Free Markets, Free People
This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the moral case for capitalism and CPAC & the future of conservatism.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
I already mentioned that marriage, kids, and a mortgage are very strong indicators of conservatism. Here’s a straightforward causal explanation: when you’re invested in something, you don’t want it to be taken from you, and you’re skeptical of starry-eyed meddlers doing anything that might threaten it. Probably the best thing done for the cause against gun control was teaching others how to use and maintain a firearm: once people own one, it sharpens the mind to cut through any argument for taking it away.
But a gun is a small investment compared to a committed and intimate relationship, custody of children, and homeownership. A dollar taxed is one that you can’t spend on your family when they want something, a dollar borrowed is one that your kids will pay back, and that meddler on TV is rolling the dice with a major part of your life.
In the case of immigration, Hispanics are already primed to be conservative because they’re already invested. With gay marriage, you have a group trying awfully hard to get more invested.
The conservative argument for embracing gay marriage is that marriage seems to be a fine institution that benefits even people who can’t have children together, and that it may strengthen the institution and the country to expand the institution so that a nontrivial minority of the population is on the inside trying to protect it rather than on the outside where their exclusion leads to thorny political issues of respect and tribalism.
Another conservative argument is that if gay marriage is politically inevitable, conservatives should proactively move through legislation to ensure that it goes smoothly without infringing on other freedoms (like those of association and contract), rather than allow this to play out entirely in the courts or in a referendum. If conservatives keep trying to board the windows, more stuff is going to end up broken than if they just opened the door.
As with immigration and Hispanics, marriage may not be gays’ top priority, but it matters, and the way Republicans approach and discuss the issue can signal that “you’re not one of us,” which is poison for coalition-building.
The flip side of that coin doesn’t have to be pandering; given the consciousness of gay communities about targeted violence and bullying, it’d be awesome if conservatives taught more gays how to use and maintain firearms.
E. J. Dionne Jr has an op-ed out entitled, “In American politics, stupidty is the name of the game.”
After reading the piece, I am pretty convinced it should be re-titled “In American punditry, stupidity is the name of the game.” Dionne spends his 700 words demonstrating how true that title would be.
His premise is framed in a question: “Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?”
Probably not – but it isn’t just anyone’s internal politics which he’s questioning – it is an attack on the fiscally conservative. And, of course he deals with the left’s favorite subject when comes to government, budgets and spending:
Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister in Britain, is a leading example.
He recently offered a rather brutal budget that includes severe cutbacks. I have doubts about some of them, but at least Cameron cared enough about reducing his country’s deficit that alongside the cuts he also proposed an increase in the value-added tax, from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. Imagine: a fiscal conservative who really is a fiscal conservative.
So now, fiscal conservancy is defined as “cutting spending and raising taxes”? SInce when? If, for instance, you have a government which is huge, out of control and intruding areas that it shouldn’t be and costing us a bundle while it’s doing so, why is “raising taxes” a remedy?
Why couldn’t a conservative proffer a solution which would cut spending and the size of government alone? Why isn’t that ever an answer?
Well simply because the left doesn’t believe in smaller or less intrusive government and it has this class hatred thing going on for “the rich”.
It is their job – through government of course – to take what the rich have and redistribute it. Ask any of them. That’s because their basic ideological premise is that the money we all have really doesn’t belong to us – it’s a benefit we accrue for living in this fine land shaped and governed by enlightened leftists who know much better than those who have “earned” their money where and how it should be spent.
And, of course, that leads us to absolutely stupendous intellectual arguments like this:
The simple truth is that the wealthy in the United States — the people who have made almost all the income gains in recent years — are undertaxed compared with everyone else.
So there you go – the fact that “everyone else” is suffering under heavier taxation than those here doesn’t have the leftist shouting “ain’t freedom great". Instead he shouts “make ‘em pay more” because – and mother’s everywhere are wincing – the other guys make ‘em pay more.
Yeah, and the other guys live in countries which most here wouldn’t trade for this place. The fact that someone accusing a certain political element of “stupidity” has to resort to the “but others pay more” argument in an attempt to sell the premise is just freakin’ laughable.
