Out of Place: Conservatives and the American Right

1212700762xlarge Corey Robin in The Nation:

In “Conservative Thought,” an unjustly neglected essay from 1927, Karl Mannheim argued that conservatives have never been wild about the idea of freedom. It threatens the submission of subordinate to superior. Because freedom is the lingua franca of modern politics, however, they have had “a sound enough instinct not to attack” it. Instead, they have made freedom the stalking horse of inequality, and inequality the stalking horse of submission. Men are naturally unequal, they argue. Freedom requires that they be allowed to develop their unequal gifts. A free society must be an unequal society, composed of radically distinct, and hierarchical, particulars.

Goldwater never rejected freedom; indeed, he celebrated it. But there is little doubt that he saw it as a proxy for inequality–or war, which he called “the price of freedom.” A free society protected each man’s “absolute differentness from every other human being,” with difference standing in for superiority or inferiority. It was the “initiative and ambition of uncommon men”–the most different and excellent of men–that made a nation great. A free society would identify such men at the earliest stages of life and give them the resources they needed to rise to pre-eminence. Against politicians who subscribed to “the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education,” Goldwater argued for “an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and…thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future.”