conservative intellectual movement, but also the role of William Buckley and William Rusher in the blossoming of the youth conservative movement
Talk about structure of paper, who not strictly chronologically placed (ie hayek before the rest) - in this order for thematic purposes, to enhance the genuiness of the paper (branches of the movement brought up in order of importance to youth conservative revolt) For instance, Hayek had perhaps the greatest impact on the effects of the movement - Buckley and Rusher. These individuals, their beliefs, their principles were extremely influential in better understanding the origins, history, and leaders of American conservatism.
Momentous events shape the psyche of an individual as the person matures. A child grows up in poverty vows to never be like his parents, and keeps this inner vow to become a millionaire. A young woman experiences sexual trauma as a teen, and chooses a career that builds self-esteem, and self-defense skills in young women so they will never have to be victimized as she was. In the same way, significant national political and economic events shape the psyche of a nation. The generation which survived the great depression was a generation with the greatest amount of personal savings at retirement. Our nation's 'greatest generation,' those men and women who fought and won World War II returned home with the lessons of personal responsibility and self-reliance forged into their character, and set about to build the greatest economy and period of economic and social advancement the world has every experiences.
This same experience is true in the life cycle, and psyche of a nation. Some events are pushed upon the nation by outside forces, by events created within the nation, and some events are deliberately orchestrated in order to take advantage of existing social currents, to harness the energy of social change for personal, or political gain. Such is the case of the rise of liberalism in the early part of the 20th century.
Social response to political changes can be slow to develop, and gain acceptance. This scenario can be most clearly seen in the rise of intellectual conservatism during the 1940's and 50's. To clearly understand the movement, its tenets, and why the battle between conservative and liberal political theories still rages today, it is necessary to understand the environment from which they rose, the primary tenets and, how these facets work themselves out practically in the social, and political system of our country.
The Social Environment Preceding Conservatism
In 1945 no articulate, coordinated, self-consciously conservative intellectual force existed in the United States. There were, at most, scattered voices of protest, profoundly pessimistic about the future of their country. Gradually during the first postwar decade these voices multiplied, acquired an audience, and began to generate an intellectual movement. (Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement). In 1950, Lionel Trilling, one of America's leading intellectuals, made his famous remark that "In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."
Yet, by the mid-1950's the conservative intellectual movement began to gain momentum. The social and political implications caused by the end of World War II and the beginnings of the Cold War - primarily a strong anti-communist sentiment - would be essential in providing the some of the framework for the development of the conservative intellectual movement. But before discussing those who were at the center of this movement, the social and political environment of the nation must be evaluated.
The liberal influence of the day had its genesis in the New Deal Policy of the Roosevelt administration. The nation was in the midst of the great depression. Between 1929 and 1932, farm income dropped by 50%. Industry was operating at half its former rate, and in 1932 alone, 3200 businesses failed, along with 1500 banks, wiping out the life savings of millions of Americans. The New Deal promise of a better future was carried to the public with the promise of "A Chicken in every pot." The New Deal targeted three major reforms to bring to the American populace. His administration promised
Relief for those hardest hit by the depression
Recovery for the nations economy
Reform, political, economic, and social, to prevent another depression.
It was under President Roosveelt that the first 100 days of a new administration became the benchmark of an adminstrations effectiveness, for in the first 100 days, the democratic president, together with his democratic congress, passed 9 major economic, regulatory, and social reform that directed moneys to the hardest hit Americans. However, because the private sector of the economy was operation only at 1/2 capacity, this money flowed directly through the governments hands to the people. This shift in both policy and practice, set the stage for the rise of liberalism in America over the next 15 -18 years.
The country needed the safety net which the New Deal began to create. It needed an influx of capital to rebuild factories, roads, bridges, and infrastructure. The Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, and the National Industrial Recovery act released millions of dollars, started the process of rebuilding in motion, and creating jobs across the nation. The country also needed confidence that, as it began to rebuild, a similar stock market collapse would not send the nation spiraling again. The other 5 emergency acts passed directly and indirectly created protections against the precarious financial practices which has caused the depression.
Until this time, the American people, and country had grown strong because of individualism, individual freedom, and ingenuity. The American culture was known as the land of opportunity not because of what the government would give out, but because of the freedom the government allowed its citizens to pursue. But now, the quiet whispering of government, which went on behind the public proclaimation of a better future, was the realization that the Democratic party which had authored this New Deal for the American people, had created the vehicle for their continuing power. The Democratic party, and Roosevelt's brain trust of advisors, knew that they could maintain their power if they could get an increasing percentage of the population to look to government for their opportunity, instead of relying on themselves. When the population trusts the government to provide for its needs, the population is not likely to vote that government out of power. The slow march of increasing government involvement into the lives of its citizens had begun, and did so unimpeded until the Conservative school of thought rose to public attention under William F. Buckley and William Rusher in the early 1950's.
The 1950's were characterized by strong anti-communist sentiment and the convergence of parties and the electorate on the center. The men who had fought and won World War II had returned home with a somewhat homogeneous political outlook. War was hell and home was heaven. Now was their time to build a great home, and future. They had experienced the personal triumph that could be had through individual courage, and personal effort. Perhaps it was this strong sense of personal responsibility, and opportunity that flipped the switch in the national consciousness to question the purpose of a government which wanted to be increasingly involved in their lives. These years would mark a political watershed in the United States.
In 1952, Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson commented, "The strange alchemy of the time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country - the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations." Further, as sociologist Daniel Bell points out, the left virtually disappeared during the 1950's and the "socialist and the communist parties dwindled to insignificant factions (Oakley, America's Country in the 50's)." The dissolution of the Left would mark the emergence of a "conservative consensus," also known as the new conservatism.
Also possible was that the men and women who had experienced WWII had seen the effects of a government which became the most powerful social, political, and economic force in a nation. Did the face of Nazi Germany allow these men and women to "see into the future" of a governments natural tendancy to become corrupt when it amasses too much power for itself? If so, these warnings were strikingly similar to the writings of the founding fathers of the nation, who pledged their lives and fortunes to throw off the tyrannical efforts of an over-reaching government in order to restore freedom to their own lives. As students in the 21st century, we may never know the answer to this question, but it may not be coincidence that the rise of conservatism began when a large group of citizens returned to the country who has personally experienced what an overly powerful government could do to the face of a continent.