Last night I attended a debate held at the American Enterprise Institute between Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online (and the Institute itself), author of Liberal Fascism and other notable works, and Matt Welch, of reason fame and the author of The Declaration of Independents. The question posed by the debate has been argued over ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the New Deal, and conservatives and libertarians—then known as “classical liberals”—allied in order to present a unified front to keeping the massive new nanny state at bay. It was reinforced in the fifties when William Buckley formed National Review, and presented his argument for a “fusionist” political movement. It’s been going on for a long time, and it will continue to go on long into the future. Despite the jokes about it, the debate did not solve the question for most people. I, however, left convinced more than ever that libertarianism and conservatism do not mix.
I’ve long held that, to be effective politically, conservatives and libertarians (or center-right independents) need to find common ground, and that if libertarians want to see policy and political change, it needs to be an inside job.
While this video isn’t surprising, it’s sad to me to see an outspoken conservative like Alfonzo Rachel divisively deriding libertarians as the 2012 cycle begins to pick up. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me want to stay home on Election Day.
Consider this an open thread.
While laid up in bed last week recovering from surgery, my coworkers sent me a care package that included Sen. Rand Paul’s new book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to get past the first few pages. But Matt Welch brings us this passage from the book of Sen. Paul slamming George W. Bush:
Imagine this-what if there had never been a President George W. Bush, and when Bill Clinton left office he was immediately replaced with Barack Obama. Now imagine Obama had governed from 2000 to 2008 exactly as Bush did-doubling the size of government, doubling the debt, expanding federal entitlements and education, starting the Iraq war-the whole works. To make matters worse, imagine that for a portion of that time, the Democrats actually controlled all three branches of government. Would Republicans have given Obama and his party a free pass in carrying out the exact same agenda as Bush? It’s hard to imagine this being the case, given the grief Bill Clinton got from Republicans, even though his big government agenda was less ambitious than Bush’s. Yet, the last Republican president got very little criticism from his own party for most of his tenure.
For conservatives, there was no excuse for this.
Welch also notes:
Paul goes on to say stuff like “any self-described conservative who ‘misses’ the last president and his version of the Republican Party should probably quit subscribing to that label,” and “if judgment is based on spending and the budget, then Bill Clinton should be considered preferable to Bush.”
There is no doubt that the Republican Party is at a crossroad with many questioning the direction that should be taken to bring them back to electoral success. The biggest obstacle to moving the GOP back to its limited government roots is the political establishment — the dealers and the consultant class — who want to the party to take the road to victory by selling out limited government principles.
This creats a problem for conservatives, many of whom are still trying to make sense of the 2012 election. Many realize the dangers that lie ahead by kowtowing to the party’s political establishment, but they’re weary of trying to stand in their way. They’ve actually bought into the line that the freedom movement is to blame for the problems that have plagued the GOP. Yes, there were some bad candidates that ran in 2012, but the Republican Party’s brand was damaged long before voters ever headed to the polls.
In a recent piece at Commentary, Matt Welch, editor of Reason, explained that conservatives need to start actually practicing what they preach when it comes to limiting the size and scope of government:
In case you missed it, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) made some waves recently by urging his fellow Republicans to listen to libertarians, particularly Ron Paul, on fiscal issues. The comments were, as you can imagine, important given DeMint’s influence in the Tea Party movement and on fiscal conservatives in general. These comments are in stark contrast to what he said a little over a year ago, claiming that “you can’t be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative.”
DeMint, author of a new book — Now or Never: Saving America from Economic Collapse, is challenging members of both parties to balance the budget through promoting pro-growth, free market policies. He sat down recently with Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch of Reason to discuss his approach to begin solving the budget crisis in Washington and again repeats his warnings to Republicans and conservatives to listen to libertarians:
As you can imagine, there wasn’t much in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address that would please libertarians. John Stossel notes that much of what the president said is in fact anathema to those of us that believe in limited government, and offers some of what he would have said if he were in Obama’s shoes:
Our debt has passed $15 trillion. It will reach Greek levels in just 10 years.
But if we make reasonable cuts to what government spends, our economy can grow us out of our debt. Cutting doesn’t just make economic sense, it is also the moral thing to do. Government is best which governs least.
We’ll start by closing the Department of Education, which saves $100 billion a year. It’s insane to take money from states only to launder it through Washington and then return it to states.
Next, we’ll close the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That saves $41 billion. We had plenty of housing in America before a department was created.
Then we eliminate the Commerce Department: $9 billion. A government that can’t count votes accurately should not try to negotiate trade. We will eliminate all corporate welfare and all subsidies. That means agriculture subsidies, green energy subsidies, ethanol subsidies and so on. None of it is needed.
I propose selling Amtrak. Why is government in the transportation business? Let private companies compete to run the trains.
And we must finally stop one of the biggest assaults on freedom and our pocketbook: the war on drugs. I used drugs. It’s immoral to imprison people who do what I did and now laugh about.
Still, all these cuts combined will only dent our deficit. We must cut Medicare, Social Security and the military.
Matt Welch, who along with Nick Gillespie authored The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America, recently visited with Judge Andrew Napolitano on Freedom Watch to discuss whether or not wealthy Americans owe their success to the government:
Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, authors of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America, recently chatted with Glenn Reynolds on InstaVision to discuss their book and how decentralization and deregulation will leave us better off:
Is America moving in a libertarian direction? In his latest column - a review of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, George Will explains why we are moving away from government regulation and toward liberty:
Since 1970, per pupil real, inflation-adjusted spending has doubled and the teacher-pupil ratio has declined substantially. But math and reading scores are essentially unchanged, so we are spending much more to achieve the same results. America has the shortest school year in the industrial world, an academic calendar — speaking of nostalgia — suited to an America when children were needed on the farms and ranches in the late spring and early autumn. “No other industry,” Gillespie and Welch write, “still adheres to a calendar based on 19th-century agricultural cycles — even agriculture has given up that schedule.”
In the 1950s, A&P supermarkets (remember them? You probably don’t) had a 75 percent market share. What used to be the General Motors Building near Central Park South has an Apple store where the automobile showroom once was. When Kodak loses customers, it withers.
But when government fails, it expands even faster. This is, Gillespie and Welch say, because “politics is a lagging indicator of change,” a sector of top-down traditions increasingly out of step with today’s “bottom-up business and culture” of: “You want soy with that decaf mocha frappuccino?”
A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.