The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013
By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
Author of the blog "VIEW FROM THE RIGHT" Auster was a deeply conservative writer who often wrote on immigration and multiculturalism. Sadly he died all too soon. Conservatives tend to remember their honoured predecessors so I thought I should put up a small personal memoir about him. I therefore put up below a slightly expanded version of what I said of him on December 19, 2004
I rarely comment on arguments put forward by my fellow conservatives, but I am going to make a small exception today to say a few words about the ideas of Lawrence Auster, a traditionalist Jewish writer who thinks that almost nobody these days is conservative enough. He has just put up on Frontpage an excellent article on the antiwar RIGHT ("The Antiwar Right's Bent View of the World") that I fully agree with and recommend. It no longer comes up on that site unfortunately but he summarizes it as follows:
"The charge of “anger” has, of course, long been a liberal shibboleth used to label, belittle, and dismiss conservatives. This has especially been the case at the New York Times, where the word “anger” as applied to conservatives, both in headlines and the body of stories, would typically appear more often in the paper than “House of Representatives,” “poll,” or “gay.” It is classic politically correct propaganda, a way of portraying any non-liberal position as consisting of nothing but primitive impulses and dark prejudices. Since 9/11, however, the phenomenon of anger-driven politics, both on the left and the antiwar right, has ceased being a politically correct fantasy and has become an all-too-real, indeed formative element in our national politics that renders rational discussion almost impossible much of the time. As such it represents an extremely important development that needs to be understood in depth and resisted."
There is an updated and expanded version here
He also has an excellent article here (reproduced here) that explains why American Jews are so overwhelmingly Left-wing. He says that they are actually AFRAID of American Protestant Christians, who are -- as Auster points out -- in fact the very best friends that Israel and the Jews have. Auster does not say so but I think the Jews concerned can be forgiven their paranoia. It is a pity that they are not more up to date but Christians (including Protestants such as Calvin and Luther) DID persecute them for a very long time.
Some other Auster articles of the many I could mention are ones complaining that the Pope is too Leftist and that most modern conservatives are really Leftists. He also thinks that the "neocons" are a bad lot who have GWB in their hip-pocket and that America's largely open borders are a disaster.
I of course agree with SOME of those other articles. I do think the whole neocon conspiracy thing is just paranoia but, as an Australian conservative I am delighted that our government has just about stopped illegal immigration stone dead and that it locks up any illegal immigrants it catches -- as it would anyone else who defies our laws. And I agree that the Holy Father, like most of his predecessors, is not much of a conservative politically.
My disagreements with Auster arise from the fact that I am one of those villains whom he sees as having destroyed conservatism -- libertarians. He rightly notes that libertarian conservatism is one of the dominant forms of conservatism today (the other being Christian conservatism) and makes the correct point that Christian conservatives are pretty strongly influenced by individualistic, liberty-oriented thinking too. Unlike Auster, however, I do not see this as a particularly modern phenomenon. I have done an extensive historical survey showing that belief in individual liberty has always been central to conservatism. Auster, by contrast, seems to think that traditionalism is the main current. I actually see something more basic in conservatism that underlies both traditionalism AND belief in liberty -- a certain cautious pragmatism and mistrust of the goodwill of others. Because of this basic trait of caution, conservatives want as much freedom to make their own decisions as possible and they also like systems that have been tried and tested. But the liking for tradition is in the end just a tool -- a way of being cautious, not something that is compelling for its own sake.
So the basis of Auster's complaint is that modern conservatives are too liberty-oriented and value-free -- and he sees this as something that they have in common with the Left. A related complaint is that modern conservatives have no anchors -- they just go along with whatever seems to be working. The only thing I disagree with there is the idea that Leftists believe in liberty. They don't. They only believe in power. They advocate various liberties from time to time -- e.g. various sexual liberties -- mainly because it suits them as a way of disrupting existing society and thus hopefully getting themselves into power. But for the rest, I would claim that liberty and the good life are the only lasting values for secular conservatives and that going along with what seems to be working is the historic conservative modus operandi. And long may it continue! We have had more than enough of theorists telling us what to do!
I apologize to Auster for having to a degree caricaturized his views above but I was aiming only to give a quick impression of them. His own prolific writings give plenty of detail, explanation and nuance.
Auster made the following brief comment on my post above about his writings:
"I thank Mr. Ray for his sympathetic and thoughtful overview of my writings. However, regarding his main criticism of me, I don't think I ever said that the belief in individual liberty was not part of the American conservative tradition. The difference is between those who understand liberty as being within a moral and constitutional order, and those who see liberty, or rather freedom, as essentially free of any constraints". Mark Richardson is another writer who often makes that sort of point. I find such a view incomprehensible. I know of NO conservative who denies that "rights connote duties" and I know of NO conservative who denies that we are in at least some ways constrained in what we do by "human nature". So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.
So it would appear that the differences between Auster and other conservatives lay mainly in matters of emphasis
There is a comprehensive list of Auster's writings here
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