In defense of classical liberalism 7

A Harvard University reader of this website, who goes by the pseudonym of Adam Smythe, sent us by email this well-informed reply to the Yoram Hazony article we posted yesterday. He explores the issues with admirable intellectual rigor:

The article is interesting, though rather confused – mainly because the categories that he is trying to describe are themselves confused. In turn, I found much of his article confusing, and my response will, doubtless, further confuse the issues in question. So confused at first was I by his article that I did not know whether I wholeheartedly agreed or abjectly opposed it.

First things first: von Mises strongly believed (too much, I would say) in the right of self-determination. The comment  he made about world government mentioned in the article was predicated upon all countries first adopting his brand of liberalism. He argued that the size of a state was an irrelevancy, and that if all states happily adopted liberalism, then a world government in line with the liberal program would be favorable.

That von Mises opposed hugely bureaucratic institutions, of the kind lauded by “globalists”, is even more clear. It is true that German and Austrian 19th century liberalism did generally argue for the widespread adoption of governmental bureaucracies full of well-educated administrators; one might conclude from this that Mises, an outspoken “liberal” himself, would be in favor of a world bureaucratic government. Nothing could be further from the truth — he wrote extensively against bureaucracies in, among other things, his scathing book Bureaucracy, and was the originator of the entire intellectual opposition to the idea of “educated” planning with his essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. In this respect he was opposed to his “liberal” colleagues.

The “liberal” infatuation with bureaucracies further confounds the author’s thesis that liberalism is fundamentally rationalist. Most liberals liked these bureaucracies because they could be empirically minded, and pragmatic, whereas laws originating from legislative bodies could not. Von Mises, however, generally opposed this position.

To argue that von Mises was in favor of big government, on the basis of the single comment mentioned by the author, and to further conclude that this is the backbone for the case for widespread “liberalizing” military intervention in contemporary American politics, is absurd. In particular, a man in favor of international government in general or forcible interventions by liberal states into the affairs of non-liberal ones, would not write as von Mises did in Man, State and Economy:

Liberalism knows no conquests, no annexations; just as it is indifferent towards the state itself, so the problem of the size of the state is unimportant to it. It forces no one against his will into the structure of the state. Whoever wants to emigrate is not held back. When a part of the people of the state wants to drop out of the union, liberalism does not hinder it from doing so. Colonies that want to become independent need only do so. The nation as an organic entity can be neither increased nor reduced by changes in states; the world as a whole can neither win nor lose from them.

In fact, I would say von Mises went too far in opposition to world government — he believed strongly (I believe too strongly) in the right of self-determination. Also from Man, State, and Economy):

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.

As for Hayek: it is true that Hayek broadly favored multinational trade federations, and a European trade federation in particular. He enunciated the conditions for such trade federations in an early essay from the 30’s.  Most of Hayek’s followers despised and despise the EU itself, however. (I cannot find Hayek’s point of view on the EU.) But Hayek outspokenly did not identify himself as a conservative. The AEI has an interesting piece on this: http://www.aei.org/publication/europes-hubris-and-nemesis/

In both cases, any discussion of world government was predicated upon the government being, in the first place, little more than a nightwatchman state. So it is wrong to read into them the kind  of technocratic “globalist” view so reviled by Trumpist or Bannonist conservatives.

The author is right insofar as he claims that von Mises and Hayek believed that liberalism and human liberty were universally good, and that all states ought to adopt liberal policies. He is wrong to suggest that these ideas lead to the conclusion that liberal states ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal ones. (Ayn Rand, however, did say that liberal states had the right — though not the obligation — to liberate illiberal states. But, she wrote, there were, in fact, no presently existing states – America included – that were “liberal” enough to have earned this right .)

The position that liberal states like America ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal states is quintessentially “neoconservative” — a philosophy which certianly borrowed some things from the liberal tradition, but, in this respect, not only parts company from its classical liberal forebears, but lies in opposition to them. In today’s world, for instance, most right-wing individuals who identify as “classical liberal” as opposed to “conservative” – Rand and Ron Paul, for example – do so in order to make it clear that they favor an isolationist foreign policy, in opposition to conservatives on this very issue.

If we are to conclude, as the author does, that America’s intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan are failures (even if we simultaneously acknowledge that postwar liberalizing of Japan, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Korea are successes), and we therefore conclude that the internationalist position on American hegemony is wrong, then we simply ought to conclude that internationalism has not worked, not that liberal ideals are wrong in general. 

You see, Mr. Hazony goes  further: not only is American military intervention as a general practice wrong, he says, but the very idea that the “virtues” of classical liberalism  — private property, free markets, and individualism — are universal, is wrong, too. This is chucking the baby out with the bathwater. The reason Iraq and Afghanistan failed is because they failed in the end to liberalize Iraq and Afghanistan, not because liberalization as an end is bad. 

The fact that some societies do not easily adopt liberal policies does not mean that liberal policies are not the right ones always to strive for. For what are the alternatives? Dictatorship, oppression, and serfdom. The problem with an interventionist foreign policy might be that, in an effort to liberalize certain nations under the rule of a dictator, say, we create a power vacuum that is filled by something even worse (think about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the toppling of Mubarak). For instance, I am the first to acknowledge that Pinochet was a superior leader of Chile to Allende, despite the fact that the latter was “liberally” elected. This is because I measure a government, always, on the scale of how liberal it is. And despite the despotic nature of Pinochet, society was governed far more liberally under him than under his deposed predecessor.

I do not at all take the (almost) relativist stance, which is advanced in the article, that we shouldn’t hold classical liberal ideals as universal. We absolutely should, even if we are pragmatic about when to urge (or force) other societies to adopt them. Our consideration should be the effectiveness of such policies, not whether the ends of liberalism are the right ones for that particular society. The answer to that question, I think, is always, “Yes. They are.” 

Now, in general, as far as I can tell, the author is somewhat bizarrely categorizing present-day ideological associations as follows (I’ve tried to offer a respective juxtaposition of each of the views):

Conservatism — Empiricism — Religion — Nationalism — International Pragmatism

(Classical) Liberalism — Rationalism — Secularism — Globalism — Interventionism.

