Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Here is the problem with modern American "conservatism" as evidenced by a "conservative" Senator in the form of an op-ed piece.

And the sad part is, this poor guy probably really thinks he is a conservative. And so do a lot of people who voted for him. But conservatism is by definition a philosophy of small and limited government, of adherence to the Constitution, of states rights and individual freedom.

But look at Sen. Brown's objection to the health care law in his own published words.

He isn't against it in principle because it transgresses the Constitution - including putting burdens on the states and the people that run afoul of the tenth amendment and the body of the Constitution itself. When he talks of "repeal" he really means rolling back a few features of the bill that he doesn't like, a sort of cosmetic tweaking that would make it acceptable to him.

To "repeal" only the "worst parts" of the bill is no repeal at all. It is to misuse the word, and to do so in a clever way to appear to be conservative. This is a crafty and careful use of deceptive language, and it is unlikely a word he came up with himself. Conservative Americans are being sold a bill of goods by Republican strategists and focus-group driven marketeers. Brown also states that he is "working on legislation that would allow states to opt out of this federal health care bill because states need flexibility, not a federal government takeover of health care."

And therein lies the problem.

To speak of "allowing" the states to do what they already have the right to do is to grant the premise of big government - even while giving the appearance to the contrary. It is to embrace the very things the rank and file conservatives claim to be against - and to do so under the radar screen. It is to agree with the Democrat Party philosophically and to lock arms with them constitutionally - all the while using rhetoric to appease the Tea Party movement. A true conservative would have used "allow" to speak of what the federal government may or may not not do. The federal government has no authority to "allow" the states to do anything. He may be proposing a slightly longer leash, but he still wants the states under federal control. That is the antithesis of conservatism.

Sen. Brown has revealed his true colors - which are well within mainstream Republican thought.

Brown even invokes the Republican-authored Massachusetts health care plan - which operates under the same basic schema as ObamaCare, and in fact is not all that different. President Nixon's health care proposal was also quite similar to the new law. And as Anthony Gregory and Paul Krugman have shown even the allegedly conservative Heritage Foundation's proposal was basically the same thing.

But does the federal government have any authority to mandate health care in any way, shape, or form? Is it even a good idea for state governments to be so involved in the operation of the market mechanism? Those are the kinds of questions real conservatives would ask. And the answers have to do with what the law is, not what would be popular or what we think we can get away with, nor even what would be a good idea. If federal mandates over health care are indeed a good idea, then the Constitution needs to be amended to allow for it - otherwise there is effectively no Constitution and no rein or limit on government of any sort.

That is what a conservative would say, anyway.

At best, Sen. Brown is a cautious moderate or a pragmatic left-leaning centrist. He has wandered away from the conservative fold while still cluelessly waving the banner, like a sports fan who is unwittingly sitting on the wrong side of the stadium wearing the wrong colors unable to understand why everyone around him is cheering at inappropriate moments.

He also writes:

"I am leading a charge to take the billions of dollars sitting unused in the stimulus slush funds of federal bureaucracies and give immediate tax relief — as much as $100 a month — to every American worker so that they can support their families now and inject money into the economy rather than let it stagnate in Washington."

Rather than use the language of "repeal" to speak of the bipartisan stimulus plans, rather than condemning these Republican and Democrat schemes as unconstitutional, Sen. Brown simply proposes spreading the wealth in a different way. This is so typical of federal bureaucrats who call themselves "conservative." He promises to get his constituents more of the federal take, while it doesn't seem to dawn on him that the federal should not "take" to begin with.

Economically, Sen. Brown reveals that he is a Keysian at heart.

The poor fellow seems to think the government can actually create jobs in the private sector. He may be right that Americans say they want "their government to fully focus its attention on the economy and getting our citizens back to work." But the Constitution has nothing to say about "focus[ing] its attention on the economy" and tinkering with the market in an attempt to make work. That is a play right out of FDR's book, which was already torn out of Karl Marx's. The only positive thing government can do for the economy is to get out of the way. A big step would be to abolish the Federal Reserve and to bring sanity back to our money and banking system. But to do so would be for the federal government to let go of its reins of control over the states and the people and trust the market and individual liberty.

