Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Challenge To the GOP: A Philosophical Contract With America

In two previous essays (11/13/08 and 11/16/08), I established the reasons for how we got to where we are, and the philosophical ground upon which I believe the Republican Party must begin to rebuild. Now it is time to begin to get specific.

The pattern since FDR and his crusading band of New Deal thugs has been for the GOP “defenders” of free markets and property rights to initially oppose some welfare state program being advanced by the Left. After passage, the initial, usually tepid and apologetic, opposition fades…to be replaced by a grudging acceptance and ultimate embrace of the now “popular” legislation. Each new rights-violating program…each new step toward total government control…follows the same pattern. A good example of this is the 1980 GOP platform, which promised to abolish the brand new Carter-era Federal Department of Education. That promise quickly fell away and…during an era of GOP domination…morphed into a $70 billion behemoth that became a tool to implement President Bush’s massive expansion of federal intrusion into local public education, called “No Child Left Behind”.

Now, our time is running out. The road ahead demands an end to me-too-ism. The compromising pragmatism of the old Republican Party has reached its inevitable dead-end. The GOP must now embark on a politically risky path that may not lead to immediate electoral success, but is vital to the cause of individual rights and free markets, long term. Thanks to decades of Republican compromises, the job is now much harder. It is no longer enough to simply slow the further expansion of government and consequent shrinkage of individual rights that is sure to come next year. It is time for the GOP to fully and proudly assert its commitment to free market capitalism by laying out an agenda for rolling back the welfare state.

This courageous path will undoubtedly require taking some lumps at the polls in the near term, but it must be done. We are rapidly approaching the point where individual freedom’s time will run out. Bold, new policy ideas based upon the principles of rational self-interest, individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and limited government will require an extended educational campaign. But it must be remembered that only 53% of the electorate voted for Obama, and much of that support is “soft”. And while much of the 47% of the electorate that voted for McCain cannot be called pro-capitalist, much of Obama’s 53% likely is open to swinging toward the philosophical platform outlined above, provided it is consistently applied to all of the concrete issues. There is a substantial base of support from which to build, I believe. (click here and here).

The GOP has become known as the party of business, and the party of the Christian Right. It must reject those two labels, and become the party of the individual. This means to embrace the twin pillars of a truly free society;

The separation of religion and state…which means religious freedom, or the right to hold and to act on the belief system of one’s own choice, free from the coercive interference of others.

The separation of economics and state…which means economic freedom, or laissez-faire capitalism.

Freedom in the field of ideas and freedom in the field of production and trade are inseparable corollaries. Yet, each of the major political parties has split down the middle on these fundamental issues. The Republicans tend to advocate freedom of production and trade…capitalism…while simultaneously sanctioning government control in the field of ideas…seeking to impose the religious agenda of political Christianity. And the Democrats tend to advocate freedom in the field of ideas, while simultaneously seeking to shackle production and trade under mountains of taxes, regulations, and controls.

Neither party is a firm and consistent advocate of individual rights. The result is that individual freedom is under withering assault in both the spheres of ideas and of economics. In economics, the Republicans are in retreat in multiple areas…the bailout bill, Sarbanes-Oxley, to name two. In ideas, the Democrats are retreating…witness Obama’s embrace of Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives. And…from campaign finance “reform”, to the fairness doctrine, to the issue of “indecent language” in media…the first amendment is under attack as never before, by both parties.

The sad fact is, both parties have abandoned America…the first nation in the history of the world founded on the principle of inalienable individual rights and of a government constitutionally charged with the task of protecting those rights…of a government as servant, not ruler, of its people. Both parties, in other words, are bankrupt…intellectually and morally.

Herein lies the opportunity for whichever party wants to seize it. I hope it will be the Republican Party.

It is worth repeating the words of Craig Westover:

Analyzing Obama's comment in the context of Rand's philosophy provides further evidence that the conservative-liberal paradigm, the traditional political divide in this country, is shifting to a more overt expression of the age-old battle between individualism and the collective society. (Emphasis added.)

It is time to cast aside the contradictory, unprincipled, and self-defeating doctrines of liberalism and conservatism, and instead forge a new coalition based upon the primacy of the individual and his unalienable rights.

It is time for the individual American to find his political voice, defender, and champion.

From retirement planning, to healthcare and health insurance, to education, to abortion, to gay marriage, to eminent domain and property rights, to the first amendment, to immigration…all across the board…the GOP should forge an agenda in which each of us, as individuals, will have our freedoms restored. The “unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness” means the right to think and act on one’s own judgement, to set one’s own goals, to pursue one’s own happiness by one’s own efforts, to decide whether, when, and how to help one’s fellow men, and to keep the product of one’s own productive work. And it means to restore the vision of the Founding Fathers-that government’s proper role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

This will not be easy. Nor will it mean an immediate end to all of our government’s intrusive practices. An agenda based on individual rights will face ferocious opposition and hostility from entrenched interests all across the cultural landscape, from powerful politicians, to business and labor, to the beneficiaries of government largess.

But simply discerning the political wind direction in order to determine which positions to take on the issues for the purpose of winning elections is a path the GOP must abandon. America must learn the meaning and nature of man’s rights and the legitimate nature of government, if current trends are to be reversed. The establishment of a firm, uncompromising philosophical platform…one might call it a Philosophical Contract With America…from which Republicans can launch a broad assault against the collectivist tide on one issue after another can draw freedom lovers from all across the political spectrum. It must also mean a complete rejection of the social tyranny of the Religious Right, and the economic tyranny of the Socialist Left.

In the clash between statism and individual liberty, the Democrats have come down clearly and openly on the side of the state. The GOP can, and should, meet the challenge with a bold alternative, presenting not merely a loyal opposition but explicit, positive alternatives to the liberal agenda based on this new Contract. The challenge is to demonstrate what the party is for. The Republican Party must finally realize the promise of Barry Goldwater. In answer to the rise of Obama collectivism, the GOP must finally offer “A choice, not an echo”.

No comments: