Daniel Oliver

It’s Too Bad We’re Not All NatCons Now

Gosh, that guy Reagan was really good.

Neal Freeman wrote last week in The American Spectator that the “National Conservatives,” as they style themselves, and Christopher DeMuth, the chairman of the two conferences the NatCons have held, have chosen to “move on” (as Freeman puts it) from fusionism. (Full disclosure: I was a sponsor of the two NatCon conferences, and I’ve known Neal since we both worked in the Buckley for Mayor campaign in 1965 — eat your heart out!) Before looking at Freeman’s objections to the NatCons, we should take a quick look at what fusionism actually is. The term was coined back in the ’60s at National Review to describe the coalescence of libertarians, traditional conservatives, and anti-communists. At the 1981 Conservative Political Action Conference, President Reagan said this about it:

It was Frank Meyer who reminded us that the robust individualism of the American experience was part of the deeper current of Western learning and culture. He pointed out that a respect for law, an appreciation for tradition, and regard for the social consensus that gives stability to our public and private institutions, these civilized ideas must still motivate us even as we seek a new economic prosperity based on reducing government interference in the marketplace.

Gosh, that guy Reagan was really good.

It’s not quite clear precisely what Freeman is objecting to, his prose is such … fun to read. He took Daily Themes at Yale (first taught in 1907), the same course Buckley took: 300 words a day. Only the best survive, like Buckley and Freeman. Now Freeman can write sentences like, “The NatCon political model appears to be neither Napoleonic France nor Churchillian Britain but Orbanian Hungary. When national conservatism first came on stage, some of us were expecting a bit more fanfare from the brass section.” Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. But what does it mean? What, precisely, is it that Freeman is objecting to?

We learn, in the very last sentence of his piece: it’s the planned economy, as advocated, he claims, by various people in the NatCon world.

Freeman relates that he once ran a business that could not compete with foreign imports, but he chastises those who say, as he says Rod Dreher does, “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.” To do what?

Freeman is not fair to many of the NatCon folks: there’s lots to object to in our current economic arrangements before becoming an advocate for a socialist planned economy. Does anyone think what we have now is a free market? We should remember President Obama’s proposed TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), from which we can develop this axiom: no trade governed by a 2,000-page treaty can be called “free.”

If the current laws and regulations that govern business activities in this country could be printed (even in one-point type) on only 2,000 pages, every day would be the Fourth of July in this land for a generation. What this country needs is to repeal a thousand laws. For a start.

In taking a swipe at the NatCons, Freeman gives DeMuth a pass, but says, “His fellow NatCons are less measured. Spend an hour at the bar with a NatCon and you get the full, splenetic file” on how bad the libertarians are; that their solution to every problem is to cut the income tax. I was at the last NatCon conference in Orlando in November and missed seeing Freeman at the bar; nor did I get the impression that the NatCons had a bad enough impression of libertarians.

To wit: at the evening session on November 1 in Orlando the panel showcased two homosexuals, one of whom said, “The Catholic Church lost its moral authority in country after country. That was not because of liberals; it was because of the Catholic Church, specifically, the behavior of priests.” That’s rich, coming from a homosexual who said also, “There’s nothing so ridiculous as one male adult telling another male adult what to do with their genitalia.” My end of the bar required another round before quieting down.

Freeman also picks on J. D. Vance, currently running for the nomination for the U. S. Senate from Ohio. Vance has said (but was he joking?) that we (the government presumably) should seize the Ford Foundation’s $20 billion and distribute the funds … in a better manner than the foundation does. It’s not likely that Vance meant that exactly as it sounds: he is objecting, one assumes, to the lopsided power that lefties and wokies have gained in this country, including, as we saw just a year ago, the power to affect the outcome of elections.

About which something should be done!

Just what is a puzzle not yet solved, so far as we are aware, by the strict devotees of fusionism. One problem, surely, is that many corporations have simply become too big. Just because antitrust laws were abused in the early decades of the 20th century doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be applied appropriately now. It is most relevant to note that in the very first issue of National Review, Buckley wrote about monopolies: “The competitive price system is indispensable to liberty and material progress. It is threatened not only by the growth of Big Brother government, but by the pressure of monopolies — including union monopolies.” That sounds like an endorsement of government’s muscling in, not just a nostalgic longing for Southern agrarianism.

