Saturday, February 28, 2009

American Conservatism, R.I.P.?

One of the points I've stressed recently in debates over the GOP is that conservatism is mainly in the down-trough of the political cycle. Politics swings like a pendulum, and it could be some time before the current sense of popular support for the Democrats fades in favor of a return to the agenda and issues central to the Republican Party.

I don't by any means believe "
conservatism's dead," despite all the big debates on that in recent weeks (here, here, here, and here, for example).

In any case, Dan Riehl sends us to this powerful, if not a bit depressing, essay on all of this from Jonathan Kay, "
American conservatism, R.I.P.":

Conservatism as we know it is dead. Its last bastion of power, Washington, is being overrun as we speak, in a blitzkrieg operation fueled by popular panic and led by a charismatic field marshal. To the extent conservative ideology survives the onslaught, it will be as a guerilla force, making its presence felt on web sites and radio call-in shows but never in the corridors of real power.

Numbers tell much of the story. In fiscal 2008, U.S. federal outlays accounted for 21 cents of every GDP dollar. In fiscal 2009, Barack Obama's budget has that number jumping 33% — to 28 cents. The percentage of U.S. GDP represented by total public spending will shoot up from about 35%, when Barack Obama was elected, to well into the 40s . If you throw in the private share of U.S. health spending, which looks set to be swallowed by the public sector in coming years thanks to Obama's plans for a national health-insurance program, American governments will soon rule roughly half the economy — just like in socialist Europe and Canada.

In fact, from a conservative point of view, what Obama is doing is arguably worse than the well-entrenched redistributionist systems of government in Canada other OECD nations: Ottawa, at least, can pay (more or less) for the country's massive safety net. Obama, on the other hand, is building his net with money he doesn't have. The 2009 U.S. budget deficit — just the deficit, not the budget itself — will be 13% of GDP. In Canada, by contrast, the federal budget deficit is expected to be $13-billion, about 1% of GDP.

Beyond the numbers are U.S. policies that seemed unimaginable just a month ago: a massive, big-government plan to regulate greenhouse gases, huge tax hikes on the wealthy, the effective nationalization of much of Wall Street, a federal takeover of student lending, and — most important of all — the aforementioned plan for national health care. This is more than just a swing to the left — it is a complete repudiation of the political legacy left by Ronald Reagan, the most popular U.S. president in the living memory of most Americans. Obama even had the courage to say as much, declaring trickle-down economics to be "discredited once and for all."

As well as being a disastrous moment for American conservatives — and for their country more generally — this is also an epic turning point in the history of western ideas. Since World War II, the welfare state has made steady gains almost everywhere in the West, with the result that just about every form of risk known to mankind — from sickness, to unemployment, to poverty, to childbirth, to old age — has been socialized. Only in the United States had individuals been left reliant (if only to a certain extent) on their own values and wits. That lone exception to the global nanny state is now gone — the victim of a housing debacle that demonstrated that middle-class homeowners are too stupid to manage something as basic as a monthly household budget, just as Wall Street's brain trust is too dumb to operate an unregulated financial market. Condescension, after all, is the mother of socialism.

Who would have thunk it? From the 1980s onward, conservatism was supposed to be America's muscular ideology, as opposed to the soft liberalism peddled by the nation's elites. Instead, U.S. conservatism died with a whimper — a venerable creed knocked out for good in the space of just five recessionary months.
There's more at the link. I still don't think "conservatism died," but this is good food for thought anyway.

I'll have more later ...


Anonymous said...

I understand the sentiment here, but this piece doesn't offer any analysis as to why Reaganomics has proved, as the kids today say, EPIC FAIL.

Reagan was popular, this we know. But perhaps the case for Reagan has been overstated and grown out of proportion. It's always been my suspicion, and now there is a book to back up my assumptions. I think it's called Tear Down This Myth. I have it reserved at the library (yes, no more buying books in this economy. Thanks Reagan!)

Conservatism has declined, not so much because there is a liberal media bias, but for a failure of new and radical ideas to confront a changing world order. Remember, all Republican generated legislation is written to benefit business, not "we the people."

Just a thought. I await the slings and arrows.