Not just one, but every single one of these categories is disputable.

The least debatable is the association between classical liberalism and secularism versus conservatism and religion, which I think has been true historically. But there are plenty of religious classical liberals, and plenty (led by Jillian Becker) of atheist conservatives! 

However, assuming that classical liberalism is less empirical and more rationalist as a rule is wrong. True: Ayn Rand, von Mises, and, to a lesser extent, Hayek, were fairly “philosophical”, “a priori”, or “rationalist” in their reasoning. Milton Friedman, however, was not; he and the “Chicago School” considered themselves to be (and indeed were) very empirical. Meanwhile, many “pragmatic” liberals — Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, for instance, founded the liberal tradition (continued by Hayek) about societal evolution in metaphor with Darwin’s theory of species evolution. This is clearly not a viewpoint that considers values to be unchanging without reference to observed facts. I am also fairly sure that there is significant overlap between American “pragmatists” and American classical liberals of the nineteenth century. “Pragmatists” eschewed general principles on principle. Today, this is something far more associated with the political left than the political right — many on the right think of the left as deeply unprincipled, whereas they are guardians of the classical virtues; the left thinks of the right as doctrinaire, whereas it thinks of itself as pragmatic. 

Indeed, the left thinks (and to a certain extent they are right in this) that the universal “values” upheld by many on the right, stem from the right’s greater religiosity. But then for Hazony to suggest that religion is something founded more on empirical than a priori “rationalist” principles is bizarre. Indeed, religion should be eschewed on both rationalist and empirical grounds — God is an intrinsically incoherent concept, for which there has never been any shred of real-world evidence. And whereas I have seen many a fallacious rationalist justification for God, I have never seen an “empirical” one from any of the “serious” religious propagandists.

To suggest that liberalism, in its “rationalist” adherence to principle, neglects noneconomic forces, is curiously myopic. Hayek considers these institutions at great length – including family, religion, and moral precepts –  particularly in his later writings (see The Fatal Conceit, for example). And finally to suggest that somehow liberalism is associated with globalism and military interventionism, whereas conservatism is (or should be?) associated with nationalism and international pragmatism is, as I’ve described above, rather odd.

And then they cry 5

Acting on the inflammatory rhetoric of the Left, a comedian, Kathy Griffin,

suggested beheading the President of the United States in the manner favored by ISIS.

When she was criticized for her idea, she cried.

Yesterday (June 14, 2017) the Republican Representative Steve Scalise was shot by a far left Bernie Sanders supporter at a congressional baseball practice on the baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time of this writing, Mr. Scalise is said to be in critical condition. Four others were also wounded. Two were Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey before they shot the gunman dead. (“Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre,” a witness – Senator Rand Paul – said.) The other two were Matt Mika, a lobbyist, and Zack Barth, a staffer for Republican Representative Roger Williams.

There is obviously no dialogue possible between Left and Right in America now (or anywhere else in the world). So the battle has to be fought in other ways.

Victor Davis Hanson writes at Townhall:

The two Americas watch different news. They read very different books, listen to different music and watch different television shows. Increasingly, they now live lives according to two widely different traditions.

The Left is inconsolably bitter over losing the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and most of the states. Having no arguments, no case to make, but being moved by intense childish emotion, Leftists strike out with fists, clubs, guns.

John Hawkins lists 20 quotations from the Left that urged the use of extreme violence. the beating, raping, torturing, and murdering of conservatives, Republicans, and Donald Trump. An accumulation of such declarations (there have been a great many) is more than likely to eventuate in attempts at murder.

You have plays, rap videos and prominent liberals glorifying the murder of the President …  while cops at left-wing universities stand back and allow violent students to riot, threaten and disrupt conservative speakers. 

1) “Michele (Bachmann), slit your wrist. Go ahead… or, do us all a better thing [sic]. Move that knife up about two feet. Start right at the collarbone.” – Montel Williams

The inciters become incoherent with rage. They choke on their fury. Their repetitious cussing is a sign that they have no reasonable case to make.

2) “F*ck that dude. I’ll smack that f*cker’s comb-over right off his f*cking scalp. Like, for real, if I met Donald Trump, I’d punch him in his f*cking face. And that’s not a joke. Even if he did become president — watch out, Donald Trump, because I will punch you in your f*cking face if I ever meet you. Secret Service had better just f*cking be on it. Don’t let me anywhere within a block.”– Rapper Everlast on Donald Trump

3) “I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow … I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.” — Bill Maher

4) “I know how the ‘tea party’ people feel, the anger, venom and bile that many of them showed during the recent House vote on health-care reform. I know because I want to spit on them, take one of their “Obama Plan White Slavery” signs and knock every racist and homophobic tooth out of their Cro-Magnon heads.” — The Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy

The Tea Party! If those peaceful polite mainly middle-aged people who got together to ask for fiscal responsibility, and who meticulously cleared up every scrap of debris on the ground after they held a public meeting, were  full of anger, venom and bile, they certainly never showed it. But no doubt the lying left-biased media reported that they were.

5) “F*** God D*mned Joe the God D*mned Motherf*cking plumber! I want Motherf*cking Joe the plumber dead.” — Liberal talk show host Charles Karel Bouley on the air.

It was to “Joe the Plumber” that Obama explained how he wanted to redistribute the wealth of the country. His administration, he planned, would take money forcibly from those who had earned it and give it to those who had not. “Joe the Plumber”, like a lot of other Joes, did not like the idea. So, says the Left, kill him.

6) “Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Well, we’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don’t have an intifada in this country? Because it seem[s] to me, that we are comfortable in where we are, watching CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, and all these mainstream… giving us a window to the world while the world is being managed from Washington, from New York, from every other place in here in San Francisco: Chevron, Bechtel, [Carlyle?] Group, Halliburton; every one of those lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving individuals are in our country and we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every – They’re gonna say some Palestinian being too radical — well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet.” U.C. Berkeley Lecturer Hatem Bazian fires up the crowd at an anti-war rally by calling for an American intifada

That was clear and plain incitement to terrorist action on a massive scale.

