By DAVID BEILSTEIN
Henry Olsen made a nonsensical horse’s ass out of himself in the July 1 issue of National Review in an article entitled, Rand Paul’s Party. Essentially, Olsen marches forward throwing looping but ineffective punches at libertarian-aimed Republicanism.
Olsen’s thesis unpacks the idea (blindly I might add) such an ideological movement wouldn’t offer much to conservatives. Whoa… As if the modern conservative movement has been so damn effective of late stopping State-sponsored tyranny.
Olsen might try looking around once in awhile. It could aid his demeanor.
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. The kind of moralistic/social issues driven, paleo-progressivism that calls itself conservative, which animates much of the modern conservative movement in our day (which Olsen seems to defend), has offered nothing to constitutional conservatives.
These were the clowns that said if conservative Mitt Romney was not nominated the G.O.P would lose. Whoa. The immense testicles on conservatives like Olsen are profound — and reflects insanity more than informed punditry.
The kind of “conservatism” close to Olsen’s heart has grown government immensely. And has attenuated the nation’s fiscal health, and created an ease of access to the corridors of power for titanic statists like Barack Obama to an immeasurable degree.
In a nutshell Olsen defends a big government conservatism high on military adventurism, social engineering that destroyed every single advantage classical conservatism had going for it into national elections — those being fiscal and national security competency — and tolerant but commonsensical policies in regards to social issues.
Olsen’s premise is simple enough: he basically says that Libertarian minded Republicans simply wish,
“if only conservatives were more tolerant on social issues and less supportive of U.S. Military involvement overseas, Paul argues, they could win elections in blue states and nationwide.”
Someone needs to convince men like Olsen that U.S. Military involvement overseas from the premise of social engineering (making the world safe for Democracy-building) is not conservative.
And it has done little to secure American security or animate the quality of life of its citizens. What have all these wars (mismanaged to a large degree) done for America? In the hands of Pres. Barack Obama (in Libya and now Syria) such military involvement aids those enemies America sought to destroy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on our nation’s shores.
The Founding Fathers did not go abroad seeking monsters to destroy or tyrants to overthrow. The Founding Fathers eliminated vital threats to national security. After such security was preserved, and those enemies destroyed (see Pres. Jefferson’s successful war against the Barbary pirates in Tripoli) America sought to remove itself from foreign entanglements. The framers never saw America as global police force. And conservatives did not either, even if certain elaborations were made following the tyrannical march of fascism in World War II.
From Washington, to Jefferson to Adams to John Quincy Adams, America did not wage wars to remove tyrants in order to build democratic republics. America removed tyrants only when such action was vital to American way of life.
But I digress…
Olsen then lists several “blue state” Republican governors and goes on to point out that though moderate on social issues, none of these Republicans were fiscally libertarian (or conservative).
Libertarians never made the case they were, nor that such Republicans are models for the future of a constitutional-orientated political party. That’s first.
Secondly, Olsen seems to suggest libertarian’s goal is to find common cause with post-moderns; a demographic group with similar cultural attachments as libertarians, but with vastly differing suppositions when it comes to political philosophy. I’ve never heard before Olsen stunk up the room. Typically, a libertarian will debate and befuddle the political point of views of post-moderns as much (if not more) than social conservatives.
The problem with Olsen’s thesis is that libertarians, generally, and Republican supporting libertarians specifically, do not venerate blue state Republican governors Olsen himself lists. Olsen names men like George Pataki, Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Linda Lingle.
None are libertarian heroes!
Libertarians are far more likely to call these Republicans as just as much part of the problem with our nation’s political ruling class as Democratic statists like Pres. Barack Obama. None of the candidates listed rose to office on the support of libertarians. Libertarians did not vote for Romney, and if they did — it made them sick (all about me). Nor did they elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. The G.O.P country club Republicans supported those candidates. And country club establishment Republicans, while not being evangelical social crusaders, are not libertarian either.
Even more dramatic, many libertarians went bug-eyed nuts when Rand Paul supported Mitt Romney for president in 2012. Many libertarians voted for Gary Johnson or stayed home. So how does a Libertarian-Republican Party elect big government, fiscally liberal statists?
