Ludwig von Mises in his seminal book On Socialism outlined two systems of governance. One was based on individual action, the other based on the collective action of society.
For the former, they were termed as individualists. The latter were appropriately named socialists. Individuals believe that individual action is best for creating good societies, while socialists believe that social action through government is the best way to acheive those ends.
Over the past 50 years, since the advent of Russell Kirk and the challenge of socialism, the response of American political philosophy has been conservativism. Not the conservativism as meant by Europe, but an American conservativism born out of the classical liberalism championed by such thinkers as Locke, Sydney, Jefferson, Grotius, and ultimately finding its deepest roots in Aquinas and Aristotle. It is a theory based on the natural law that promote free societies as the bedrock of a free people.
Push past the high-minded philosophy lesson, and we come down to the question of what it means to be a conservative today? Furthermore, does the Republican Party truly embrace conservative ideals? Since 1964 when Goldwater became the GOP nominee for president, that answer has been an unequivocal yes. When Reagan became president in 1980, conservatives rejoiced. Here, now, it was “morning in America” and Reagan was going to beat godless Communism and deal the death blow to FDR’s social programs once and for all.
It didn’t happen.
Fast forward to today. Under Republican administrations, we’ve seen the Federal budget double, the deficit balloon, civil liberties erode (thanks Kelo), had pro-choice SCOTUS nominees pushed upon us, and worse yet on the state level, Virgnia’s state government has exploded. All under a Republican majority that remains silent as the bureaucracy the Democrats built continues to expand, expand, expand…
So when I hear Republicans lament as to why conservatives are so upset, I think the issue deserves a thoughtful response.
Over at Too Conservative, the argument runs thusly: The old moderates (Group A) are being run out on a rail by the new conservatives (Group B). In summary:
Message to GROUP B – Do you not understand you are running people into the arms of the Democratic Party?
Allow me to explain very clearly – and in equally heartfelt terms.
Yes we do understand this, and here’s why.
Those who expand the size and power of government are not conservatives. They act in the interests of those who wish to extend the power of government, and that is an intolerable sin against conservative principles. There is no middle ground, there is no discussion, and those who believe social action should trump the uniquely American virtues of self-reliance and individualism have vivisected themselves from the Republican Party.
The government – state, federal, local – consumes more than 40% of the average Virginian’s income. 40%. The Founding Fathers dumped tea into Boston Harbor for fewer reasons. Yet some Republicans feel it necessary to raise taxes $1.5 billion for “unmet needs.” Pick the excuse. The problem is we’re drifting into socialism. Can anyone truly name just one thing you do on a daily basis that isn’t touched by the hand of big government? It didn’t use to always be this way folks…
If conservatives are in decline and a new political philosophy different than what the Democrats have to offer is approaching, that’s fine. Identify it. Clearly define it’s boundaries and what it desires to achieve. Unfortunately for the moderates in the GOP, their problem is they have no vision, no philosophy, no identity other than running the machine the Democrats built more efficiently, forgetting entirely that bureaucracies by nature expand.
This is a game of “which side are you on.” There is no middle ground, there is no quarter. I’d have more respect for the moderates if they actually proposed a “third way” to govern, but they have no principle other than appearing to act in moderation. Moderation relative to what? Communists had moderates. Nazis had moderates too. I’m sure there are moderates in al-Qaeda.
Moderation is a relative term that signifies nothing. Individualism or Socialism? There is no other question to resolve.