Why I Am a Reagan Conservative/ Immigration Reformer


Actually, I didn`t know I was a “Reagan Conservative”
when Mike Deaver—OK, strictly speaking, a charming
young woman editor—asked me to contribute to a book of
essays he was compiling. I thought we were just
conservatives. But later Deaver unilaterally

changed the title

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative

and also dispensed with annoying details like sending
proofs, galleys or even a copy of the published book—an
example of  thriftiness that would surely warm the
hearts of News Corporation`s Scottish founders.  (Many
thanks to the dear News Corp. friends who finally got me
a copy!) Here`s my essay, from pages 117-123. As I
expected, no other contributors seem to discuss
immigration, not surprisingly since they include

Grover Norquist
and the

late Bob Bartley
. Which does go to show, I guess,
that they indeed belong to an earlier, pre-National
Question, era. As I say in my conclusion, I`m not sure
how much longer I can cling to the term
given the company you have to keep
nowadays—a development long predicted by

Chronicles` Tom Fleming. And I am sure that some VDARE.COM
readers are not conservatives in any sense, but
immigration reformers gathered here in the common cause.

I recently learned with delight
that the Indian Army has inscribed, on the

monument erected in Tawang province
to its soldiers
who fell in the 1962 border war with China, the

famous lines
from Lord Macaulay`s

Lays Of Ancient Rome

how can man die better
 Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
 And the temples of his gods?

Of course, it`s entertaining to see
that the

robust attitudes
of the Raj, Britain`s

Victorian empire
in India, are still going strong
more than half a century after India became independent.
And the conservativism of India`s formidable army, which

that can trace their lineage back to the

Napoleonic War,
has been a bedrock factor in the
country`s survival into the post-imperial age.

But beyond that, it`s always seemed
to me that Macaulay`s verse is a litmus test of
conservativism. It either it speaks to you or it
doesn`t. And it spoke to me when I first read it

as a boy
in the

North of England
—ironically in a story about a

British garrison under siege
during the

Indian Mutiny
, in the yellowing pages of a boy`s
magazine that had somehow been saved since my
grandfather`s childhood, two World Wars and various
social revolutions earlier.

Macaulay himself was

actually a liberal
—admittedly a

nineteenth century liberal
, so arguably he might
have been what today is called a

. But I`d have to say he was probably
also something of a twentieth-century liberal, in his
iconoclasm and his brash rationalism. Nevertheless, here
he chose to assume the voice of an imaginary
conservative Roman ("much given," he quipped in

introductory essay,
"to pining after good old
times which had never really existed."
familiar?) The result is a moment of true artistic

It`s vital to note that this verse
is not vainglorious and chest-thumping, but somber and
stoic. The previous lines are:

Then up spake brave Horatius

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late…"

In other words, Horatius`s point is not that death
facing fearful odds is so wonderful—but that there is no
wonderful alternative. So why not?

Note also that Macaulay has Horatio fight for
and "temples"—that is, not in the
hope of saving any living family members, or in the
service of any gods in whom he has confident faith. The
implication: he could have no family members and no hope
of divine providence—but his death in battle would still
have symbolic resonance.

The core of conservativism, it
seems to me, is this recognition and acceptance of the
elemental emotions. Conservatism understands that it is
futile to debate the feelings of the

for her child—or such human instincts as the
bonds of


, even

. Of course, all are painfully vulnerable to
deconstruction by rationalistic intellectuals—but not,
ultimately, to destruction. These commitments are
Jungian rather than Freudian, not irrational but
arational—beyond the reach of reason.

Leftists often say that
conservatives are motivated by "hate,"
because its recognizing these loyalties tacitly implies,
by definition, that these loyalties have limits. But the
truth is that conservatism is motivated by love.

In my own case, growing up in
Britain in (ahem!) the 1950s, I felt keenly and bitterly
the humiliations heaped upon the

dying Empire,
notably the aborted Suez expedition.
And in the 1960s, I immediately and

instinctively identified
with the

Americans in Vietnam,
despite following the war
through the

very dark glass
of the British media, including our
family newspaper, the very liberal

Manchester Guardian.
(Now removed to
London as the Guardian, and even further to the

Ironically, now that an

is being re-established in the Middle East, I
find myself more cautious than many of my old friends in
the American conservative movement. This is certainly
because of those early memories of defeat. But my belief
in the centrality of the national interest—the American
national interest, of which I regard Britain as a
subset— does not waver.

We come now to the great switch. I
have no doubt that most contributors to this book are
going on about capitalism, the free market, and even

And I agree that these are natural
outgrowths of conservatism. But they are outgrowths—epiphenomena
of the post-Enlightenment modern age. Conservativism
itself is pre-modern.

Why has capitalism proved so
compatible with conservatism? I think the answer lies in
the term that Australians use for capitalism:

"economic rationalism."
(Diversity is

strength, despite

, but we are fortunate that the English
language has so many

growth points

Capitalism is a rational
system. It can only function in a sophisticated
political culture. The Austrian economist

Friedrich von Hayek

that the appeal of socialism is perennial
because human beings have spent the overwhelming bulk of
their history in

hunter-gatherer bands
and naturally think in terms
of face-to-face relationships. When rents go up, people
find it easy to blame the evil landlord and to vote for

rent control.
They find it very hard to think
abstractly about

market forces
and the unintended consequences of
government intervention.

But conservatives can, because they
are temperamentally prepared for "thinking about the
—to use the title of

Herman Kahn
`s once-notorious application of

realpolitik to nuclear
Paradoxically, this is precisely
because conservatives know the limits of reason. They
accept that their values are arational (see above) and
don`t expect to derive them from a rational process. So
they are prepared to

reason dispassionately

In contrast, leftists do believe

derive their values
from reason. Consequently, they
are always getting into in a state of hysteria if reason
threatens to take them in some direction that they
don`t, in their unexamined way, want to go.

This explains one of the
characteristic sights of American debate: liberals in a
moralistic snit. Liberals are always in a moralistic
snit because their standard operating procedure makes no
clear distinction between reason and morality.
Everything they do and say is suffused by emotion, in an
unstable and unpredictable way. Hence

"political correctness"
and the extraordinary
range of American

familiar to all working journalists—for
example, about


. In themselves, these taboos give the lie to
the idea that American political culture is as rational
as advertised.

This contingent nature of
capitalism is proved by the interesting fact that, in
every English-speaking country, left and right have
changed sides on it since the nineteenth century.
Liberals like Macaulay supported the free
market—economic rationalism—because they saw it as a way
to break down the established order. Now, liberals
generally oppose capitalism because they see it as a way
to break down the established etc. Conservatives oppose
liberals, consistently.

What now? The American Conservative
Movement, which I regard as the flower of democracy and
the savior of the Free World, to which I immigrated and
in whose closing years I was proud to play a small part
as a journalist, is

. Greatly to my surprise, those who said the
end of the

Cold War
would prove fatal to it were right.

It turns out that many who joined
the anti-communist coalition also harbored messianic
fantasies about

"global democracy"
and America as the first

"universal nation"
(i.e. polity.
Nation-states must have a specific ethnic core.)

I can`t even be sure that those of
us with the deep-structure personality type historically
called "conservative" will be able to hold onto
the word. Maybe we`ll agree adopt the prefix "paleo"
and –libertarian).

But we won`t go away.

And that`s an essay for another

Peter Brimelow is editor of

and author of the much-denounced

Alien Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration
(Random House –
1995) and

The Worm in the Apple
(HarperCollins – 2003)