What really bothers the neocons about small-government Republicans is that they lack a “governing philosophy.” The neocons have long urged the Republicans to reinvent themselves by giving up their Jeffersonian principles and developing a new “philosophy of governance.” Ironically, though, the neocons’ conception of a “governing philosophy” is not one defined by fixed moral principles. Instead, it’s an intellectual technique defined by pragmatism. The neocons’ “philosophy of governance” is a philosophy for how to rule or govern. It’s all about “thinking politically,” which means developing strategies for getting, keeping, and using power in certain ways. The neocons therefore urge the GOP to become chameleon-like and to adapt themselves to changing circumstances.
The neocons’ pragmatic statesmanship is grounded in two basic assumptions: first, the identification of the “public interest” with some kind of golden mean and, second, the conceit that they—and only they—have the practical wisdom by which to know the golden mean. The neocons therefore believe it to be both necessary and possible for wise statesmen to find the golden mean between altruism and self-interest, duties and rights, regulation and competition, religion and science, socialism and capitalism.