Big corporations, with armies of lobbyists and lawyers that outnumber the troops of Mordor — all armed with limitless budgets for wining and dining — influence the making of public policy with the goal, and the result, of making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete with them. China isn’t our only problem.

The size of government, mega-corporations, and most especially high-tech monopolies is a problem, though not the only problem. Those monopolies, with the gravitational force of Saturn, shape business, and they shape, and trash, the culture. It is not likely that little Burkean platoons of citizens gathered together here and there across the plains can escape that force; they will need to band together in something like, well, like government. During the Cold War we — we conservatives, we fusionists even — put up with a government larger that we wanted because a government of that size was necessary to keep us free (the Lions Club couldn’t develop Star Wars). Now we need to curtail the power, not just of big government, but of big business as well — mega-corps, big banks, high-tech monopolies — and the Lions Club can’t do that either.

We say, and not ritually, that a government big enough to give us all we want is big enough to take it all away — which is why we don’t want a government that big: not big enough to give us all we want, but only those things government should give us, primarily protection from our enemies foreign and domestic, and the other items enumerated in our Constitution, properly understood.

Our government today is a lot bigger than it was when Reagan made his remarks about fusionism in 1981. Our big government itself, including the Supreme Court, has been the instrument for abandoning our traditions and trashing our culture (rampant pornography), our mores (rampant, and subsidized, illegitimacy, homosexual marriage), our faith (driving God from the public square and from public schools), and our belief in the sanctity of human life, and the very definition of men and women. None of that trashing, now far worse than it was in 1981, is part of “the deeper current of Western learning and culture” that Reagan spoke about. Which of those issues would not have been a concern of the founding editors of National Review, or the solons of fusionism?

The people and the states should manage their own affairs, consistent with the goodness the Founding Fathers sought to embody in our system, but they cannot unless we dismantle more than a century of big government — the legacy of Wilson and Roosevelt and Johnson and Nixon and Bush and Obama — and the plagues big government, as well as the Supreme Court, has over the years visited on us, freed from any notion of good that the Founders had. We tend to forget that this country was founded not just to be free, but to be good as well.

So there is much work to do. We are adults, however, experienced in the ways of Washington, and we know, we know, that enacting a specific legislative provision to solve this problem or that problem will always be easier than repealing a major law or overturning a Supreme Court decision, which probably requires a full-scale attack on the zeitgeist. And so we propose discrete fixes … and then the number of laws and their complexity grows.

And with it, the need for National Conservatives to gather together to plan for — to plot and scheme for — a revival of the spirit of liberty and goodness that vouchsafed this nation to us, a revival that would make our ancestors proud, and our children free and good.


January 11, 2022
The American Spectator

Masks, Vaccines, and Government Lies

The cover-up of information, and the dissembling we’ve seen over the past year on vaccines and masks is serious, not only for health reasons but also for reasons of public trust in institutions.

Trust in government and government-sponsored edicts is fast declining because of federal, state, and local pronouncements on the Chinese flu, vaccines, masks, and lockdowns. The federal government has been as stubborn as an ox against telling the truth—and 2021 was, perhaps appropriately, the year of the ox in China. 

We have a good idea by now that masks are essentially useless. But masks are nevertheless being recommended, and in many cases required, by the feds, the military, and states and cities across the country.

The federal government at first said that masks were not useful, but it turned out that that announcement was for the purpose of limiting public purchases in order to ensure that there would be an adequate supply of masks for healthcare workers—which is to say, the government deliberately deceived the public. Then the feds sang a different tune, that masks were beneficial. Now in many cases—on airplanes, and in public places in many cities—they are required. 

In a Wall Street Journal column, Phillip W. Magness and Peter C. Earle pointed out that in January 2020, Anthony Fauci questioned harsh China lockdowns: “Historically, when you shut things down, it doesn’t have a major effect.”And federal authorities have been wildly inconsistent about what businesses are “essential,” who should get vaccinated and when, and how long sick people should quarantine.

It is reasonable to conclude that the behavior of the government is driven not by science but by politics. Mask mandates have been particularly offensive, especially when the most preachy pols have been photographed not wearing them or fleeing to saner jurisdictions where masks are not required. 

