Interview with David Horowitz
by Sander Hicks
truly enjoyed Radical Son, the memoir of former
60's Marxist David Horowitz and how he made a political
about face to become a Reaganite Republican. Horowitz
also wrote a book called the Art of Political War
that was praised by the Bush's top brain Karl Rove
and used as a political manual by large numbers
of Republican party leaders. Horowitz was in part
responsible for the Rove/Bush "compassionate conservative"
strategy. However, in our interview Horowitz was
vitriolic, exasperated and jumpy. This interview
took place May 28, 2001, in the evening, on the
phone. It lasted about an hour. This is a full transcript
from the tape, minus some unnecessary digressions.
It gets really good at the end, when Horowitz can't
name any Bush qualities or accomplishments off hand,
and he panicks and runs.
began to tape with:]
HICKS: I think this should be on the record. You've
been to the White House. You're one of the leading
intellectuals that the White House looks up to,
both Rove and Bush.
HOROWITZ: I don't know. That's not "ideas."
HICKS: OK, then let's try and talk more generally
HOROWITZ:Ask me about Compassionate Conservatism
and that kind of shit. ...I am a Republican because
I believe I have abandoned the agendas of the Left,
because they are incredibly destructive. The idea
that of helping people that have fallen behind,
should be given maximum opportunity to get ahead,
that we should have a democratic society where the
government treats people equally, all those agendas
remain with me. The reason I'm a Republican is because
I believe Republican policies serve those agendas
better than any others. And I'm trying to push the
Republican Party more in that direction.
HICKS: How does that affect the Party's position
on social programs?
HOROWITZ: Well, let's make it more "Conservative."
The conservative analysis of poverty is right. To
me the Democratic Party is a left-wing party.
HICKS: You'll have to clarify that for me later.
HOROWITZ: Have you read the Politics of Bad Faith?
HOROWITZ: OK, there's a chapter on the meaning of
right and left. HICKS: It goes back to Hegel, the
HOROWITZ: No, no, the "Left" goes back to the French
Revolution. The Jacobins sat on the left, the Chavres
and their parties sat to the right.
HICKS: Oh really I heard the same thing about the
Hegelians in the German Parliament.
HOROWITZ: No, no, it comes from the French Revolution.
...I think the Left is intellectually incoherent,
and Marx was a crackpot. A very brilliant one, but
very crackpot stuff. You may find that extreme but
if you think hard and long enough you'll come to
that conclusion. So, when you look at poverty, I
just stumbled off the Thermstrom's book, America
in Black and White. I came off a little statistic,
let's see, "Poverty today is entirely caused by
failure to work." It used to be jobs were too low-paying.
You couldn't rise below the poverty line because
there were just jobs that kept you below, then.
Today, only 2.5% of black males who are fully employed
are poor. That's an outstanding statistic. If you
have a job, any job, and it's full-time, you will
not be poor in America.
HICKS: How does that compare with other data I've
seen about how more and more families have to work
two jobs to make ends meet?
HOROWITZ: It all depends on the definition of ends.
This is the legal definition of the poverty line...this
comes from U.S. government statistics....
HICKS: Which is an income of something like mid-twenties
for a family of four?
HOROWITZ: Exact-well whatever it doesn't really
matter because as you and I know, not only if you
fall below the poverty line do you get a lot of
subsidies, but people in the inner city do not pay
the same for televisions or anything else that other
people pay for.
HICKS: Wait what do you mean by that?
HOROWITZ: well there's a whole hidden economy. If
you know ANYBODY who lives in the inner city you
HICKS: Well I live in the inner city.
HOROWITZ: ...it costs 25 bucks or a hundred bucks
or whatever. It doesn't really matter. The point
is just that we take an arbitrary thing. We're not
talking about in the eyes of God-Just, if we could
rearrange society, what would be a just order, we're
talking about the real world, and in the real world,
you're not poor if you work. In fact, if you work
and marry, and stay married, the family's aren't
poor either. Poverty is really a product of dysfunction.
HICKS: How would you respond to the data that real
wages have actually diminished in the last 20 or
HOROWITZ: I don't know how these statistics are
arrived at and I don't even think that's relevant.
We're talking about what's the opportunity out there,
is there mobility? Who's responsible for an individual's
poverty? And you have to say, it's that individual.You
can't say that the social order is set up, the ruling
class arranges it so it can have these reserve army
of the unemployed around and on and on.
HICKS: Well actually, a question naturally popping
up is that there is a capitalist economic model
that says for growth you need a certain percentage
of unemployment so that you can create a new enterprise,
and always know there's a labor pool out there to
hire from. So that's why you have the Federal Reserve
to adjusting interest rates to keep growth controlled
and keep unemployment at a certain level.
HOROWITZ: No, I think that's ridiculous. I think
that there's a reality that we've had over full
HOROWITZ: For the last 5 or 6 years, it's been down
to under 4%...3%....
HICKS: But why don't we have full employment?
HOROWITZ: First of all, people are fuck-ups. They
are lazy. I mean c'mon. You've been in organizations.
There are always three people that run an organization.
HOROWITZ: Maybe there's ten.
HICKS: Well...I..to answer that, no. There's all
these new models, in the experiences I've had, I
have some coworkers here that are in my company
that are in more of a direct-action, consensus model.
Do you know what the consensus model is?
HOROWITZ: I was doing this in 1957.
HICKS: OK, so you know. Everyone has to agree.
HOROWITZ: You can't run anything that way.
HICKS: Yeah, I tend to be kind of skeptical of it
HOROWITZ: I tried. Anyway look...your normal organizations,
the PTA...there are always some people who have
the extra energy, the drive, they end up controlling
the organization. That's why people like the ISO,
the Communist Party, can go into big organizations
and take them over. Because not everybody is participating.
And they're never gonna. I don't know how we got
onto this. We got onto this by talking about unemployment.
Trust me. Nobody's plotting. Nobody's in control
of the system....
HICKS: I've been reading Paul Krugman lately.
HOROWITZ: He's a big Johnny one-note. He's a leftist
who just can't stand tax cuts.
HICKS: Well I don't know if he's really a leftist,
he's more of a Keynesian.
HOROWITZ: Well you have to read, again....
HOROWITZ: What Hayek did for me, is you need a model
that's alternate to the one you have, the whole
idea of classes. Hayek, who was a Socialist himself,
he...[in the] Constitution of Liberty, the Fatal
Conceit, it's a whole different way of looking at
the world. One is based on the individual, most
things that go on are not ordered, he calls it the
spontaneous. order. It's why Socialism doesn't work
you can never plan an economy...the decisions that
go into anything, the information that goes into
HICKS: About prices, yeah I remember this now
HOROWITZ: Yes, prices, you know how Marxists we
always rail against the reification of the economy?
That's the beauty of the economy. The beauty is
that it's an impersonal set of rules. People are
naturally...they're greedy, they don't know when
to stop, you know that about yourself and about
everybody else. If you can get away with it you
will, it's just so human...and the economy is an
imposed order that nobody controls, the market,
it's just perfect, it's like the dotcomthing, people
are throwing money they can look and see I mean
fucking Amazon isn't making any money but it's worth,
50 billion or something. And they keep buying it
until the bubble bursts.