7) “That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida. Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he’s running for governor of Florida. He’s a millionaire and a billionaire. He’s no hero. He’s a damn crook. It’s just we don’t prosecute big crooks.” — Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa

8) “..And then there’s Rumsfeld who said of Iraq ‘We have our good days and our bad days.’ We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say ‘This is one of our bad days’ and pull the trigger. Do you want to salvage our country? Be a savior of our country? Then vote for John Kerry and get rid of the whole Bush Bunch.” — From a fund raising ad put out by the St. Petersburg Democratic Club

9) “Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don’t give a hoot about human beings, either can’t or won’t. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.” — The Village Voice’s Michael Feingold, in a theater review of all places.

10) “But the victim is also inaccurately being eulogized as a kind and loving religious man. Make no mistake, as disgusting and deservedly dead as the hate-filled fanatical Muslim killers were, Thalasinos was also a hate-filled bigot. Death can’t change that. But in the U.S., we don’t die for speaking our minds. Or we’re not supposed to anyway. Thalasinos was an anti-government, anti-Islam, pro-NRA, rabidly anti-Planned Parenthood kinda guy, who posted that it would be “Freaking Awesome” if hateful Ann Coulter was named head of Homeland Security.” — Linda Stasi, New York Daily News,on a victim murdered in the San Bernadino terrorist attack

11) “Cheney deserves same final end he gave Saddam. Hope there are cell cams.” — Rep. Chuck Kruger (D-Thomaston)

12) “If I had my way, I would see Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell strapped down to electric chairs and lit up like Christmas trees. The better to light the way for American Democracy and American Freedom!” — Democratic Talk Radio’s Stephen Crockett

13) “May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.” — Allan Brauer, the communications chair of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County to Ted Cruz staffer Amanda Carpenter.

Can anyone get lower than that? Yup. For Leftists there is no bottom.

14) “Violence solves nothing. I want a rhino to f*ck @SpeakerRyan to death with its horn because it’s FUNNY, not because he’s a #GOPmurderbro.” – Jos Whedon

15) “I hope Roger Ailes dies slow, painful, and soon. The evil that man has done to the American tapestry is unprecedented for an individual.” — Think Progress editor Alan Pyke

16) “But, you know, the NRA members are the current incarnation of the brownshirts from Germany back in the early ’30s, late ’20s, early ’30s. Now, of course, there came the Night of the Long Knives when the brownshirts were slaughtered and dumped in the nearest ditches when the power structure finally got tired of them. So I look forward to that day.” — Mike Malloy

“Antifa” is a Leftist brownshirt organization, fascist if ever any organization deserved to be called fascist. It claims to be “fighting fascism”. They and other Leftist rioters who are attacking people at pro-Trump rallies (and the populist equivalents in Europe) are doing exactly what the fascist mobs, both Nazi and Communist, did in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. It is a joke – a very ugly one –  that they are doing their brutal violent murderous work against peaceful crowds in the name of “anti-fascism”.

17) “Or pick up a baseball bat and take out every f*cking republican and independent I see. #f*cktrump, #f*cktheGOP, #f*ckstraightwhiteamerica, #f*ckyourprivilege.” – Orange is the New Black star Lea DeLaria

18) “I wish they (Republicans) were all f*cking dead!” — Dan Savage

19) “Sarah Palin needs to have her hair shaved off to a buzz cut, get headf*cked by a big veiny, ashy, black d*ck then be locked in a cupboard.” — Azealia Banks advocates raping Sarah Palin over a fake news story.

They claim to have”imagination” while, they say, the Right does not. So there we see what it is they imagine: Jos Whedon’s hilarious dream of the rhino raping and killing Paul Ryan, and Azealia Banks’s wish for Sarah Palin. Behold the Vision!

20)” Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything.” – Madonna

How many others, like yesterday’s would-be killer, take such outbursts to be declarations of war? There are surely more violent attacks to come.

The Left has become a terrorist organization.

The GOP – thwarted and vengeful? 14

The Republican establishment is appalled at the prospect of their nominee being Donald Trump.

What might they do about it?

Kevin Rex Heine writes (in part only – so please follow the link and read the whole thing) at RIGHTMI.com

To say that the 2016 Republican Presidential Campaign has become interesting since June of last year is a bit of an understatement, to say the least. An out-of-the-blue “chaos injection” on June 16th (that FOX News polling saw coming as early as March 31st, but no one else picked up on until late May) became the nationally-recognized front runner not five weeks later, completely leapfrogging the “heir apparent” (who promptly went into a freefall, and has now exited the campaign). Because of this chaos injection, one candidate, who was until that point considered to be irrelevant, leapfrogged to become the national runner-up about five and a half weeks later (and was the national front-runner for three days in November), and two young guns are now openly tussling for second place nationally, neither of whom were supposed to have a realistic chance to begin with.

As should have been expected, the thorough derailing of the coronation train for the republican heir apparent makes the professional political establishment very unhappy, and, of course, they’re hell-bent on doing something about that. But the reason that all of their scrambling is increasingly ineffective is that they don’t seem to really understand the causa provocare of the outsider’s challenge, perhaps because they really don’t understand the degree to which the typical voter is disgusted with the political status quo in America, or why. Thus, predictably, the flailing increasingly exposes them for who they are and what they intend, which conversely makes the outsider’s job that much easier. …

Beginning with congressional leadership action in late 2013, carrying through the 2014 national and state party decisions to modify the primary calendar and delegate allocation and binding rubrics, and concluding with the state legislative actions in early 2015 to set the 2016 primary calendar into law, the roadmap was set to secure the nomination for one John Ellis Bush, and accomplish it knowing that their hand-picked candidate would only rarely poll outside the 15% to 20% range of popular support until after the “game day” primary on March 15th (Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio). Anticipating viable “outsider” challenges from Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and even Rick Perry (Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum being considered either irrelevant or improbable, and Donald Trump completely unanticipated), the split-and-fracture strategy was implemented, and augmented by compromising from within the four anticipated challengers (a sabotage job that only Cruz seems to have recovered from).

