanism. And he was insistent that we didn’t know what we were talking about because Humanism meant classical scholarship.

Now that was true at the time of the Renaissance, but he was a scholar and he was going to maintain that original meeting even though it was long since nothing but history.

This is why Russell Kirk became progressively irrelevant.

[Voice] Yes and I think he is just symptomatic or illustrative, I should say, of the entire conservative movement.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] Well, excuse me, but they are saying some exciting things. They are talking about abolishing the IRS. They are talking about some things that could really alleviate or lower the general misery index.

[multiple voices]

[Voice] Yeah.

[Voice] The extent to which they say anything exciting is the extent to which they are supporting biblical faith. And that is the whole point. They are inconsistent with their own premises when they do that. That is why there is sometimes a zone of intersection between Conservatism and those of us who are Reconstructionists, for example. But we should not make the mistake of assuming that because there are areas of intersection that we are conservatives.

[Rushdoony] Let me add that when they first brought put the idea of abolishing the income tax they were talking about a flat 10 percent tax for everybody. Now they are talking about abolishing it with a flat 15 percent tax for everybody. Well, about the only benefit that you would get is that the IRS wouldn’t be auditing all of your incomes in the same way that it is now doing. [00:45:43]

But if you will sit down and figure what you paid in...[edit]

But if you will sit down and figure what you paid in the way of income tax last year, you will find it was roughly 15 percent of your income. So what is the great blessing in switching from the one to the other?

[Voice] They want to.... they want to...

[Rushdoony] Some improvement.

[Voice] They want to decrease overhead.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] They could downsize the IRS because they wouldn’t need so much machinery because of the Machiavellian tax laws that they have now. That is really what they are after. I think at 10 percent they figured out they would have to knock off their pensions and they weren’t going to do that.

[Voice] I think what the problem in Congress is going to do is a lot of populist things, things that the Democrats have a hard time justifying. Now that the Republicans are in the majority, the Republicans are going to do a lot of things which should have been done a long time ago, but they couldn’t get ... get away with, things that are basically unpopular with the American people anyway. And they don't necessarily have a great deal of substance. You know they will save a few million or a few billion here, but it is not going to have a big net effect. What is going to have to happen, I think, before there is a real change and where you see a real galvanizing of conservative opposition to politics as usual is something is going... is going to have to happen and I think it is going to be with the national debt. When people finally realize that our government is a failure in not only providing the promises that they have made, but that they have run us into bankruptcy, when that realization comes and that our government cannot deal with the economic crisis that looms on the horizon, you are going to have to have some kind of real opposition. And whether that comes from within the Republican party, whether some other catastrophe, because there is going to be a failure there and they are going to have to come up with... start with something better than the old politics as usual.

If they don’t come up and reform the government then the government is going to try to institute controls and regulate us totally and say that is how we are going to get out of it, but I don’t think the American people are going to stand for that. And if they do try that, then I think there is going to be a real opposition that is going to say something drastic has to change. [00:48:04]

As it stands now American people want the promises...[edit]

As it stands now American people want the promises. They just want them without getting more tax increases.

[Voice] Without paying.

[Rushdoony] One of the things that I think marks the current political scene is that a high percentage of those who are conservative are opportunists. They are going to with their district of their state and the voters. This does not mean all are.

Congressman Richard {?} down the hill from us and Bill Baker in my brother’s neighborhood, and certainly on the non office holding level Howard Philips. There are principled men. There are men who are insisting there has to be a consistent position and I do feel this is a great encouragement.

Not too many years ago we didn’t have many men like that. And John knows as do I that we heard during the Christmas vacation a congressman with whom we had dinner say there were about 100 third rail men in Congress, younger men like himself or new and third rail men, the third rail refers to the electric rail in subways. If you touch it you are dead. And by third rail men they mean men who were ready to stake their political future on being uncompromising.

[Voice] Well, that is what it is going to take. I mean, they used to call that statesmanship.

[Voice] That is right.

[Voice] Where when a guy went in there he didn’t expect to be in there for more than one term, because he knew what he was going to do wasn’t going to be popular. And it was going to take a higher percentage of those in the Congress in order to turn the ship of state. Because right now they are all.... the majority of them are weather vanes. The ... the perks are so good, the retirement is so good that they immediately become corrupted by all that gingerbread.

[Rushdoony] Yes. And the third rail men get flak from their own districts because they are supposed to get rid of Socialism everywhere in the country and pork barrel politics everywhere else, but their own district. They want it there. [00:51:05]

[Voice] All right...[edit]

[Voice] All right. It think the reality is that right now during this first 100 days there is a lot of show boating and a lot of posturing. I heard one young woman, Republican, was gushing because her ideas were being expressed as part of the some of the ideas that were being promoted.

So everybody that has got any kind of an idea at all is getting some notice right now during this first 100 days. But I would not expect more than two or three major things out of that contract to get by in anywhere close to the form that they intended it because they are already starting to buckle. They buckled today on the amendment of for the balanced budget and there are other initiatives out of that contract which I am sure are going to be severely compromised before they get done with it. So the process of ... has already started. And even some of the young... I think there were eight of the freshmen Congressmen wouldn’t vote... voted against it. Eight Republican freshmen voted against this balanced budget amendment that had on all eight of them had voted for the contract, had signed on to the contract. So the process was already started.

[Voice] I think that we shouldn’t conclude without mentioning, also that we Christians have to be very careful that we don’t fall into the Liberal trap of believing in political salvation.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Voice] We don't want to trade liberal trust in political solutions for conservative trust in political solutions.

[Rushdoony] Exactly.

[Voice] We trust in God and the Spirit of God and the people of God who are governed by the Spirit of God.

[Rushdoony] Very well put.

Well, we have about four minutes. Anything that any of you men would like to add as a final statement?

[Voice] Well, I think people must educate themselves and they must make an all out effort to educate their children and they have got to educate their children in Christian schools so that they find out who Edmund Burke was before they get to the Ph.D. stage if they ever hear about Edmund Burke. Otherwise they will never know what Conservatism really is.

[Rushdoony] Mark, was there anything you would like to say?

[M. Rushdoony] No, I am done.

[Voice] Mark, what color hair did Edmund Burke have?

[Voice] Grey.

[Voice] Thank you.

[Voice] I am... I am grateful for all the energy and all the enthusiasm that the conservatives have now. I hope they will alleviate the general misery index, talk about giving more strength to the states and local governments is a positive thing and if more people got involved, if the power moved out of Washington, it could bode well for us.

[Rushdoony] And it will only be done one step at a time. So if they will make those initial steps, we have something to be grateful for.

Well, thank you all for listening and God bless you.

[Voice] That was a good answer.