But then again, that devotion to freedom is a conservative idea, one that Sen. Brown seems to have abandoned.

Maybe the current Republican rhetoric that ObamaCare will bankrupt the country and turn America into a third-world Socialist has-been state is true. But at least they can take comfort in knowing that the destruction of America is a bipartisan effort. There is no "I" in "team" after all.

We are indeed "all Socialists now."

But the real eye-opener is Sen. Brown's goal of "faith in government." This flies in the face of not only conservatism as a philosophy, but of the Constitution and the entire American experience itself. "Faith" is the language of religion. And the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was written because our founders knew better than to put faith in government. If that was their intent, they would not have written a Constitution, but simply trusted the federal government with a lot of power - which is how the British Empire worked. Instead, they seceded from that Empire and created a decentralized government of checks and balances with a written charter of specifically enumerated powers. There is no language in this op-ed article.

But the most glaring "smoking gun": a conservative could not have written this piece without once using the word "Constitution."


Ariel said...

Most of what has been considered conservativism in the post-Reagan years of the Bush Administration is in reality neo-conservatism, which is barely conservativism at all. States' rights, etc is more of a paleo-conservative thing.

Ben Oravetz said...

Watch for the "No True Scotsmen" argument in response to this article. While Senator Brown was never a 'true' conservatives, 'true' conservatives can't conceive of budget cuts on things like military spending. It's really disgusting to see so many hypocrites pretending to play the limited government card.

Peter said...

To be fair, I don't know any of my National-Review conservative friends who think he's conservative. NR doesn't. Still, he's probably the best Senator Massachusetts will have had in a long time. But don't think we NR types think he's a conservative.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

You make a good point.

The Republican Party is a lot more welcoming of non-conservatives than the Democrat Party is of non-liberals.

Maybe the country needs a conservative party. The problem is that the Republican movers-and-shakers always seem to want to pull the party leftward. Which makes me ask: "Qui bono?" This is the real detriment of the "lesser of two evils" approach to politics that is inevitably the outcome of a bi-partisan political structure.

Maybe we need more evils than just two to pick from. ;-)

Peter said...

Again, we see it differently. I'd rather have Scott Brown, as imperfect as he is, serve as the senator from Massachusetts, than vote for another party that would lose. And the fact that the Democrat party was up-in-arms at his election shows that he is not one of them. As for the "mover-and-shakers," I have no idea. But, most of us NR types are quite happy to make progress towards a goal, even if it's not perfect. There is no conspiracy here. There are no "higher-ups" pulling the strings. It's just democracy. And, in a democracy, you are always working towards the best possible outcome (that you refer to as a lesser evil).

Your strategy, btw, I'm sure is endorsed by the Democrat party - - for you it's purity. For them, it's "Divide and conquer."

But, we've gone over this before.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

I think it is illustrative that "democracy" is no longer seen as a bad thing - the way it was among the founders. You say it like it's a good thing.

Modern conservatism has basically conceded. De Tocqueville correctly identified the tipping point of democracy - which is why our founders established a republic and repudiated a democracy. But something happened on the way to the forum...

At this point, I think all that is left is a steady march to Socialism - whether running at full speed under Democrats or at just under a gallop by Republicans. More likely it will be a bipartisan trot, a sort-of tag-team dance that will employ both to get us to the same place.

The only thing that will prevent this fate, I believe, is what saved the USSR - economic dissolution and a chance to start over with smaller governments. We simply have a structure too big to succeed.

I do believe we will likely see some kind of devolution happen in our own lifetimes. I did not used to think it would be this soon, but there is simply no future for the dollar. And that is basically what hold the US together.

Both parties have "movers and shakers." They have think-tanks and policymakers who coin terms to sway public thought. There are indeed focus groups and marketing going on. This is why politicians can support 90% of something and call it a "repeal." It's Orwell-speak.

The polls and the pollsters are relentless. They are not there to merely inform the parties what people are thinking, but to persuade and move people to join the parties. It's all quite scientific. It's advertising and marketing, not to sell products, but to sell parties.

I'm skeptical of all salesmen.