Thus, with every single intel tripwire triggering in the exact order and construct needed to validate the hypothesis, the 2016 presidential cycle was looking to be a colossal exercise in futility for the grassroots activists and main street voters, as the coronation trains to Cleveland (republican) and Philadelphia (democrat) were designed to produce a very specific general election match-up (Bush vs. Clinton), which would be a win for the professional political establishment and deep pocket financiers regardless of the November outcome. And then . . .

… The one and only reason that Cruz has no path to nomination, absent Trump, is because the RNC/GOPe “roadmap to Cleveland” was specifically and explicitly designed to prevent Cruz (along with Perry, Walker, Paul, and Carson) from ever securing enough delegates to become the nominee, or enough delegation majorities to force a floor fight over the nomination. The roadmap was designed to produce exactly one predetermined result (with a backup option in the event that ¡Yeb! failed to gain traction), and lock it down on the first ballot in Cleveland. The one and only reason that both Cruz and Carson are still in the mix is that, eight months ago, Trump came in and proceeded to singlehandedly shred the establishment roadmap, and systematically demolish two years of meticulous backroom planning.

Accepting these truths also means accepting the reality that Cruz has exactly two options if he wants any post-convention relevance: (a) Do whatever is necessary to mend fences with both Carson and Trump, and position himself to provide constitutionally-sound policy advice to Trump post-convention, and perhaps even post-election. (b) Broker some behind-the-scenes deal with Rubio, and position himself to become Rubio’s running mate (or Rubio to become his), on the assumption that a combined Rubio-Kasich-Cruz effort can force a contested convention. …

Given that Donald Trump had floated the idea of campaigning for POTUS before (1988, 2004, and 2012), as well as for Governor of New York (2006 and 2014), one could forgive the professional political establishment, deep pocket financiers, and corporate media talking heads for not taking the guy seriously on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015, when he launched his exploratory committee for the republican POTUS nomination. But in the thirteen weeks between then and the Tuesday, June 16th, formal announcement of his candidacy (“I am officially running for president of the United States.”), Trump did things that he wouldn’t do if this were a mere publicity stunt – stock divestitures, disconnecting conflicts of interest, and escrowing certain real estate sources of income. Yeah, he’s serious about this, and because he isn’t owned by either Wall Street, or K Street, or the RNC/GOPe party apparatus, by the time that the professional political establishment, deep pocket financiers, and corporate media talking heads actually figured out that “The Donald” was, in fact, quite serious about his stated intentions . . .

The timing of Trump’s entry into the campaign was, I believe, intended to take advantage of the entire RNC/GOPe 2016 primary construct, once it was locked into place, in a way that allows him to use the rules changes against the very people those changes were designed to benefit, effectively hoisting them on their own petard. Should Trump secure a majority of the convention voting delegates (Rule # 40(d)), and a majority of the delegations of at least eight states severally (Rule # 40(b)), then, according to Rule # 16(a), which binds delegates to the outcome of their statewide (or district-specific) popular vote on at least the first ballot at convention, one Donald John Trump, Senior, becomes the nominee of the Party of Reagan. Game, set, and match to Trump, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it . . . on paper.

Trump was also savvy enough to know what he was walking into … brilliantly [exposing the weakness of] the road map during a presser last August (full video here). Yet, since his entry, he has spoken the truth both to the powerful and the common on trade reform, immigration reform, foreign policy failures, tax reform, and veterans’ issues (among many others). In doing so, he has forced the other candidates, on both sides of the aisle, to respond by engaging in serious discussions on those very same issues. He also had the stones to go after George W. Bush regarding 9/11 and Iraq, which is supposed to be sacred ground to “republicans” … And that wall on our southern border? Notice that neither Felipe Calderon nor Vincente Fox are questioning whether the wall should be built, but only that Mexico will not be paying for it (a distinction that the press is somehow overlooking). Yet, there’s something that neither of them wants us to know about, which likely provides a means (in addition to renegotiating trade agreements and impounding the foreign aid) to raise enough money – at Mexico’s expense – to pay for the wall. …

But –

Just because the game may soon be all but over on paper doesn’t mean that the powers that be are going to quit, no siree! The uni-party globalists are aware that a Trump win ultimately means that their hands will be forcibly pried from the public trough, and they don’t care for reversing the decline of America that not only they, but also their philosophical ancestors, have been engineering for a shade over a century. The prospect of a nominee, and in all likelihood a president, who isn’t owned by them (therefore doesn’t answer to them), has detailed insider knowledge of what needs to be done to restore America to greatness (plus openly “America first” in his thinking), and is well aware of what they’re up to, has them quite concerned. And those of us who’re paying attention are seeing the indicators that they’re preparing to reach deep into their bag of dirty tricks.

Students of history may recall the “Republican Disunity” 1964 campaign ad run by Lyndon Johnson, which focused on public remarks from republican governors Nelson Rockefeller (New York), William Scranton (Pennsylvania), and George Romney (Michigan), said remarks calling the credibility of republican senator and presidential nominee Barry Goldwater (Arizona) into question, and saying in effect that Goldwater’s nomination and election would essentially end the Republican Party. This was the ad that ultimately gestated the principle now known as Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment.

(Which was, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”)

More recently, in the 2014 U. S. Senate primary runoff in Mississippi, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled out all the stops to defend one of the establishment’s own (Thad Cochran) against an insurgency challenger (Chris McDaniel). Recall that McDaniel won the initial matchup on June 3rd, but because he finished 1,719 votes short of an outright majority, a runoff election took place three weeks later. During those three weeks, racist attack ads, paid for by prominent republican senators and Karl Rove’s super PAC motivated black democrats to show up and boost Cochran to a 7,667-vote runoff win. (Apparently, a little vote buying didn’t seem to hurt, either.)

Now, while you’re thinking about Goldwater and McDaniel, allow me to also remind you of Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller, and Ken Cuccinelli, each of whom upset an entrenched establishment insider in their primaries, and each of whom was subsequently and openly betrayed by the Republican Party in the general campaign. These five names should suffice to remind you that the RNC/GOPe will not hesitate to burn down their own house, as long as they retain their seat at the public trough. And yes, that means that the professional power brokers and deep pocket financiers will have no problem with a Hillary win this year, because they will still have the access that they crave, and the damage to liberty and the republic be damned.

