IS PIERRE POUJADE WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
are living through the Second Demonization of American right-wing
opinion. The First Demonization, that of the 1950s and ‘60s, took
place just when the Right itself was making the transition from
relative "isolationism" to full-bore global anticommunist
crusading. That transition was rather lost on the left-liberal academics
who led the charge against the so-called "radical right."
Radical, it turns out, meant that these rightists genuinely wanted
to roll back the New Deal. This was bad form.
substantial literature grew up around the task of
psychoanalyzing the radical right, "pseudo-conservatives,"
and alleged "authoritarian personalities,"
who resisted the liberals' New Order. Such worthies
as Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, Richard Hofstadter,
and the tame "conservative" Peter Viereck
enlisted to lay bare the sins of the "far"
right. Oddly, it was never a "near" right.
writers burdened the right with a long list of mentally
suspect bad attitudes: "isolationism," xenophobia,
"McCarthyism," failure to embrace trade
union violence, and – especially wicked – "Poujadism."
For the Left, Poujade was a terrible "fascist"
to be suppressed as quickly as possible. So who or
what was Poujade? Poujade was a minor postwar political
figure in France, whose program centered on drastic
reduction of taxes and elimination of bureaucratic
micromanagement of French life. Some "fascist."
His movement sought to rally shopkeepers and farmers
against the centralized state and, thus, in the direction
of greater freedom.
OBJECT LESSON IN RIGHT-WING SELF-DESTRUCTION?
such an antisocial monster had to be destroyed. Rather
than be happy that the Poujadists were giving their
petty-bourgeois followers a program which drew on
laissez-faire liberalism, the Left chose – in predictable
Marxoid fashion – to assume that such backward cretins
just had to be fledgling fascists, whatever
their rhetoric and program. Look, it says so right
here on page so-and-so of this or that Marxist scripture.
And did those fellows really believe you can run a
Modern Society/State without zillions of bumbling
but kindly social engineers keeping everything in
the end, the Poujadists destroyed their own movement
by committing themselves rather blindly and stupidly
to the Algerian War. I don't think anyone should really
complain about balanced and intelligent forms of nationalism.
Such nationalisms are compatible with (laissez faire)
liberalism and don't make me lose much sleep. Austria
for the Austrians, for example. Where's the problem?
calling on one's compatriots to die in the last ditch
to hold on to some stupid colonial possession, which
should never have been acquired, is a sure way to
lose one's mass base, particularly if they ever work
out the relationship between war, taxes, and bureaucracy.
The last two items having been the Poujadists' central
issues, their leaders had certainly gotten them into
a corner. There may be a lesson here. Certainly, the
fawning display of military brutalism at the
late GOP convention suggests that smaller government
may not really be on offer from that quarter. Have
the Republican Party hacks and managers been watching
too many old newsreels of Soviet May Day parades?
What nostalgia for them. Or maybe it was just a subtle
hint to certain contractors that happy days on the
gravy train are here again.
THE POUJADISTS HAD A POINT
mouvement Poujade may be gone, but the bureaucracies
of which it complained live on, and not just in France,
as you may have noticed. To get a better handle on
bureaucracy, we must betake ourselves into the 19th
century, for a look at vintage liberal critiques of
that office-bound phenomenon. Richard Simpson was
the longtime collaborator of the great English Catholic
liberal historian Lord Acton at The Rambler
and The Home and Foreign Review. Simpson took
our topic on in The Rambler in 1859.1
His short essay "Bureaucracy" is well worth
Simpson pointed out, was not the same as military
rule. Bureaucracy did not correspond, directly, to
any form of government, but "it can arise gradually
under every form of policy, and it renders every form
of government despotic." Lawyers, of course,
throve under bureaucracy, but they were not the essence
of it. Various mistaken reforms had contributed to
bureaucracy's recent forward leap. Thus, Poor Law
reform called forth more inspectors, while the secret
ballot gave rise to something like an "internal
passport." After all, you can't have people voting,
if you don't rightly know who they are.
the real core of bureaucracy was none of the above-named
trends. No, "the idea of bureaucracy is not
fulfilled till we add the pedantic element of a pretence
to direct our life, to know what is best for us, to
measure out our labour, to superintend our studies,
to prescribe our opinions, to make itself answerable
for us, to put us to bed, tuck us up, put on our nightcap,
and administer our gruel" [my emphasis].
