Forty years ago, George H. Nash created the field of conservative intellectual history. What can he tell us about the right today?
By Jennifer Burns NOVEMBER 09, 2016
"To understand what’s happened to conservatism, we have to pick up the story where Nash left off in 1976. If there was ever a time when the phrase "conservative intellectual movement in America" seemed far from parody, the mid-1970s were probably it. By then the liberal political and economic consensus that had defined America and Western Europe since World War II was showing signs of decline. When inflation, stagflation, oil shocks, a failed war in Vietnam, and the pressures of emergent globalization began to derail the decades-long run of prosperity that Americans had enjoyed, the nation was ready for new ideas.
The 1970s were unquestionably a time of conservative intellectual dominance. An influential flank of academic liberals broke right and became "neoconservatives." Keynesian economists were suddenly on the defense, in universities and policy circles, as monetarism and price theory rose to prominence. Public-choice scholars doubted the very idea that politicians might work on behalf of a common good; sociologists pried beneath the surface of social-welfare programs to question their efficacy; law professors challenged the courts to think through the costs and benefits of every ruling. Think tanks proliferated; business groups lobbied to defeat regulation; even libertarians organized themselves into a political party."