Neoconservatism, Why We Need It. (Review)

Initial thoughts after having read Neoconservatism, Why we need it by Douglas Murray.
Overall very interesting and a good read. Much sounder on the foreign policy aspect than on domestic affairs and it is domestic affairs on which I will comment.
1. I do believe that his ideas need to be explored – cutting down on the size of the state and placing more emphasis on individual responsibility and liberty.
2. While charitable giving was higher prior to the coming of the welfare state, poverty was far more widespread and far deeper. There is a false comparison being drawn here.
3. There is a conceited notion that morality equals religion, a notion to which I take great exception. The key to being a moral person is internal self-discipline and I would argue in favour of enlightened humanism.
4. The claim is made that neoconservatism is the only strain of conservatism to have made its’ peace with the welfare state but the author fails to spell out how he would differ. I would argue that a greater emphasis on getting people into work would be beneficial but this is only an opening point.

There are sound points made about the danger of relativism and the abandonment of the critical faculties but I would ask the author to consider the various movements on the left as quasi-religious and to give though to the possibility that religiosity has not been dissipated but that cast adrift from its moorings in orthodoxy, the religious instinct in the intelligensia has latched onto one cause or theory after another. Map the movement from anti-nuclear in the 1980s to anti-globalisation in the 1990s to the anti-war movement in the 2000s. The same group of anti-modern sentiments painted over one issue after another and following the behest of the communist and far-left movements.


2 Responses to Neoconservatism, Why We Need It. (Review)

  1. JOS says:

    Richard: I haven’t read Murray’s book, so my comment concerns neoconservatism in general. Although seemingly espousing conservative values (i.e. small central government, and a foreign policy based on non-intervention, avoidance of entangling political alliances and overseas obligations while embracing open commerce with other nations), neoconservatism seems to be (1) less fiscally prudent and (2) too interventionist for my tastes.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the neoconservatist would endorse the U.S. stimulus plan to generate a short-term economic expansion, rather than curb spending in the short-term to bring down national debt in the long-term. The neoconservativist certainly isn’t a fan of laissez-faire economics, is he? Also, the neoconservative would support the concept of democratic expansionism as “in the best interest of the world”.

    As for religion, doesn’t the neoconservative measure morality through religious lenses?

    – JOS

  2. wien1938 says:

    The economic question is one which is very interesting because the odds are that there is no agreement on this matter within neoconservative circles. Have a look at the American Enterprise Institute for the economic angle (I confess that I am not overly familiar with the American aspect).
    I have to (reluctantly) credit the Labour government in Britain with the correct short term response of bailing out the banks and increasing the supply of money at a time when money in circulation was falling rapidly. It is widely agreed amongst conservative economists (as well) that this was the right move.

    Interventionism is a hallmark of neoconservatism (in foreign policy), though this need not mean military adventures. We should remember that the primary focus on foreign policy is not regarding the world through rose-tinted spectacles but rather on a realistic (not realist) appraisal of the situation.

    It seems that there is a strong belief in the measurement of morality through religious lenses, to which I take exception. It also strikes a certain note of parochialism with which I feel uncomfortable in part because there is a sense on anti-secularism in there.

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