The problem, sir, isn’t that the rich don’t pay enough. The problem is the government here (and elsewhere, if truth be told) spends more than it has – consistently, increasingly and without an end in sight.
What in the hell is wrong with Dionne that he attempts to run this class warfare swill at us? Does he honestly believe we’re that dumb? Is the stupidity he’s banking on that of his readers?
His is a preposterous premise followed by an absurdly simplistic ideological argument which seems to be designed to distract the reader from the real problem – runaway government spending.
Take next year’s budget for example as just announced by the Obama Administration – $1.4 trillion dollars, of which 41% is borrowed.
That’s not the fault of the rich, Mr. Dionne. And no matter how much you tax them it never will be.
The rich aren’t the freakin’ problem and hopefully even someone as dull witted as Dionne might eventually figure that out. But I doubt it.
I mean, read his op-ed and you quickly realize there’s little or no hope of that ever happening.
Also known as the “Mt. Vernon Statement” is a statement designed to reorient “conservatism”. I’m not sure it does that at all.
Anyway, the 5 “first principles” which should guide “Constitutional Conservatives” (ConCons?) and which are supposed to “inform” this agenda are:
* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
Through point 3, it’s indeed mostly a Constitutional approach I could support as a matter of policy.
However, point 4 is the NeoCon point and point 5 justifies the SocialCon agenda.
Since it isn’t politicians saying it, and despite my former criticism, I assume the writers are committed to them, meaning they’d obviously like to see politicians use point 1 through 3 as their basis for judging the merit of any legislation they may consider. What needs to be more closely defined is what “limited government” means. If that’s not done – and I think a Constitutional case can be made for what government should and shouldn’t do – then the term is relatively meaningless.
Point 4 also needs some further defining. I’m not sure I’m in agreement that as a matter of policy it is our job to “advance freedom” and “oppose tyranny” except here at home. That’s not an isolationist stance, it’s a non-interventionist stance. I recognize “prudently considers what can and should be done” is tacked on to the end of the sentence to provide options. And I’m sure by that they mean soft power as well as hard power, i.e. aid and diplomacy among a myriad of “soft power” options as well as the military option if necessary.
I’m one of those who believe that our job as a country is to defend itself against threats to its security. If, in the pursuit of that, we advance freedom or oppose tyranny via military power, then that’s a good thing. However as a policy objective in and of itself (i.e. our foreign policy is designed to “advance freedom and oppose tyranny”), I’d have to say, “no thanks”. Our foreign policy should be designed to protect this country and advance its peaceful interests (like trade, etc) and generally stay out of the business of other states in areas that don’t involve our national security or trade.
Point 5 is obviously designed to make the SocialCons happy – it’s wide ranging, nebulous and pretty much cancels point 1. In my world, individual liberty has a very specific meaning. Primarily it means I don’t impose my beliefs on others. Practicing your beliefs is the best defense in the world. It demonstrates their power. And, as long as they don’t violate another’s rights, you should be able to do that. Imposing them, however, is a form of “tyranny”, something point 4 says Conservatives are against. The desire – on both sides – to use the law to impose beliefs is not what the Constitution was designed to do. And since this is a manifesto about the “Constitutional Conservative”, I can only suppose that the intent of this rather broad statement is to announce an intent to use the document as a basis for such impositions of belief, via law (because that’s what the Constitution is) of their defense of “family, neighborhood, community, and faith.”
Points 4 and 5 mostly serve to underline “why I’m not a Conservative”. Had they stopped at point 3, I’d have happily endorsed their attempt to refocus “conservatives” (and Republicans). With the inclusion of 4 and 5, they again demonstrate they’ve learned nothing from the NeoCon debacle and on the SocialCon side are just as committed as the left to using the Constitution and the law as a means of imposing their beliefs on others.
Those last two points are simply not consistent with the first three – especially when citing the Constitution. And they certainly don’t reflect what the founders of this Republic intended when they wrote the Constitution. Politicians on the right who adopt all 5 points are asking for trouble. If indeed the intent is to have “Constitutional conservatisim” guide policy, 4 and 5 should be dropped.
Of course, doing so would make them mostly libertarian, wouldn’t it?