Olsen’s premise rests on the party of Rand Paul (the G.O.P made into the image of Sen. Paul’s libertarianism) erecting the kind of “liberal” big government Republicans as Schwarzenegger, Romney, and George Pataki.
But do any of the libertarian-orientated Republicans govern in such a way?
No. Statists have no love for Sen. Paul nor do G.O.P establishment types. Olsen seems to concede as much, writing,
“He [Rand Paul] proposes dramatically cutting major entitlement programs. He proposes eliminating federal aid. He is, in the Pew typology, a typical Libertarian. He has little in common with the post-moderns he seeks to attract.”
Elsewhere, Olsen writes of Sen. Paul,
“These differences follow through to the social issues. Senator Paul is pro-life. He favors giving states the authority to define marriage as the want, but he does not favor same-sex marriage. He is opposed to gun control. And his views on immigration are far from those held by Post-moderns.”
First of all — how does the above ideological positions not offer anything to conservatives? If the Republican Party stood for what Olsen has written here about Sen. Paul, the G.O.P would not be in the mess it currently is; and it would not be running nor led by men like John Boehner and Eric Cantor and a host of Republican clowns who increase state power outside constitutional parameters.
In a word, what is so awful about the Republican Party becoming these attributes attributed to Rand Paul? They’re far better than the dog and pony show of electoral failure, which the G.O.P resembles now. Also, whatever happened to the art of persuasion? Isn’t that one of the key components of conservative and libertarian ideology? To persuade people to come aboard the movement?
I would also argue the U.S. Constitution itself is far more persuasive than any amount of pomp and bromide spun by Rich Santorum and “conservatives” of his ilk.
Olsen seems to be conflating several social/cultural and political ideas. The problem with conservatives like Olsen is they routinely conflate culture with political advancement. That is politics creates culture. But the opposite is truer. Secondly, he seems (unintentionally no less) to suspect that Republican establishment candidates are libertarians.
Many libertarians are personally socially conservative. But they do not see constitutional justification in imposing such point of views on the country at large. Social conservatives and many Republicans do. Libertarians reject social engineering even when headlined with beliefs they’re sympathetic too because such a premise necessarily increases state power, and assumes the state should have such a large influence over the civitas.
The problem with the G.O.P has always been a tendency to impose cultural uniformity on the nation at large (which is not a Madisonian concept). And fails, as has been seen, to be a true alternative to progressive leftism which has the same mentality of the state, just with differing and contrary ethical considerations.
Libertarians balk at that. Libertarians seek to preserve Madisonian factions and Burkean islands of separation. Such considerations protect against State power and coercion. Likewise, libertarians see little use running on issues that congressional or presidential duties do not entail. This is why candicies like Rick Santorum drive paleocons and libertarians bug-eyed nuts.
The President (or Congress) cannot enforce traditional morality on citizens willy-nilly constitutionally, or legislate much of what crinkles the underwear of Rick Santorum or the womanly undergarments of Michele Bachman — both of whom would fit nicely into the kind of social crusading moralists which characterised 19th and 20th century progressivism animating the madness and fascism of Woodrow Wilson himself.
Pres. Wilson, again, had no use whatsoever with the U.S. Constitution. The former President of Princeton University and Governor of New Jersey hated any notion of civil government remaining within constitutional parameters.
Olsen points out an interesting fact when it comes to the difference between post-moderns and libertarians. Unlike libertarians, post-moderns overwhelming support ObamaCare, gun control, and bigger government; they are opposed to cutting major federal programs, and are against producing more fossil fuel.
Since post-moderns make up large swaths of the populations living in blue states, goes the thinking; libertarians wish to win these voters over to their side.
I could be stupid enough to miss Olsen’s point. That all the man is saying is what the Libertarian Republican mantra offers (being nothing for conservatives) is that conservatives already hold fealty to much of the political ideas of a Rand Paul, etc. Judging from what “conservatives” have stood for across twenty-years of cultural fundamentalism, and more importantly how they have governed (and who ran for President in 2008 and 2012), this is a tough case for Olsen to be taken seriously.
The conservative movement has not cared about defunding major entitlement programs or repealing laws. It’s been outlandish and crazy social/cultural diatribes (having nothing to do with constitutionally-focused policy) against all manner of consensual activity they’re displeased by — or that go against the tenets of evangelical religious piety.
