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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

NeoCons Living Hand to Mouth

Andrew Busch contrasts the follies of NeoConservatism with the tried and true strengths of PaleoConservatism today in a WSJ column titled After Compassionate Conservatism, Republicans need not fear the hard edges of their ideas. To be fair, the NeoCon and PaleoCon labels are my own. Busch lines us up instead as Compassionate Conservatives, or semi-conservatives minus the fiscal restraint, versus traditional, limited government conservatives such as Hayek, Goldwater and even Gingrich.

The thrust of Busch's peeve is that we no longer attempt to educate the populace about the virtues of limited government, that we are instead merely trying to buy votes by appeasing one group or another. For long-term success we need to be teaching the principle that limited government creates a happier and wealthier society for all. It took two decades for Barry Goldwater's message to reach the voters in the form of a Reagan presidency. Compassionate conservatism is short-sighted.
It is notable that hardly anyone has promoted compassionate conservatism as the best available policy. Hardly any of its advocates have attempted to demonstrate that limited government, from the standpoint of good policy, is no longer a preferable option. Yet the starting point of policy should always be the question of what is best for the country. Indeed, Republicans have long maintained that good policy will ultimately be good politics, even if in the short term it is not always so. Translating that precept into the terms of the current controversy, if Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Barry Goldwater, and Reagan (not to mention the framers of the Constitution) have been invalidated--if the laws of economics and the laws of human nature have changed so that centralized state power no longer threatens prosperity, liberty, or civic virtue--then by all means, the argument for limited government should be allowed to slide into disuse. If not, Republicans must find a way to make the argument for limited government more compelling.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree, we need to bring back small government.

Although there is some evidence that we are getting smaller governemnt. For example, in 1994, gov spending was over 22% of GDP, today it is around 20%. 20% is higher than the 19% in 1998, nevertheless the trend is still down from 1994.

George W. Bush proposed the largest small government program ever - the idea to partially privatize Social Security. But, everyone criticises him anyway - they call him a big government conservative. I don't recall Reagan proposing such a reform. All Reagan did was raise FICA taxes.

As a percentage of GDP, Bush cut taxes more than Reagan. There is some myth that Reagan cut more taxes. That is just not true. In 2003 fed tax revenues as a percent of GDP was 16.4%, contrast this to the 16.8% in 1983 under Reagan., Still, Scribbler and her allies blast Bush for being big government and praise Reagan for the champion of small government.

Perhaps the problem with all the complainers like the Scribbler is that they can't think big about small government (like Bush was doing with Social Security and taxes). They can only think small about small government.

I am tired of all the complaining. It's draining. Conservatives today dismiss facts and pragmitism almost as fast as liberals do.

1:23 PM, August 01, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

His point is more that we are not doing enough to convince the great unwashed that liberty is worth achieving.

He and I both give Bush credit for the tax cuts, but Busch claims Jr only cut taxes because of lessons learned from Bush Sr. And the tax cuts have stimulated the economy giving S'aurus the GDP he is touting. But where are the spending cuts?

And again I have gotten off track from the main point: we are not inspiring the next generation of conservatives as Goldwater and Reagan did. We need to be painting the big rosy picture of Morning in America, of greater happiness and wealth for all through a smaller government, of liberty and freedom from the chains of a tax-hungry government. Compassionate conservatism lacks all of these lessons.

11:48 AM, August 02, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

You have a point. GWB does not inspire conservatism the way Reagan did regardless of the actaul facts. Reagan never cut spending either, but you could argue that he inspired the 1994 revolution, which did cut spending.

GWB will inspire in his own way. Future presidents will be helped or hindered by the myth of GWB.... (If Bush was here he would have kicked their asses, not played footsie).

1:50 PM, August 02, 2006  

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