The signals were already being sent late last year, that the professional political establishment was preparing to lay the groundwork for one of two options, either (a) force a contested convention, so as to block Trump’s nomination on the convention floor and insert a more suitable option, or (b) field an independent general election candidate – à la George Wallace – who can potentially pull enough states to force an Amendment XII Electoral College deadlock, and throw the election to the House of Representatives. Option A requires the candidates already in the field to be able to, individually or collectively, hold Trump below the 1,237 delegates needed for nomination majority; option B requires someone acceptable to the RNC/GOPe, who could credibly conduct an independent campaign against both Trump and Clinton.

Do you think it a coincidence that now – after convincing wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada (and a credible second-place finish in Iowa) – that the attacks on Trump start to ratchet up in volume, intensity, and viciousness, attack ads that will be using paid acting talent in an attempt to force Trump to respond, and take him off his message? Do you think it ironic that the Isolate-Ridicule-Marginalize strategy includes last cycle’s news, who has been conspicuous by his heretofore silence, suddenly weighing in to state his absolute certainty that there must be some sort of bombshell hiding in Trump’s tax returns? Do you find it curious that there is now intel that the deep pocket financiers have already developed a contingency plan in the event that neither Rubio nor Kasich have gained any traction by March 15th? Does it surprise you at all that the person currently envisioned as the savior of the RNC/GOPe professional political establishment [Mitt Romney], is not in the current field of candidates?

And you can bet that Donald Trump is well aware of what the power brokers and financiers are up to, as he made subtly clear at a Mississippi rally roughly two months ago. Even better, we now have the probability that a certain former chairman of the Republican Governors Association [Chris Christie], previously thought to be a part of the plan to grease the skids for a JEB nomination, may in fact have been a Trump mole the entire time. That hypothesis, if true, would explain much.

If this analysis is right, Donald Trump, far from being the oafish clown so many are making him out to be, is extraordinarily smart, highly politically astute .

Thus far, he has outfoxed them all.

 

(Hat-tip for the Heine article to Sonya Kantor)

Guarding the gates 0

In this video published December 11, 2015, Ezra Levant, the highly reasonable Canadian who calls himself a “rebel”, argues that Donald Trump’s ideas about stopping Muslim immigration into America are not shocking, not “unhinged”, but perfectly sensible.

In case you need a “trigger warning”, there is one annoying section starting at 8.26 minutes and ending at 9.01 minutes, in which Obama talks bilge about climate change.

The narrow horizon of Libertarians 45

We consider ourselves libertarians with a small “l”: atheist libertarian conservatives.

We are not, however, to be counted among Libertarians because we part company with them on a number of issues that have arisen in our experience.

Some libertarian organizations are historical revisionists – in particular, Holocaust revisionists. One group told us they do not believe the Holocaust ever happened, or if it did, “the numbers of those killed could not have been anywhere near as large as is alleged”. This is not just ignorant, it must be maliciously intended too.

Libertarians have maintained that it’s okay to use children for pornography “if you pay them”. This is so vile, we can only hope most Libertarians do not agree with it.

Libertarians keep themselves under-informed about foreign affairs, and are absurdly pacifist. In America many are isolationist. We believe the US needs to be very strongly defended, and that defense sometimes requires a pre-emptive strike. We also believe in the Pax Americana, which means at present that this single super-power has a duty to protect the non-Islamic world from the forces of savage Islam – with arms if necessary.

Now a well-known Libertarian, a candidate for the presidency, is making a case for isolationism by falsely accusing the Republican Party – of which he is a member – of creating the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL).

We quote from an AP report. (Find it all at the New York Post here.)

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.

The freshman senator from Kentucky said Wednesday that the GOP’s foreign policy hawks “created these people”. …

“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately,” Paul said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

He continued:

“They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved – they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it.”

Paul favors less military intervention abroad, wants a dramatic reduction in U.S. money to foreign governments and stands in opposition to the Patriot Act and the US policy behind drone strikes. It all makes him something of an outlier on foreign policy and national security in the GOP field. …

We agree with him that there should be a reduction in money to foreign governments: a reduction to zero. But that is an issue on which he has changed his mind (or says he has):  

Sensitive to being branded an isolationist in the race, he has scaled back some of his positions, no longer calling for deep cuts in the Pentagon budget, for example, and no longer proposing the elimination of foreign aid, including to Israel. …

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Illinois and a possible rival of Rand Paul as a presidential candidate, “described Paul’s comments as ‘a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be commander in chief'”:

“We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position,” Jindal said. “We should all be clear that evil and radical Islam are at fault for the rise of ISIS, and people like President Obama and Hillary Clinton exacerbate it.”

We don’t think of “evil” as a force separate from human will, but we do agree of course that Islam is the cause of the rise of ISIS, and that Obama and Hillary Clinton have helped it rise.

In his interview earlier, Paul described Iraq as “a failed state”

Which it is …

 … and criticized Republicans who condemn his foreign policy as weak.

Which it is.

In the race for the White House: the insipid versus the unscrupulous? 6

The Tea Party is pleased with the results of a Drudge poll that favors Scott Walker to be the Republican Party presidential candidate:

With all the caveats about this being a non-scientific online poll, it has to mean something that Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is murdering every other GOP contender by massive margins among those Drudge readers motivated enough to vote. Although voting continues, as of this writing nearly 70,000 total votes have been cast. Walker captured a whopping 45% of them, 31,211 votes. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in second place with 15%, 10,054  votes. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is in third with 13%, 9297 votes.

Dr. Ben Carson came 4th with 8%. “Establishment favorites Jeb Bush and Chris Christie sit at 5% and 2%, respectively.”

But Jonah Goldberg thinks that Scott Walker is not so much wanted for what he is as for what he isn’t. In other words, he’s the candidate nobody objects to.

He writes at Townhall:

Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor in America, not because it is the best … but because it is the least objectionable. Put another way, vanilla is the most acceptable to the most people; it’s not many people’s favorite, but nobody hates it.

And that’s why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the vanilla candidate.

