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By Mr. Curmudgeon:
Conservative columnists are spilling a lot of ink concerning the “leverage” House Republicans have in the debt ceiling battle coming this February. It’s all a load of hooey.
It’s more likely House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama will hammer out a “grand bargain” that heaps trillions more debt on future generations of indentured state servants with a promise to cut, say, $1 trillion over the next two centuries, while spending hundreds of trillions within the same time-frame. What makes conservative pundits think the debt-ceiling result will differ from that of the fiscal cliff?
I’m quite sure Republican talk radio will herald the debt ceiling result, whatever it may be, as a triumph for the GOP, while Karl Rovian compassionate conservatives bleat that it is the best of achievable outcomes.
To say modern American conservatism is against the ropes is an understatement. Jonah Goldberg of National Review asks in a Commentary magazine article, “Will enough Americans remain committed, or at least open, to the bundle of principles that define modern American conservatism to sustain the movement and the Republican Party, which imperfectly carries its banner? My short answer is an equivocal yes.”
Goldberg credits his equivocation to America’s shifting “demographics” and the “changing nature of the economy.” In other words, America’s entitlement-addicted middle class, coupled with an army of unskilled illegal immigrants raising politically powerful generations dependent on government services from birth, create a center of political gravity nothing can escape. And that grip becomes tighter as government stimulus spending and the manipulation of monetary policy becomes the primary engine of the U.S. economy.
From Main Street and the poorest neighborhoods in East Los Angeles – to the boardrooms on Wall Street – government is the primary financial lifeline.
America’s Founders designed a constitutional government restrained by “enumerated powers” to prevent the national government from ever attaining such authoritarian reach. Many congressional actions and Supreme Court rulings later, these restraints are no more.
Goldberg offers a powerful insight, “… What allows the Democrats to seem more libertarian isn’t just cultural marketing, but a widespread acceptance of the idea that positive liberty is more important than negative liberty. The former, an idea near to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s heart, is that you can’t be free unless the state gives you the material aid necessary to enjoy life to its fullest. This was the point of his ‘economic bill of rights.’ Negative liberty, an idea dear to the Founders, defines freedom as independence from government intrusion and meddling.”
And with that, Goldberg confronts the insoluble problem facing modern conservatism: Progressives shower “free” goodies on their constituents by rifling the incomes of successful Americans, while conservatives tinker with marginal tax rates so the successful may keep a little more of what they earn. In short, the debate is limited to money and stays within the bounds set by the Progressive tax system, which allows an all-powerful government to serve as final arbiter and banker. Both arguments are wrong. The reason? They are materialistic and not moral.
And that’s where “negative liberty” comes in.
“Thou shalt not …” precedes most of the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments. These negative injunctions are moral laws intended to stop the individual from harming his fellow man. He is prevented not only from taking his neighbor’s possessions, but from coveting them. He may not deprive his neighbor of life nor threaten his liberty by “bearing false witness against him.”
If this sounds a bit familiar, that’s because its variant is found in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration on behalf of the individual’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom is not an economic right, but the moral right of Americans to “assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.”
Only after Jefferson declares on behalf of moral order does he define legitimate government: “… That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The immoral Progressive system has robbed America of much more than money. It’s robbed us of our freedom by centralizing power in Washington. A free people cannot “consent” to be governed when, as Jonah Goldberg observed, “… You can’t be free unless the state gives you the material aid necessary to enjoy life to its fullest.” And where in all of human history has government achieved that end? Soviet Russia, North Korea, Cuba … Greece?
If conservatism is to survive as an idea, it needs to abandon the Progressive-Lite nonsense of “compassionate conservatism.” That turn of phrase was invented to legitimize the immoral strain running through the GOP’s Progressive establishment.
The Revolution of 1776 was not economic but moral. Defeating materialistic Progressives with materialistic arguments is a complete waste of time. The fight is not between Right and Left … it’s between Right and Wrong. And the Wrong has the nation’s financial resources at its authoritarian command … until, like Greece, it has spent it all.