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: I just finished watching Rush Limbaugh at CPAC. I don't believe for a minute conservatism's done. It's an interesting debate, though, and many will be continuously divided on the direction forward, but the Dems will overreach and crash and burn. I think 2012's wide open at this point

Obama: Worst. President. Ever.

Dave said...


"Remember, all Republican generated legislation is written to benefit business, not "we the people."

How do "we the people" benefit by government punishing businesses by taxing them into the ground.

Most people in this country derive their livelihoods from the very businesses that you appear to despise.

You remind me of a friend of mine over at Newsbusters who was having a discussion with someone about "globull warming," in which the person he was conversing with made the statement that he didn't think that people should cut down any trees, ever.

The person who made that statement was employed as a carpenter at the time.

Right now, we have the second largest corporate tax rate on the planet, which is currently at 35%.

(Yeah, imagine that! After eight years of George W. Bush in the White House, the corporate tax rate stayed right where it was.)

There is, depending on whose numbers you believe, between $13 and 14 Trillion being kept off shore by many of this nations corporations at the moment. They are keeping it there because they know that as soon as that money is brought back in here, 35% of it is going to be confiscated by the federal government.

Much of that money has already been taxed once.

That is money that could be creating jobs, being invested to expand businesses, and fostering research and development right here in America, but is instead being invested elsewhere, in such places as China and India.

Clearly, you are one of these people that thinks that jobs and prosperity in this country sprang from government.

You and your fellow Obama supporters are going to be sorely disappointed when you finally figure out that government is capable of providing neither of those things.

I have a challenge for you. Since you seem to be consumed with "wealth envy," why don't you quit the job you have right now and go out and see if you can get a poor person to hire you.

Oh, and be sure and post a comment in here when you find that job and let us all know how it is workin' out for ya. :-)


Anonymous said...

OK Donald, even you know it may be a bit early to pronounce the "worst president ever" meme. Bush still has an 8-year head start, and he's quickly shaping up to ease into that position more each day as the nation and world continues to slide. Sorry, blaming Obama is just premature at this stage. Six years of Bush/congress complicity is a more credible reason as to why we are in this position in the first place. Not the "big government" myth.

Dave: I'm way ahead of you on the job thing. For the record, you may not have noticed the complete and total arrogance of the bank CEOs, the automobile CEOs, etc, and the simple fact that they have padded their own pocket books with handouts and bonuses, in spite of the fact that they are a huge reason why were are in this predicament. Without sounding too proletariat, these a-holes a) built their wealth on the labors of the poor, and b) have been total, utter, absolute failures.

Obama and Gordon Brown in the UK are quite right to put the kibosh on the executive arrogance that has put us in this position in the first place.

Obama, so far, is a take charge guy. He's done more in four weeks than Bush did in his first 8 months.

That said, no, Conservatism isn't dead. Sadly.There will always be those who buy into the myth of conservatism. The sad fact is that it simply is proving, yet again, a disaster.

A trillion dollars on a war, the conservatives didn't bat an eyelid. Nearly a trillion in bailout money last year, and Bush signed the bill.

But Obama's trillion just won't fly? Give me a break.

Dave said...

Professor Douglas,

I do not think the conservative movement is dead so much as we are decidedly in the minority in this country today.

I think that the relative prosperity we as a nation have enjoyed since WW II has softened us up quite a bit as a nation, and has brought with it more than a few unintended cultural consequences.

Freedom requires tough choices, and those choices come with consequences. I feel that many Americans today just aren't willing to face the negative consequences that come about as a result of their bad decisions.

Too many of us today think its the government's responsibility to fix all of our problems, including, but not limited to, taking care of us when we are sick, paying our delinquent mortgages for us, getting us a job when we need one, and generally shielding us from the results of poor decisions we have made.

It is as if we as a nation have lost our love of freedom, and are now willing to surrender that freedom in order to go through life merrily along the path of least resistance.

I think one huge mistake made by conservatives over the years has been, when the ball does wind up in their court, they rarely manage to undo the damage that was done when the other team previously had the ball.

Sure, they manage to (sometimes) slow down the leftward (re)gression of this nation, but they have never really managed to reverse it.