But just as in selling sneakers or iPods, the key for the salesman is to make the demand not seem manufactured.

The reality is that electing Scott Brown made no difference. A leftist Republican is not much different than a leftist Democrat - and indeed, some politicians even bounce back and forth among the parties.

Again, how is the Heritage Foundation or Nixon plan different than ObamaCare? I know the answer: one nearly-identical big government plan is Republican, while the other nearly-identical plan is Democrat. Meet the new boss...

On the whole, the country is moving leftward. The current mainstream Republican strategy is to move with the current and get elected - we'll figure out the rest later.

It hasn't been good for the country. And I believe it is too late to fix at this point, like a crooked and tottering 18-story house of cards, there is only one way for it to be fixed: wait and try to do one's best when the time comes to rebuild.

And I really do hope I'm wrong about all of this. I would love to support a major party that is pro-freedom and pro-Constitution. The GOP keeps putting just a drop of rat poison in the pudding, stirring it, and telling us to eat up because it's still better than drinking pure stricknine.

Either way, we're being poisoned and we're dying.

fooser77 said...

Peter mentions NR/NRO as being a bastion of conservatism as he might say the same for The Weekly Standard. Maybe so, but I suggest one research Antony Sutton on NR and WS as well as The Nation and The New Republic. It seems that people have simply forgotten about this dude named -- Hegel.

John Derbyshire recently opined in NRO that the nation is utterly doomed. Utterly meaning, final and complete without reversal. He's not the most clear on how he came to the conclusion. Possibly, because he is not willing to consider and discuss that it was more of an ultimate goal at the beginning (and prior to) our 'founding.'

I'm just a messenger here. As I would advise Derbyshire, as I would Michael Kinsley, look into the following:

Bay and Pinto documentaries:
- The New Atlantis
- Riddles in Stone
- Eye of the Phoenix

F. Tupper Saussy, Rulers of Evil

Most recent research by Dr. Tom Horn, on 'The Great Seal.'

If anyone would begin to venture into Gov. (The Body) Ventura's latest, and Judge Napolitano's, Lies, then those would only be 'appetizers' to the aforementioned above. The main course.

Not to mention Mencius Moldbug...

Still others wish to point to Ron Paul, and other possible 'controlled opposition.' I opined on that specifically, a couple years back.

As a Lutheran, I experience more cognitive dissonance than I like, comprehending that in addition to Luther's Anfechtungen, how (as a learned and fairly savvy person) could he not know that his so-called allies were of the Rosicrucian order (especially including Frederick)? The Lutheran Seal simply has too many elements of the rose croix than I am comfortable with.

As a Christian, I look at 1 Thes. 4:11-12. Does it not seem even more paramount today, as much as it seemed paramount in the 1st century under Roman rule? I just keep hearing this 'little voice,' in the back of my head, constantly chanting -- "I told you so."

Ted Badje said...

The last Republican who truly adhered to the Tenth Admendment was Barry Goldwater. I don't see anytime in the significant future anyone advocating Tenth Admendment conservatism. I think you will see it applied with the Second Admendment, and hopefully with Abortion. If Roe v. Wade is repealed, it will go back to the states. I am afraid that the government relies too much on the Interstate commerce clause than the 10th.

I think there needs to be enough regulation of Financial institutions, not so much European style. Glass-Steagle was a mistake. The banks and investment entities need to be separated. George W. Bush's handout of Medicare prescription was a bad thing, but the Pharmaceutical industry needs to have oversight for price overruns, as well as general healthcare. Tort reform, medicine as a service, and insurance companies operating over different states could have brought costs down. The Republicans were Johnny-come-lately to these ideas.

What you see of the Republican party today is Neo-Conservatism. The National Review and most conservative magazines are run by neo-cons. There may be comfort that at least these Republicans aren't as liberal as Nixon with his price controls, or the Rockefeller Republicans. I don't see the Republicans becoming like the European Conservative parties anytime soon.

Things will change dramatically with the incoming entitlement crises, and that the demographics of the United States will change soon to a minority majority. I pray to God we have another Reagan to lead and unite the country soon. There will be alot of challenges for him/her.