By David Beilstein
Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.
The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.
Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.
I could not have said it better.
A party festooned to “minority moral viewpoints”—as Mr Brooks states above—has been one of the basic formulations Crede, ut intelligas has tried explicate as not being conservative, nor electorally feasible. Classical liberals cannot roll back state control of property and sovereign individuals if unable to win national elections. Nor can federalism in light of constitutionalism be animated if national elections are not won widely by classical liberals.
A large problem emerges. As stated earlier, the problem is that the litmus test for what is (and who is) conservative in Republican ranks has become how rapt—or—purest, conservatism’s “minority moral viewpoint” is. The truth of this is easy to prove. In the last decade, a myriad of “conservatives” have been elected to high office. In spite of electoral “victory”, classical liberals’ vaunted aspirations are increasingly unrealised: Government is much larger, much more intrusive on individual life, than when conservatives entered it.
That this viewpoint is troubling is an understatement—as a peek-a-boo around older forms of conservatism explicate a wholly different kind of basis upon which to call policies, or candidates, conservative.
The old basis upon which conservatism rested was a defence of Mr Brooks second point—the record of free enterprise policies improving the sundry lives of the vulnerable—as well as, a strict defensive wall against unconstitutional usurpation of governmental authority over sovereign individuals.
More problematic, Republicans have fanned the flames of their constituents that conservatism will be about moral viewpoints held by a minority, even though the seat of national politics must concern the larger populace. Too many Republican voters look for the party to be a party of minority moral viewpoints. Better candidates are possible. Better communication is, likewise, doable.
But changing the expectations of GOP voters, largely mistaken about what conservatism is, in the main—confining government to constitutional boundaries, not a fundamentalist revivalist meeting—is a harder spell to conjure up for GOP leaders.