Reading about House Republican intransigence regarding the so-called fiscal cliff, I was reminded of an essay written by Friedrich Hayek, whose 'Road To Serfdom', in which he claimed that government regulation of the economy inevitably leads to totalitarianism, is an intellectual touchstone of the right. He's more complicated than that; for instance, he thought national health insurance was acceptable government function. He titled the essay, 'Why I Am Not A Conservative':
Let me return, however, to the main point,
which is the characteristic complacency of the conservative toward
the action of established authority and his prime concern that
this authority be not weakened rather than that its power be kept
within bounds. This is difficult to reconcile with the preservation
When I say that the conservative lacks principles,
I do not mean to suggest that he lacks moral conviction. The typical
conservative is indeed usually a man of very strong moral convictions.
What I mean is that he has no political principles which enable
him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own
for a political order in which both can obey their convictions.
It is the recognition of such principles that permits the coexistence
of different sets of values that makes it possible to build a
peaceful society with a minimum of force. The acceptance of such
principles means that we agree to tolerate much that we dislike.
There are many values of the conservative which appeal to me more
than those of the socialists; yet for a liberal the importance
he personally attaches to specific goals is no sufficient justification
for forcing others to serve them. I have little doubt that some
of my conservative friends will be shocked by what they will regard
as "concessions" to modern views that I have made in
Part III of this book. But, though I may dislike some of the measures
concerned as much as they do and might vote against them, I know
of no general principles to which I could appeal to persuade those
of a different view that those measures are not permissible in
the general kind of society which we both desire. To live and
work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness
to one's concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment
to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental,
others are allowed to pursue different ends.
It is for this reason that to the liberal
neither moral nor religious ideals are proper objects of coercion,
while both conservatives and socialists recognize no such limits.
http://hem.passagen.se/nicb/cons.htm (read the whole thing)
Hayek knew intimately that ideology can't be imposed on a society without force, and that was unacceptable. He saw that as a danger regardless of the specifics of ideology. He recognised that in any society opinions will differ, and that the work of the nation must go on regardless: working together, muddling through (see post below) rather than marching arm in arm with ideological compatriots toward the Radiant Future, or perishing gloriously before a deluded, evil opposition.
The House Republicans don't know that. They're proud of their readiness to bring the temple down. And they project onto Obama, who, I think, is too willing to compromise, their utter intransigence. Hayek would have taken them aside and told them to fight for their beliefs, but to play nice anyway. He'd have had a point...