Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GOP: Conservatives vs. Moderates

On the O'Reilly Factor, Dr. Charles Krauthammer tried to pour oil on the troubled waters of the Republican divide.  All this is just a question of tactics, he said.

But conservative firebrand Jeffrey Lord begs to differ.  Republican moderates, he argues, are willing to accede to the leftwards ratchet.  Republican conservatives want to ratchet the government to the right.  Moderate George W. Bush wanted a compassionate expansion of federal education funding with No Child Left Behind.  Conservative Ronald Reagan wanted to abolish the federal Department of Education.

Allow me to translate.

Republican conservatives are ideologues.  We believe in limited government.  Republican moderates are pragmatists.  They do not believe in any principled limits to government.  If someone comes up with a good idea for a government program to help children, why, what's the harm?

The harm, according to conservatives, is the free stuff.  Politics is almost always about politicians promising free stuff to their supporters.

When some politician comes up with a plan for a government program to help children, it always involves a free or subsidized delivery of benefits to the children of the politician's supporters with funds to be supplied by taxing or regulating people who are not the politician's supporters.

That is unjust.  It is force.  But worse, it doesn't even work, because the program to help children slowly turns into a jobs program for the program's bureaucrats and doesn't help children.

Or take Obamacare.  The "good idea" is to provide health insurance to people that currently don't "have" it.  It is claimed that about 30-45 million people don't have health insurance.  You can see that these 30-45 million people would approve of "getting" insurance, provided that they didn't have to pay for it.  Now it stands to reason that such a plan, if it subsidizes the previously uninsured, is bound to shift costs to the presently insured.  But Obama and the boys wouldn't admit that.  They claimed, from behind a barricade of complications, that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

In fact, of course, as we are experiencing day to day, Obamacare does shift costs to the insured.  And the mechanism that the Obamis used to do this is to force health insurance companies to change the pricing and the content of their health insurance plans.  This year the government is forcing people with individual plans to pay more for coverage; next year it will be the turn of employer plans.

Now, the whole point of politics is, as the song goes:
You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Obama and the boys, the negative has decided not to get eliminated. Tens of millions of people are going to have to pay more for health insurance, and they know it.

So the Obamis have screwed up on the basics of free-stuff-ology.  They have failed to hide the costs of the free stuff that were always going to be forced upon average middle-class Americans that go to work, pay their taxes, obey the law, and make sure to have health insurance.  Result: political death spiral.

Back to the difference between Republican moderates and Republican conservatives.

Republican moderates believe that there's not much you can do about free-stuff politics.  The American people want free stuff and they will vote for politicians that promise it.  You gotta go along to get along.

Republican conservatives believe that free-stuff politics is morally wrong.  It amounts to the dictum that Might is Right.  You gotta majority, you get to plunder the minority to hand out free stuff to your supporters.  Call it the Divine Right of Majorities; it's no better than the old Divine Right of Kings.

Republican conservatives believe that if the notion of humans as social animals means anything it means that we do not use force on each other, except in the case of murder and robbery.  This means, obviously, a policy of No Free Stuff, because free stuff always means that someone has been taxed or otherwise compelled to surrender their labor or property so it can be handed out to someone else.

Bottom line for Republican conservatives is that we believe we should always be trying to reduce the amount of free stuff handed out by the politicians and fighting attempts to increase it.

Leaving aside the moral question, there is the practical question.  As government has got bigger and bigger it has gotten harder and harder to find new ways to hide the fact that free stuff always has to be paid for.  Also, each free-stuff initiative kills off a zone of voluntary cooperation and freezes a relationship in place: so much money has be collected in taxes and so much money has be handed out to the government's supporters, and don't you dare try to "cut" the amount of free stuff.  Eventually, you run out of other peoples' money to hand out.

The idea of voluntary cooperation and the market has always struggled against the idea that the poor could never get an even break.  Of course the rich would use their power to loot and plunder.  Of course the poor would go to the wall.  Stand to reason.

The modern innovation is to come up with an explanation of why this isn't true.  If you prevent the powerful from using their power to loot and plunder you find that people can and will cooperate for mutual advantage.  The Invisible Hand doctrine says that if you go out into the world to serve people rather than plunder them you will find that there are people who are prepared to pay for your services.  The better you figure out their needs the more you are likely to get paid.  The newly escaped Negro slave Frederick Douglass went out into New Bedford, Massachusetts one morning and offered a woman to move a pile of coal.  After the job was done the woman paid him with two silver half-dollars.  And that was just the beginning of Douglass' life in freedom.

The great Question of the last two hundred years is over precisely this issue.  Can the market economy really deliver justice to the poor laborer?  Or is the relationship between employer and employee inherently unjust and exploitative?

The whole point of socialism/liberalism/progressivism is that only politics can repair the inherently unequal relationship between laborer and employer.

The whole point of modern conservatism is that socialism/liberalism/progressivism only makes it worse.

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