As a result, this country has been moving steadily leftward for the last 80+ years, which has brought us to the sad place we now find ourselves in.

I have to wonder that, should we even be fortunate enough get the ball once again, will the game clock have expired by then?

Not going back and fixing the mistakes previously made by the other side has come back and bitten the conservatives many times, most recently the mortgage meltdown, which the "conservative" George W. Bush really had nothing to do with, and had even tried to head off a few times, but was told to go pound sand by the dems.

Yet, the dems and their MSM water carriers have managed to convince many of our duller fellow citizens that the policies of the "conservative" George W. Bush are what lead to this mess, even though the seeds for it were planted over thirty years ago by Jimmy Carter.

Of course, it didn't help the conservative movement that many conservatives remained virtually silent when, even though the republicans had control of congress, George W. Bush effectively managed to double the size of the federal government.

It helped the conservative cause even less when the "conservative" George W. Bush signed the massive bailouts in the last year of his presidency. There was nothing "conservative" about any of that, yet he left office with the majority of Americans believing he was an actual conservative.

Of course, the conservatives blew it before, too, and that was when they finally managed to gain control of congress in 1994 with a clear conservative mandate, only to squander that mandate a short time later by doing a fair imitation of the party they had just managed to depose.

This idiocy was what prompted my move to the libertarians in 1998. I have voted for one republican since.

However, if I had to point to the one thing that I think did the most harm to the conservative movement, it would be when the conservatives allowed the country club RINOs to retake the Republican Party right about the time Ronald Reagan left office. Ever since that time, the party has served up a steady diet of increasingly liberal presidential candidates, the latest of which was John McCain, all of which many in this country believe to have been conservative.

I am not sure that the damage from that twenty year long disaster can ever be repaired.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure.

As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

"[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

John Lofton, Editor,
Recovering Republican

PSW -- And never has "Mr Worldly Wiseman" Limbaugh made a bigger ass of himself than with his blasphemous joke about God thinking he was Limbaugh...

Dave said...


"Six years of Bush/congress complicity is a more credible reason as to why we are in this position in the first place"

Really? What role did the Bush people have with the passage of the CRA, which was passed by congress and signed into law in 1977, and was what got this whole mortgage-mess train rolling in the first place?

After all, it wasn't the mortgage lenders that were holding guns to the heads of unqualified borrowers and forcing them to take on loans they could not afford to repay.

In reality, it was government holding guns to the heads of the mortgage lenders and forcing them to give loans to unqualified borrowers.

I spent 25+ years of my life working in a closely related industry. Among my clients were real estate attorneys, real estate agencies, and mortgage lenders.

Ever hear of the Redlining scandal? It was huge hear in Atlanta. Never mind that more whites were being turned down for mortgages around here than blacks, but that didn't matter to the social do-gooders at the time. After all, it was everyone's "right" to own their own home.

Bill Dedman, a reporter of the AJC, won a Pulitzer for a whole series of articles he wrote about this alleged "injustice."

You may view them here:

As a result, the lenders around here were forced to carry a certain percentage of high-risk loans in their portfolios. If a government inspector wandered into
their office one day and asked to see their loan books, the mortgage companies had to cough them up on the spot.

If said government inspector did not think that the mortgage lender was carrying a sufficient number of these questionable loans, the lender could be subject to
all sorts of unpleasant penalties, up to and including being put out of business.

Do not tell me that this didn't happen, either, because I saw it first hand, numerous times. Actions have consequences.

"Six years of Bush/congress complicity is a more credible reason as to why we are in this position in the first place. Not the "big government" myth."

Myth, you say? More like fact. What is more, I can trace the mortgage meltdown, along with its commensurate overall economic decline, to two politicians: Bawney
Fwank and Chris Dodd.

Back in 2004, when the Bush people were warning that Freddie and Fannie were headed for the crapper, the dems lined up and said everything was just fine.

Perhaps you are the last person on planet Earth (not living on a deserted isle)who has not seen this:

But, yeah, it was all Bush's fault, wasn't it?


"Without sounding too proletariat, these a-holes a) built their wealth on the labors of the poor, and b) have been total, utter, absolute failures."

LOL-Try a lot proletariat.

