The party of limited government, more individual freedom, and lower taxes is no where to be found in the platform, rhetoric, and voting record of the current organization which calls itself the Republican Party. In today’s Wall Street Journal, William Voegeli writes about many of the artifacts which affected my decision to leave the GOP.
A quarter century ago president Ronald Reagan declared in his first inaugural address: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. . . . It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people.” In 1981, the year of that speech, the federal government spent $678 billion; in 2006, it spent $2,655 billion. Adjust that 292% increase for inflation, and the federal government is still spending 84% more than it did when Reagan became president–in a country whose population has grown by only 30%.
What Mr. Voegeli misses, completely, in his wonderfully written piece is the critical issue – philosophy. The reason the New Deal succeeded was that there was not then, nor is there in a pervasive way now, a philosophical basis for defending individual rights; the inalienable rights of man are given short shrift in this country. I say this because the collectivists have seized on that vaccuum to their advantage – it is self-evident that it has worked otherwise they would have dried up and blown away long ago.
There is a philosophy proper to man, one which defends, philosophically, man’s rights but it is not found in today’s GOP.
Voegeli almost gets to it in this passage:
Lacking an appreciation of the challenges they would face, conservatives never developed a political strategy adequate to the task. There was no systematic effort to pare back the welfare state, no disciplined preparation for the inevitable and aggressive counterattacks by interest groups and liberal journalists. Instead, conservatives time and again were shocked to discover that the people who built the welfare state were so unhelpful about dismantling it. Right-wingers fell into long periods of sullen, stupefied resentment, punctuated by frontal assaults that were brief, furious and futile. Think of David Stockman’s crusade to cut spending in 1981; or the 1995 government shutdown, the Pickett’s Charge of the Gingrich rebels.
Early on, in the wilderness years, conservatives had a surer sense of what they were up against. The first issue of National Review described conservatism as “a position . . . unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups.” Unattenuated in theory, conservatism in practice has been hemmed in constantly by the fact that the people insist that promises made to them, vulgar or not, must be kept. Robert Samuelson recently wrote, “Most Americans . . . think that they automatically deserve whatever they’ve been promised simply because the promises were made.”
As a result, it is much harder for conservatives to dismantle the welfare state than for liberals to build it. The main impediment to the New Deal was the “legitimacy barrier,” the prelapsarian conviction held by many jurists and citizens that government had no rightful business undertaking a whole range of social improvements, no matter how gratifying the beneficiaries might find them. The New Deal overcame–demolished, really–that barrier, and with it the constitutional and political impediments to building the welfare state. That victory, according to James Q. Wilson, guaranteed not only the permanent existence but the permanent growth of Big Government:
New programs need not await the advent of a crisis or an extraordinary majority, because no program is any longer “new”–it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing. . . . Since there is virtually nothing the government has not tried to do, there is little it cannot be asked to do.
After the legitimacy barrier is overwhelmed, the political calculus of how benefits and burdens are apportioned and, crucially, perceived strengthens liberals “seeking to extend benefits to large numbers of people” against conservatives “seeking to take those benefits away,” according to Mr. Pierson. Liberals must worry only about a “diffuse concern about tax rates,” a problem they can usually finesse “through reliance on indirect taxes and social insurance ‘contributions.’ ” The conservative project, on the other hand, requires “the imposition of concrete losses on a concentrated group of voters in return for diffuse and uncertain gains.” Every cutback necessitates “a delicate effort to transform programmatic change into an electorally attractive proposition,” an effort that is in constant danger of being negated by “a substantial public outcry,” such as the one against President Bush’s Social Security proposals in 2005.
If there was ever a time in history for people to honestly study and learn the philosophy of reason it is now. And the best single representative for this philosophy historically is Aristotle, and the best contemporary defender is Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism.
“Since the protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of a government, it is the only proper subject of legislation: all laws must be based on individual rights and aimed at their protection.”
“The government of a free society is prohibited from emulating the criminals it is created to apprehend. It is prohibited from initiating force against innocent men. It cannot inject the power of physical destruction into the lives of peaceful citizens, not for any purpose or in any realm of endeavor, including the realm of production and trade.
This means the rejection of any dichotomy between political and economic freedom. It means the separation of state and economics. It means the only alternative to tyranny that has ever been discovered: laissez-faire capitalism.
Historically, capitalism worked brilliantly, and it is the only system that will work. Socialism in every variant has led to disaster and will again whenever it is tried. Yet socialism is admired by mankind’s teachers, while capitalism is damned. The source of this inversion is the fact that freedom is selfish, rights are selfish, capitalism is selfish.
It is true that freedom, rights, and capitalism are selfish. It is also true that selfishness, properly defined, is the good.
There is no future for the world except through a rebirth of the Aristotelian approach to philosophy. This would require an Aristotelian affirmation of the reality of existence, of the sovereignty of reason, of life on earth-and of the splendor of man.”