This can only arise, says Simpson, in a state whose
rulers believe they understand everything important
about human existence. In 20th-century
America, this requirement has long since been fulfilled.
Our leaders and nannies do indeed have a world-outlook,
a philosophy, and ideology. It is pretty much the
"Wisconsin Idea" writ large and will be
the 21st century's task to overthrow it,
if we are to have any lives and civilization at all.
call as my second witness – we believe in balance
around here – the great French liberal Alexis de Tocqueville.
In the last chapters of Democracy
in America, he writes that the social equality
enjoyed by the Americans may be preparing them for
a new form of despotism. Under such a system, the
benevolent state – harmless because, after all, the
people ultimately rule by voting – "provides
for [the people's] security, foresees and supplies
their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages
their principal concerns, directs their industry,
makes rules for their testaments, and divides their
inheritances. Why should it not entirely relieve them
from the trouble of thinking and all the cares of
in the 1830s, Tocqueville might not have guessed that
it would be precisely state-run schools that
would relieve Americans from the burden of thinking.
Tocqueville, like Simpson later, sees that the new
despotism would view itself as an educational
enterprise: "I do not expect their leaders to
be tyrants, but rather schoolmasters." I mean,
some of us hated state-run school. The whole thing
is compounded when I think of all those well-meaning
lies my teachers told us about how this a free country
and all that. They were setting us up for needless
value conflicts later on. Had they told us we were
doing our best to catch up with the Swedish Model,
the Soviets, or whatever, the great bureaucratic leap
forward from JFK onward might have been less jarring
schoolmaster connection puts me in mind of that wonderful
philosopher-king, democrat, educationist, would-be
bureaucrat, and all-around force for evil, John Dewey.
But he deserves a full column. I'll deal with him
ARM THOSE PEDAGOGUES, PLEASE
role of the pedagogue/bureaucrat/intellectual in the
20th century has been important and harmful
to the nth degree. One thinks of Professor Woodrow
Wilson, FDR's Brain Trust, and the "New Mandarins"
who flocked to Washington to serve and profit under
JFK and LBJ. And who can forget Dr. Henry Kissinger,
favorite wherever he goes?
these people were true believers in what C. Wright
Mills called "bureaucratic rationality."
The world was a discreet set of objects - big aggregates
like "savings," "investment,"
or "distribution" to be apprehended directly
by those trained in the bureaucratic sciences. The
bureaucracy would then manipulate these big objects
and – presto! – we have a much better society and
good time, to boot. What could be simpler? The few
pockets of resistance – laissez faire die-hards, religious
nuts, etc. – would be reeducated soon enough with
mailed fists, velvet gloves, tedious lectures, and
aerial sorties, whatever it took.
AN INTELLIGENT, PRINCIPLED 'POUJADIST' MOVEMENT
Van Creveld, Robert Bresler, and many others have
stressed the role of 20th-century warfare
in making possible bureaucratic expansion and social
"reform." War technique and the need to
shape up and reward the masses of potential cannon
fodder account for the successes of soft-core socialism
in Europe and North America. In the last chapter of
and the Rise of the State,
Bruce Porter writes that the modern bureaucratic state
may have "transcended its origins" in war
technique.3 If this
is true, world peace – assuming that were possible
– might not fully address the chicken-and-egg problem
of the relationship between war and statism. We might
still need an intelligent mouvement Poujade
of our own. Where can we sign up? Algore wants to
"reinvent" bureaucracy. I don't think Dubya
can help us here. Pat has to have bureaucrats to collect
all those tariffs. Harry Browne looks forward to setting
up a new special-operations bureaucracy…. Friends,
we may have to do it ourselves….