See Rick Santorum and Michele Bachman.
It has also sought to involve American military power all over the world at an increased rate than even Pres. Barack Obama. Modern conservatism does not challenge at all the progressive idea about what the State should be, nor cripple and defund fiscally and ideological-driven Wilsonian internationalist foreign policy.
In a word, Rand Paul seeks a Republican Party of constitutional moorings, which will rebuild a party of the many, rather than a social-religio/cultural shell game which has produced a party of the few.
Furthermore, I reject abortion being a social issue. Libertarian Monks and myself have always tried to define social issues in light of the constitution’s indifference to such issues. Like contraception, gay-marriage, etc.
First of all, abortion destroys the right of the individual. The right for individual life and property is not something the U.S. Constitution is indifferent to. It is the basic right and starting point of all other inalienable rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which as some of us comprehend, is the rule of law (or used to be) of these United States.
So, a libertarian who is pro-life is so, not because of morality issues — but because it violates individual sovereignty protected by the edifice of the Constitution.
Some will go ape I myself am not presenting a moral argument against abortion. But the problem with such a premise is there is much that is immoral in society which should not and is not illegal in our society. And never has been. It is immoral not to be a good steward of one’s own property — which would include one’s life. But are we really going to arrest and prosecute people for not taking care of themselves (bodies) or property they own?
That is disaster waiting to happen when the State is given that kind of authority.
Also, selfishness is immoral. But it is not illegal. Not unless it leads to a crime against the inalienable rights of fellow citizens. The loss of such 18th century liberal thinking has produced the so-called “freest nation on earth” with the most people in prisons for non-violent offences.
Libertarians have stood against such horse manure. It’s not animating of a free society.
To enforce the natural order in terms of morality is to destroy our liberal and free society. In 18th century liberal conceptions, the civil government enforces the moral code as it relates to inalienable rights — not all morality. This was a social contract to protect citizens from tyrannical government — not an admittance that there was not a moral order above men and women which mortals are accountable to.
Such philosophical/ideological reasoning allows for men and women to personally think numerous behaviours to be immoral. Freedom of association, and individual sovereignty protect the right of individuals to choose not to partake of such behaviours. But it does not therefore follow such prohibitions have to be enforced on others. That kind of thinking constructs laws like the Volstead Act and the Mann Act — all big government programs, based upon moral reasoning, which progressives favored and passed, not conservatives, and not libertarians.
If such thinking pervades the culture, all manner of behaviour (even if truly moral) will become unacceptable. And that is exactly what has happened in American society of late and modern conservatism has been impotent to stop it because it does not have the philosophical moorings to do so convincingly — not when its own premises rest on similar thinking about the purviews of the State.
The big difference between libertarian Republicans like Rand Paul and “status quo” conservatives like Henry Olsen appears to be that Rand Paul sees the current G.O.P and conservative movement as wholly ineffective in reducing the size, scope, power, and intrusion of the Federal Government. And one cannot look around (especially in light of Obama administration scandals which all involve overreach of power) and not come to the same conclusion as Sen. Paul if being rational.
Empirical data matters. Or should.
Sen. Paul appears to be challenging and adding distinction to what it means to be conservative in the adjectival sense, and what it means to be a constitutional classical liberal in the political sense. The former of late, cares little about constitutionally limited government, the later beliefs such ideology ought to be the focus of national politics.
And I concur.
Sen. Paul wages a Republican libertarianism that seeks to preserve and animate constitutional republicanism instead of getting sidetracked on social issue moralism — which ironically, does not challenge the idea of the State as all encompassing, held to by Democratic statists. Olsen makes a weak case Sen. Paul’s libertarian Republicanism would not dramatically reduce government overreach, especially in light of a conservative movement which has been an utter disaster in the last twenty-years at shrinking anything — and has, in fact, grown government substantially.
Alas, it is Olsen’s status quo “conservative” defence which has been rendered ineffective and lacking not only electoral support, but limited government musicality. I myself would have little issue with Sen. Paul and those libertarian Republicans like him, running and leading the G.O.P into the future.