Labors of the poor? Correct me if I am wrong here, but did any of these companies force these people to work for them against their will? No. And what is more, if they were unhappy in their jobs, they could easily leave and go work for someone else.

I have done that several times in my life.

And you have to ask yourself, In a nation that has historically offered more opportunities for prosperity than any other in recorded history, why are we still dealing with the chronically "poor."

Is it perhaps because they continue to do the very things that got them "poor" in the first place? Hmm?

As for the CEOs, most really have not been failures, but are just trying to make the best of a bad situation that was created by others. As for those CEOs who have failed, it is up to the owners of the corporations to deal with them, not the government, which should have no say in the matter whatsoever.

"Obama, so far, is a take charge guy. He's done more in four weeks than Bush did in his first 8 months."

Yep, you are certainly right about that. Here is a list of his accomplishments to this point:

* The Dow at a 10-year low.
* A tax cheat running the IRS
* Another tax cheat as the Chief of Staff
* A trillion-dollar plus federal deficit
* Over one-half of voters relieved of any federal tax liability
* Government mandated limits on executive compensation
* Three failed attempts and still no Commerce Secretary
* Tom Daschle rides his free limo into the sunset - after paying taxes he evaded.
* The White House performance czar turns out to be a tax cheat also
* Lobbyists hired to work for the Obama Administration
* The census gets politicized
* Double government spending in one year
* The word "freedom" fades into obscurity
* Increasing home loan mortgage rates across the board
* Millions of Americans made dependent on government
* Moving unionization-by-intimidation forward
* Welfare checks become "tax cuts."
* Illegal aliens free to work on taxpayer-funded "stimulus" projects
* Welfare reform reversed, states ordered to increase welfare roles
* Move to silence critical talk radio shows
* Selling Senate seats
* Obama books in religious sections of book stores
* More government workers, not private sector jobs
* A government bureaucracy to intrude on doctor/patient relationships
* Stage set for medical services rationing
* Annual welfare checks for middle income families

Yeah, just breathless with celebration, I am.

"Nearly a trillion in bailout money last year, and Bush signed the bill."

Perhaps you don't frequent and, but I have been one of the liberal George W. Bush's most vocal critics. I also was less than merciful when he tried to push the scamnesty bill through, not to mention the nation bankrupting prescription drug plan, and I nearly blew a gasket when he allowed Ted Kennedy to hoodwink him into throwing good money after bad by throwing even more of our tax dollars down the black hole of a long-failed government education system.

As a libertarian, I am opposed to government bailouts, period. If a company cannot survive on its own, then tough, let them go out of business.

Corporations do not exist to provide jobs, they exist to make money for their owners. Should they be unable to do so, then they should be allowed to fail.

We will all be far better off at the end of the day if they are.

BTW-The unemployment rate in this country stayed under 10% for a full year after the market crashed in 1929. It didn't begin its climb to nearly 25% until the federal government got involved and started "fixing" the economy by throwing mass quantities of money at it.

I bet your government school "teachers" never told you that, did they? Of course they didn't. After all, they had to maintain the illusion that government was, and is, the only thing that can fix a damaged economy when, in fact, the opposite is usually true.

History is about to repeat itself, only this time, when this country lands in a depression, we will do so with a completely empty federal treasury.


Anonymous said...

73% of Americans trust the American people before politicians.

Conservatism in a nutshell, is it not? Conservatism is not dead, it just needs a leader.

And George Bush was not a conservative. Only FDR and LBJ can claim larger growth in non-defense spending during their tenures (New Deal and Great Society). So if you want to blame Bush for our mess, then you must blame big spending. And Obama is out to fix it with more big spending? He is a fool.

And don't confuse passing bills that have had no affect on our nation with "accomplishments." If all of Obama's legislation thusfar turns out to be objectively rotten for the country, he has not accomplished anything as of right now, has he? Thus, I think a little patience is in order.

I hope he fails so that our country will not.

Anonymous said...

Dave: I can transcribe a Rush Limbaugh show too. Nice work.


President Bush in 2002 talking about how we can get low income families into homes.

I think the best claim you put forward was that two men were responsible for the entire financial crisis we are now in. Genuinely well researched.