A new Des Moines Register poll has Walker in first place – narrowly – among likely Republican caucus-goers. With Mitt Romney included in the poll [but since dropped out of the competition], Walker was the respondents’ first choice with 15 percentage points. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was second with 14 percentage points and Romney third with 13. With Romney out, Walker rose to 16 percentage points and Paul to 15. First place in a tightly packed field is better than any of the alternatives, but it’s not that big a deal this far out.

The big deal is the vanilla factor (which sounds like a terribly boring spy novel). According to the Register story that accompanied the poll, 51 percent of caucus-goers want an “anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking”. Meanwhile, 43 percent prefer a more establishment figure “with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas”.

Walker is in the golden spot. He can, like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day listening to Andie MacDowell explain the perfect man, reply “that’s me” to almost everything Republicans say they want. Executive experience? Challenge conventional thinking? Anti-establishment fighter? “Me, me, me.”

Respondents looking for an establishment candidate said Romney was their first choice. Those preferring an outsider said Paul was their first choice. But both groups said their second choice was a big scoop of Walker.

Of course, this can all change. No matter how palatable it is, people can still grow weary of vanilla, and Walker may melt under the pressure. …

Walker won three  elections in four years, “in liberal Wisconsin!”, so Jonah Goldberg thinks it unlikely that he’ll “melt”.

Our question is: What are the chances that a “vanilla candidate”will  succeed against an unscrupulous candidate with all the ill winds of the Left behind her leathery wings, like Whatshername?

It seems John Bolton is considering entering the race. Now there’s a man we could support. If not President, he’d make a great Secretary of State; he understands foreign affairs and America’s role in the world better than anyone else within the circle of the political horizon.

We also like Ted Cruz, a political heavyweight. We agree with much that we’ve heard him say about most issues – barring religion, of course.

We know that some of our readers disagree with us about Ted Cruz.

We hope our readers will tell us whom they favor at this point, and why.

The elephant in ass’s clothing 4

Rule by the Democratic Party is nasty, and where can voters look for relief but to the Republicans?

Because the desperation was strong, too much hope was placed in the Republicans.

Now the disappointment begins. They are starting – so soon! – to copy the Democrats.

And already – of course – the Democrats are gloating.

Catherine Rampell writes in the Washington Post:

Republicans have taken the Senate and expanded their fiefdom in the House, but the Democrats seem to have won the intellectual narrative nonetheless. The GOP, inexplicably, is having its Thomas Piketty moment.

Seriously, guys: Republicans have suddenly started caring about inequality. …

When Republicans have taken note of our country’s income and wealth gaps, the sentiment has usually been dismissive and disdainful, full of accusations of class warfare waged by resentful, lazy people unwilling to hoist themselves up by their bootstraps.

Then, in just the past week, many of the likely 2016 Republican presidential contenders began airing concerns about the poor and condemning the outsize fortunes of the wealthy.

On Fox News after the State of the Union speech, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) denigrated the administration’s economic track record by doing his best Bernie Sanders impression.

“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,” he said, quoting an oft-cited (by liberals) statistic from the work of economists Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

Likewise, here’s Mitt Romney, in a speech last week: “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Sound-bite highlights from his past presidential campaign, you may recall, included a reference to the “47 percent” who don’t pay federal income taxes and a conclusion that “my job is not to worry about those people”.

Apparently his job description has changed.

Jeb Bush, too, has newfound interest in the lower income groups and deep inequity flourishing in our nation. His State of the Union reaction: “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.” Sen. Rand Paul, as well: “Income inequality has worsened under this administration. And tonight, President Obama offers more of the same policies — policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer.”

Someone up the GOP food chain seems to have decided that inequality and poor people now belong in everyone’s talking points, class warfare be damned. But why?

The rest of the article is not worth quoting. Rampell’s answers to her “why?” are unconvincing (you can judge them for yourself here).

What matters is that the Republican Party may not after all be the lesser of two evils. It may simply be the same evil under a different name.

In an open society, the rich are not rich because the poor are poor.

The poor are not poor because the rich are rich.

When Republican politicians encourage that misapprehension, they are encouraging the politics of envy.

As Thomas Sowell says (see our post Listen to Sowell, January 21, 2015), most people are poor when they are young and rich when they are older.

The main cause, in America, of poor people staying poor is that government keeps them so, by keeping them dependent on government.

The best cure for poverty is freedom from government “help”.

The more government “helps” the poor, the more poor people there will be, and the longer they will be trapped in poverty.

We had assumed that Republicans like conservative Ted Cruz and libertarian Rand Paul knew this. Seems we were wrong.

What do bleeding-hearted politicians think the rich do with their money? Keep it in boxes?

No. They invest it, generally in ways that do far more good for the economy than if they give heaps of it to government in taxes. Government uses tax money to pay a vast army of administrators to distribute some it to those they keep on hand-outs. Government wastes money. And higher taxes never did, never can, and never will cure poverty.

It cannot matter how unequal people are in wealth as long as everyone has enough to satisfy their wants. If they don’t have enough, they can do better for themselves in a market economy. Only if they are left free to work for themselves in an uncontrolled economy. Unless they are socialist tyrants, enriching themselves at the people’s expense. 

Poverty is a problem. Wealth is not.

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

A more libertarian Republican Party? 2

This report, by Ross Tilchin, comes from the left-leaning Brookings Institution. It is titled On the libertarian challenge within the GOP.

Would a stronger appeal to libertarian values help the Republican Party win elections? This was one of the central questions raised during a discussion of the Public Religion Research Institute’s (PRRI’s) American Values Survey, “In Search of Libertarians in America,” launched at the Brookings Institution on October 29th, 2013.

Libertarianism has become a major part of the political conversation in the United States, thanks in large part to the high profile presidential candidacy of Ron Paul, the visibility of his son Rand in the United States Senate, and Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s well-known admiration of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. And the tenets of libertarianism square with the attitudes of an American public dissatisfied with government performance, apprehensive about government’s intrusiveness into private life, and disillusioned with U.S. involvement overseas. Libertarianism is also distinct from the social conservatism that has handicapped the Republican Party in many recent elections among women and young people.

Within this context, libertarians seem likely to exercise greater sway on the Republican Party than at any other point in the recent past. But a closer look at public attitudes points to many factors that will limit the ability of libertarians to command greater influence within the GOP caucus.

