May 15, 2006


The Crash of Big-Government Conservatism (S.T. Karnick, 15 May 2006, Tech Central Station)

Big-government conservatism has a few main aims: to preserve the welfare state while mitigating its ill effects, to preserve the present American culture while mitigating its bad effects, to preserve the present international order while mitigating its bad effects, and to preserve the present system of national politics while mitigating its ill effects.

The economic premise of big government conservatism is that the welfare state benefits from free markets and is not in dire conflict with them. Their social premise relies on the same utilitarian calculus as that of their opponents on the Left, but the big government conservatives hold that although antinomianism is not good for people, nothing can really be done about it except to try to ease government restrictions on religion. The international affairs premise is that liberal democracy is the best thing for all nations and imposition of it on other nations is the solution when they become threats to U.S. interests.

The Democrats and the Left in general, by contrast, say that the system of free markets and human welfare are in inevitable conflict, and the latter must always be the higher priority. They believe in expanding the sexual revolution. They believe that the moral problem with America is not antinomianism but the intractable intolerance of monotheists. And they believe that the real problem with the international order is that war is inevitable when people don't see residents of other nations as being of equal importance as oneself and one's family, neighborhood, and nation. Other nations, they say, are basically rational and hence always amenable to good-faith negotiations, meaning ones in which the United States is willing to make big concessions when necessary for an agreement to be reached.

The Democrats have a definite philosophy that creates a vivid picture of a good world, and that is appealing in itself. The Republicans' present philosophy is simply a watered-down version of the Democrats'. For a party in power, that is disastrous, as it lets the opposition set the agenda and measure success.

This is the inane line the neocons have been pushing since at least David Frum's memoir, that the politics of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Stephen Harper, John Howard, Kim Beazley, and Junichiro Koizumi is ineffective but that the war is really, really popular. Even setting aside the fact that every governing party in the major nations of the Anglosphere is pursuing Third Way solutions to the inability of the Second Way to deliver a functional welfare state, one need only note that American voters punished the war party in 1920, 1942, 1952, and 1968 or look at public opinion polling on the war vs. that on universal health care, SS reform, and school vouchers to see that it has been the President's domestic agenda that has propped up the war, not vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 15, 2006 12:37 PM
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