July 28, 2009

Nostalgia Politics

Taking off from Patrick’s “economism” post: Remember, young Patrick (and old Patrick, too) a correlation is not a cause. America might have been a better country, socially and morally, in the 1950s, but it was so despite, not because of, heavy taxation. In turn, it?s silly to think that we could magically bring back the Old America by installing confiscatory tax rates on the rich. Reading the selection from The Death of the West young Patrick included, one gets the sense that the two Patricks fear a 36,000 Dow, thinking that all that prosperity would make Americans lose their ties to family, God, and country. But this fear misplaced. All the people who were talking about sky-high valuations around the time The Death of the West was written were living in the dot.com bubble. That market has since collapsed, of course, and though recently we?ve seen many families begin saving again, which is a good thing, the kind of ?American culture? one experiences at your local Cineplex, megamall, and Ivy League university remains what it was.

I?d also warn against politics as nostalgia (or is it nostalgia as politics?). The disaster of the 1960s followed closely on the heels of the 1950s, proving that the society of that latter decade either laid the groundwork for the counter culture or was entirely incapable of confronting and stopping it.

It?s easy for many paleos to idealize the ?50s as the age of Eisenhower, full middle-class employment in gargantuan corporations, and happy families like we saw on Leave It Beaver; in a way, these paleos have tended to agree with the typical leftist critique of the ?50s (for different reasons, of course): Yes, the ?50s were a time of ultra conservative patriarchal oppression! And it was great!

But is this view true?

I?ve acquired a very different vision of American culture at mid-Century after reading Jacques Barzun?s House of Intellect. The book was first published in 1959, the capstone of the Good Old Days, right? Well, the impression one gets of America?s cultural and intellectual institutions is of rotting, debauched academies dominated by egalitarian, dumbed-down, ?democratic,? and ?liberal? ideologies that are only slightly less horrible than the regnant multiculturalism of today. (One gets a similar impression from The Long March by Roger Kimball, also well worth the read.)

There?s no going back, Patricks?it?s neither possible nor desirable. 

Subscribe to Taki’s Magazine for an ad-free experience and help us stand against political correctness.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!


Daily updates with TM’s latest