A reader who disagreed with my conclusion in November that masks were not, in fact, beneficial, wrote that he could easily lay his hands on a study that said masks were effective, and shortly afterward forwarded such a study. 

The study has two problems. The first is that it’s old: it was published in January 2021; which leads to the second: it was not based on randomized controlled trials (the gold standard) dealing with the Chinese flu. It even concedes that point, saying early on: “. . . we should not generally expect to be able to find controlled trials, due to logistical and ethical reasons, and should therefore instead seek a wider evidence base.” In other words, the study is just their opinion; it’s not really “science.” 

“Overall,” it says, “direct evidence of the efficacy of mask use is supportive, but inconclusive.” 

And then later on, the study offers this statement, which parents, especially, should read: 

The impact of using masks to control transmission in the workplace has not been well studied. One issue that impacts both school and work usage is that, over a full day’s use, masks may become wet, or dirty. [Ew, yuck!] A study of mask use in health care settings found that ‘respiratory pathogens on the outer surface of the used medical masks may result in self-contamination,’ and noted that ‘the risk is higher with longer duration of mask use (>6h) and with higher rates of clinical contact.’ Further research is needed to clarify these issues. In the meantime, most health bodies recommend replacing dirty or wet masks with clean ones.

Right. So what are parents supposed to do? Send their children to school with five masks and tell them to be sure to change them every two hours? 

People who are seriously interested in the effectiveness of masks should read Jeffrey Anderson’s definitive pieces in City Journal and American Greatness. The key point he makes is that only randomized controlled trials (“RCTs”) are worth considering. It is a fair conclusion, therefore, that masks are not useful because the RCTs that have been conducted don’t prove they are. 

Recently, two members of the COVID-19 advisory board for the Biden-Harris transition team seemed to agree, at least in part. Michael Osterholm and Ezekiel Emanuel wrote in the Washington Post: “masks can be helpful, but only if they are high-quality and used routinely. This means non-fraudulent N95, KN95, or KF94 respirators, all of which have satisfactory filtration efficiency. Cotton or surgical masks are more for show than effective protection, especially against omicron.” 

OK . . . maybe. But even assuming they are correct—and the aforementioned Anderson pieces indicate they are not—how many people actually wear N95 or KN95 masks? At the moment, certainly, there are no government edicts that require N95 or KN95 masks.

How many people do wear N95 or KN95 masks? We don’t know. One survey says that 72 percent of U.S. adults always wear a mask when they go out, but it doesn’t say what kind. You can do your own research: look at the first 20 people you see outside and count those who are wearing N95 or KN95 masks. It will, on a guess, probably be no higher than three, which is only 15 percent of your control group. That suggests that most people are not wearing either the N95 or KN95 masks—and we really don’t have much reason (i.e., RCTs) to think even those are effective. 

Masks mandates are just government overreach—but overreach seems to be standard operating procedure for government these days. 

But there’s more bad news, and it suggests more dissembling by the government. An Indiana life insurance CEO has said that deaths are up 40 percent among working-age people (ages 18 to 64) who are employees of businesses with group life insurance policies.

OneAmerica CEO Scott Davison said the increase in deaths represents “huge, huge numbers.” A key point to remember is that death rates (mortality tables) rarely change at all. Another point is that these deaths are not caused by the Chinese flu: those death rates are actually down. A likely culprit is vaccinations. Why haven’t the feds told us about that? When will we read about that in the mainstream media?

And finally, to start the new year with some critical thinking, see the report from the Canadian Covid Care Alliance which claims that Pfizer’s COVID-19 inoculations cause more illness than they prevent and provides an overview of the Pfizer trial flaws in both design and execution. Did you hear about that from the White House or from Fauci, or read about it in the New York Times or the Washington Post?

The cover-up of this information, and the dissembling we’ve seen over the past year on vaccines and masks is serious, not only for health reasons but also for reasons of public trust in institutions. That trust, a necessity for a functioning democracy, is now fast disappearing—assuming there’s any left.

In China, 2022 is the year of the tiger. Maybe in the United States, it will be the year of truth.


January 6, 2022
American Greatness