First, according to the PRRI poll, libertarians represent only 12% of the Republican Party. This number is consistent with the findings of other studies by the Pew Research Center and the American National Election Study. This libertarian constituency is dwarfed by other key Republican groups, including white evangelicals (37%) and those who identify with the Tea Party (20%). Tea Party members are much more likely to identify with the religious right than they are with libertarianism. More than half of Tea Partiers (52%) say they are a part of the religious right or the conservative Christian movement, and more than one-third (35%) specifically identify as white evangelical Protestants. In contrast, only 26% of Tea Partiers were classified as libertarians on PRRI’s Libertarian Orientation Scale.

While these groups are similarly conservative on economic matters (indeed, libertarians are further to the right than white evangelicals or Tea Partiers on some economic issues, such as raising the minimum wage), they are extremely divided by their views on religion.

Only 53% of libertarians describe religion as the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives.

Only? We’re surprised there are so many. More than half!

By comparison, 77% of Tea Party members say that religion is either the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives, and – not surprisingly – 94% of white evangelicals say that religion is either the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives. A full 44% of libertarians say that religion is not important in their lives or that religion is not as important as other things in their lives. Only 11% of Tea Party members and 1% of white evangelicals say that religion is not important in their lives.

There are evangelicals who say that? Evangelicals in name only, then? EINOs.

Additionally, libertarians are among the most likely to agree that religion causes more problems in society than it solves (37% total: 17% completely agreeing, 20% mostly agreeing); the least likely to agree that it is important for children to be brought up in a religion so they can learn good values (35% total: 13% completely disagree, 22% disagree); and the least likely to think it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values (63% total: 30% completely disagree, 33% mostly disagree).

About a third of the surveyed libertarians find it necessary to believe in a heavenly Lord? Astonishing.

These stark differences in attitudes toward religion help explain the large difference in view between libertarians and other conservatives on social issues such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and marijuana legalization. Given their positions on these contentious social matters, it is very difficult to envision Libertarians gaining the support of socially conservative voters in the Republican Party.

Libertarians’ influence on the Republican Party is also limited by geography. Libertarians are broadly dispersed across the country – and even where they are most regionally concentrated, they are outnumbered by Tea Partiers and White Evangelicals. …

Of the 10 states that Sorens identifies as having the most libertarians, only New Hampshire, Nevada, and Georgia had spreads of 8 points or less in the 2012 presidential election. The other seven were either solidly red (Montana, Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Wyoming, and Utah) or solidly blue (Washington and Oregon).

As such, there seems little impetus for any ideological change of course in these states—not to mention the South writ large, the region with the greatest level of libertarian support — since they are already so stoutly Republican. Perhaps in individual districts with a particular libertarian bent, libertarian candidates could have some electoral success. But any candidate running as a libertarian would, by the nature of libertarianism, have to emphasize their laissez-faire values on social issues. If running for higher office, this would surely alienate more socially conservative voters, so strongly represented in the Republican Party in these areas.

The business establishment of the Republican Party would seem a natural libertarian ally, given its moderate views on social issues, opposition to government regulation, and natural sympathy for classical economics. But this view is contested by Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. At the recent Brookings discussion, Olsen argued that the business community consists of “people who are generally but not intensely opposed to government expansion, people who are generally but not intensely supportive of personal social liberties, people who are generally but not intensely suspicious of intervention abroad. That is the center of the Republican Party, not the libertarian alliance.” The very intensity of the libertarian movement is, as Olsen observed, “a bit off-putting to the person in the middle.” …

Though the states with the most libertarians are primarily rural, libertarians are also wealthier than average, better educated than average, and young (indeed, 62% of libertarians are under the age of 50) — three demographic sets that tend to live in densely populated areas. Heavily populated areas are overwhelmingly Democratic. It is not clear how many of voters in these areas would support a more libertarian Republican [candidate]. Regardless, it is even less likely that libertarianism would tilt the balance in urban counties towards the GOP’s way. …

For a variety of reasons, the burden falls on libertarians to demonstrate how they will change these dynamics. While there may be real appeal for some for Republicans to embrace a more libertarian approach, the undercurrents of the party do not paint an encouraging picture for this as a successful electoral strategy. …

The cornerstone of libertarianism — a fervent belief in the pre-eminence of personal liberty — leads libertarians to hold views on social issues that fall far outside of the mainstream of large portions of the Republican Party. In addition, libertarians’ greatest concentrations in numbers tend to fall either in small, sparsely populated states with less national political power, or among younger individuals who live predominantly in densely populated, Democratic areas. This culminates in an environment where political and demographic forces across the United States and within the Republican Party itself severely limit the power and growth of libertarians as a force within the GOP.

Scott Shackford, writing at Reason, comments on the report:

I take slight issue with the analysis, though perhaps not the conclusion. What’s left out is the very libertarian idea that just because libertarians don’t see religion as an important component to their own lives, that doesn’t mean we would object to others who decide otherwise. And believing that “religion causes more problems in society than it solves” should not be taken to mean that a libertarian believes the government should implement policies in a pursuit to “fix” these problems.

Obviously there is disagreement, but it’s not actually, literally about faith. The disagreement is about the extent of and justifications for the use of government force. To say that religious beliefs should not be used to determine whether it should be legal to get an abortion or get married is not to say that people shouldn’t use religion to make these decisions for themselves in their own lives.

Given the libertarian rejection of government coercion, who else is better suited to even approach these issues with social conservatives? Who outside of libertarians is arguing in favor of same-sex marriages getting the same legal recognition as heterosexual marriages, while at the same time arguing that no church should be obligated to recognize them, nor should any business be dragooned into providing goods and services for them?

Rather than seeing libertarians in opposition to social conservatives, it’s more helpful to see libertarians as allies in protecting the civil liberties of the religious even as they lose cultural influence. Libertarians may not be able to “take over” the Republican Party (not that they should stop trying), but the party itself may be in deep trouble if these factions cannot find points of agreement.

One point that emerges from the data and the discussion as a whole is that the issue of personal liberty is assumed to be of no concern at all to the Democratic Party.

