I was thinking this morning that “movement conservatism” suffers from one catastrophic flaw – the “movement” part. When movements start, they are often an aggregation of individuals willing to act on behalf of each other in support of a common goal or ideal but you can almost point to the decline and ultimate death (either true dissolution or just simple ineffectiveness) starts. It seems to always begin shortly after some sort of formal organizational structure is created.
I think it would be hard to argue that the Tea Party was far more powerful as a true movement than it has been after it became “organized.” It just seems antithetical that a movement dedicated to less organization and more individual freedom can succeed by being “organized.”
When any group forms an organized hierarchy of control, it falls victim to two things – first, as the organization increases in membership, the leadership becomes an increasingly smaller percentage of the group and control and power are necessarily centralized. That means that a small percentage of the organization will make decisions for the whole. The smaller the leadership group and the farther they are away from the newest members, the more likely they are to become corrupt and make leadership decisions based on what they perceive, want, need or desire than they are to take decisions based on governing philosophies supported by the group.
Secondly, there comes the same issue as Hayek identified as a buzzkill for socialism – it is Lenin’s question of “Who, whom?” as in “who plans whom, who directs and dominates whom, who assigns to other people their station in life, and who is to have his due allotted by others?” Once I assume the role of planning for you, I have just elevated myself to a status higher than you – I have power over you and we are no longer equal (by the way, that is the fallacy of thinking equality can be achieved in a centrally planned economy and society) and as Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
Once a political movement becomes an organization, it suffers the same challenges an limitations of any other organization. It is the same for government as it is for a business as it is for even a Church choir. The same reasons that philosopher economists like Hayek, Von Mises and Friedman cited as the reasons socialism always fail also causes organized political “movements” to fail. Once a shared belief becomes an organized “movement”, it begins to die.
James Madison warned of the danger of factions in Federalist #51. Even George Washington warned of the destructive power of political parties in his farewell address saying:
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”
To be successful, as were our Founding Fathers, we must be bound together by common belief, not by some organizing principle like a political party. No organization can ever cater to the will of every individual – only a free individual living under the umbrella of a limited government can do that.