If the Republican Party – for all its faults – is so clearly the party of liberty, then all the straining by these earnest scholars of the Left to prove it is mostly the party of religious nuts and southern fuddy-duddies, is wasted effort. Those who want to be free need to vote Republican. Those who want Big Brother (or Daddy or Nanny) Government to run their lives, and keep them dependent on the whims of bureaucrats and collectivist ideologues, will vote Democratic.

If only the Republican Party could learn how to get voters to understand that that is the choice.

The conservation of liberty 2

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday, March 14, 2012, two potential leaders of the Republican Party described their visions of the Party’s future. (Videos of their speeches in full here.)

We quote from a report /opinion column in Time magazine:

The back-to-back pairing of Rubio and Rand was seen as the most significant matchup of the annual conference, pitting two likely 2016 Republican contenders before the party’s conservative base. The result pointed to the growing schism in the Republican Party between resurgent libertarians and more traditional Republicans.

The two men – Paul age 50, Rubio just 41 – laid out divergent visions of an inclusive Republican Party. Rubio called for a focus on economic opportunity and a muscular role overseas. Paul called for a reduction in the size of the U.S. government … [and for] the Republican Party to shift away from neoconservative foreign policy.

Actually, Paul did not “call for the Republican Party to shift away from neoconservative policy”. At least, not on this occasion. “Neoconservative foreign policy” means “the US acting in the world at large, including militarily”. The phrase also implies criticism of President Bush’s foreign policy which some libertarians and the Left believe was unduly influenced by “neoconservatives”. Time’s use of the word may convey, as some libertarians have intended it to convey, a flicker of antisemitism (though Rand Paul would almost certainly deny that he ever intends any such thing).

With almost all of what Rand Paul said we agree:

He warned that the Republican Party is “encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom”.

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered — I don’t think we need to name any names, do we?” he said, though the target, Sen. John McCain, was clear.

‘The new GOP,” Paul said advocating for … a smaller government …, “will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”

He pledged to introduce a budget in the coming weeks to balance the budget in five years that would also slash the income tax in half, and create a flat tax at 17 percent.

The contrast between the pair couldn’t be more obvious or consequential for the party struggling to remake itself after two straight presidential defeats.

On foreign policy we agree with Marco Rubio. In general we like Rand Paul’s ideas.

An unavoidable question is: could a more libertarian Republican Party still be the party of conservatism?

Roger L. Simon, writing at PJ Media, considers the question.

He starts on a personal note:

Last month my ninth-grade daughter attended a conference for the Junior State of America. Almost none of the high school students, she told me, caucused with the Republicans. A throng went to the libertarians.

He makes the same criticism of libertarians as we do:

I can’t totally identify as a libertarian, since I find some of their more extreme views silly. (Someone does have to pay for the interstate highway system. And Islamic jihadists are quite serious about a world caliphate. Declaring ourselves the purest of free marketers and rolling up the gangplank will not deter them in the slightest. In fact, it will only encourage them.)

All this is the long way around to saying that the problems creating the current dissension [among conservatives] stem in part from the word “conservative” itself. It seems mired in the past — even when it is not. …

Young people particularly (and even some older folks like myself) like to see themselves as oriented toward the future. …

What should conservatives do? Declare themselves to be “classical liberals,” which many are? That seems a bit academic.

Whatever the case, new terminology should and must be found. And whatever it is, it should be forward looking. …

Conservatives and libertarians — whatever they are now called — should market themselves as the party of the future. Respecting the Constitution is important, but something more than that is necessary.

We don’t think the word “conservative” needs to be replaced. Not in America. The United States was founded on the ideal of liberty. It is supremely important that it stays that way. An American conservative is someone who believes in liberty and will act to keep his country and everyone in it free. (A point implied by Marco Rubio in his speech.)

Respecting and defending the Constitution is vital to that end. If more is needed, it is in pruning away dead wood rather than tacking on “something more”.

Conservatives who drag in extraneous ideas – religion and stuffy views on sex, marriage, and drug control – are the element needing to be changed.

It is up to a new generation of Republican conservatives to effect the change.

*

There has been criticism of this year’s CPAC which we think is justified:

This is a condensation (which we quote from our own Facebook page) of an article by Robert Spencer, the indispensable expert on Islam. Read the article itself here for the author’s full explanation of why he is and yet is not a conservative.

I am generally considered to be a conservative. It is a label I have used myself, as a way of distinguishing my position from that of the liberals and Leftists who have generally sold out to the jihad, so blind in their hatred of Western civilization and the United States of America that they eagerly cast their lot with the foremost enemies of both. Nonetheless, for all that, I am not a conservative. Mitt Romney is a conservative. He called for the creation of a Palestinian state and said that “jihadism” has nothing to do with Islam. Grover Norquist is even more of a conservative than Mitt Romney. His conservative bona fides are impeccable as the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, but he also has extensive ties to Islamic supremacists, supporters of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are sworn enemies of the United States and our ally Israel. So I must not be a conservative. Then what am I? I am an advocate of freedom: of the freedom of speech, of the equal treatment of all people under the law. Consequently, I am a foe of the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, which are enemies of both those principles. I know that there are many others like me, but neither party seems interested in us right now, and neither does the conservative movement, such as it is. It is time for a new movement, a genuine movement of freedom, one that is not compromised, not beholden, and not corrupted. Are there enough free Americans left to mount such a movement? That I do not know. But I do know that if there aren’t, all is lost, and the denouement will come quickly – more quickly than most people expect.

We sympathize with Robert Spencer’s position. We are equally exasperated by Romney’s and (far worse) Norquist’s position vis-a-vis Islam and jihad.

But why should they be allowed to define what conservatism is?

We define it as loyalty to the Constitution; to five core principles; and above all to the ideal of freedom on which the USA was founded.

The five core principles of our conservatism are: individual freedom, small government, low taxes, the free market, strong defense.

Islam is the enemy waging a war of conquest against America. How conservative can Americans be who do not even acknowledge that that is the case?

It’s past time for real conservatives to fight back with passion against its enemies: Islam, and the pro-Islam anti-America Left which managed to get one of its own elected to the presidency.

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