We Dont Need No Stinking Moderation

Reading Ayn Rand’s Capitalism; The Unknown Ideal, I was struck while reading an article about politics in the mid 1960s by how incredibly apropos it is today. It was as if The time capsule had opened and contained a newspaper article referring to the events of the day it did so. Seeing John McCain on the cover of our local Washington Metro rag in reference to the recent “health care summit” just confirmed it. We’ve been through this paradigm before.

In Rand’s day, Goldwater had just challenged the Republican Party to actually stand for something other than a watered down version of what the Democrats stood for. For years, ever since FDR had figured out how to funnel billions of federal dollars directly to swing states before elections and often right through the hands of the local Democratic political machine, the Republicans had been a party drifting from decline to near extinction. Despite a firm electoral rebuke of the New Deal immediately after World War II, the Republicans had never been able to capitalize on voter disgust with the overt institutionalization of local, corrupt party machines at the Federal level under the Democrats. This was because the Republicans didn’t really have anything to offer except to say that things had been better “before”. Nostalgia, bereft of ideology, allows only the weakest resistance as it inevitably retreats in the face of the consistent logic of welfare statism.

By the 1960s, the Republican Party had finally entered crisis mode. It had to change fundamentally or resign itself to permanent minority status. That really was the choice that Goldwater forced upon the party, despite his own ideological inconsistencies and lack of skill as a campaigner.

After Goldwater’s staggering electoral loss to Johnson, the “moderates” in the Republican Party got up on their hind legs and began to sound militant. They were sure that a conservative could not be elected; in effect, they accepted the premises of the liberal Democrats that we had progressed to a phase of development, industry, and social change that made our founder’s ideas obsolete, requiring a centralized welfare state to meet the demands of modern society. The moderates merely differed from the Democrats in their notions as to the speed with which the inevitable transition to a centrally controlled technocracy should occur.

By the mid sixties, the Republican Moderates were angry. They felt that the party had been co-opted by Goldwater (insert the name Palin here for an interesting mental exercise), and that if it swung conservative, it would be subject to an endless chain of crushing defeats as inflicted by Johnson. They started to talk about being “extreme moderates” and demanded compromise above all things. Governor Romney (Mitt’s father) offered defenses of capitalism that sounded like whimpering excuses couched in socialist phraseology (for Romney, insert “McCain”, and you’ve got a good fit. The current Romney is much more conservative than his father), which passed for the Republican mainstream. The mentality was that “compromise” and “moderation” were necessary in order for a democracy to function. If everybody compromised, we could all live together without conflict (to prove this point, authorities eagerly and rapidly began to compromise with the nascent student rebellion at Berkeley, hoping to end it quickly…)

The problem is this; we are not a “democracy”, we are a republic. That means that we have a set of ideals and values; a Constitution that sets a framework that is immutable until legally altered. The difference is that in a “democracy” by mass will, anything can be decided, like the decision by Germany’s voters to effectively vote away their own voting rights by voting for the Nazis in the 1930s, or current European voters supposedly “voting away” the sovereignty of the very states through which they can express their democratic will, leaving them disenfranchised, as if that were possible (naturally, they don’t agree very often; the EU just avoids referendums nowadays). Just as you cannot sell yourself into slavery even by your own free will, since free will cannot negate itself, so we cannot pretend that we are a mass democracy and simply vote away the Constitution which is the mechanism through which we conduct the vote in the first place. Being a republic means that we believe certain things are right and other things are wrong. “We hold these truths to be self-evident”… You can be absolutely incorrect, by an objective standard, even if you have the mass of votes on your side. The mass will can also try to claim powers it does not have and favor legislation that would be unconstitutional, in which case, the Supreme Court can and should negate that will.

The questions that are now before the American people and the Legislature are fundamental ones. The issues we face today are as serious as any faced since the 1960s (I would even say they are the most fundamental since the decisions of the 1930s), and consequently, the Republican Party is once again fighting with itself over popularity versus principles. Americans want the government to give them things; they demand these things as their “right”, yet what they demand is the right of expropriating the tax money of other Americans. This never worked and never got very far until Keynes (who admitted that he was not an economist) came up with an economic theory that seemed to allow free money to fall from the sky and let the Democrats give to everyone who demanded. This was done through borrowing. The Democrats remained the majority party in Congress for over 30 years. Of course, by the 1970s, we began to understand that this free money isn’t so free after all. Borrowing puts tremendous strain on our money supply. Nixon dropped the gold standard partly because it allowed him to borrow more. Once  we had a free-floating currency though, this debt fell even more unequally; everyone who holds mostly cash, who relies on dollars with few wealth safeguarding mechanisms like bonds, stocks, or other properties -in other words, mostly working poor- will feel the bite of inflation directly and heavily as our tremendous debt destroys the spending power of our dollar. Every time legislators agree to borrow a little more, they should keep clearly in their mind’s eye a Carpenter working to put food on his family’s table, a mechanic who runs his own business deciding which of his children will go to college and which cannot afford to go. These are the people who are now having spending power forcibly taken from them and given to that Federal program for which we borrow. There is no free lunch and that is the tradeoff. You hurt the working poor to give endless extensions of unemployment to the non-working poor. You take a percentage of the food off of the table of that carpenter’s family when you borrow to buy “clunkers” for “cash”. You demand that the mechanic maybe send none of his children to college instead of one, when you spend half a trillion dollars bailing out a Wall Street that is famous for its ability to rapidly dump bad assets and get on with business all by itself.

These issues, along with the idea that the government may force us all to buy something we may not want (health care), the idea that the government should intentionally inflict economic harm on citizens “for their own good” (energy and fuel efficiency mandates) and the extremely important idea that nobody talks about; whether it is even constitutional for something like the EPA or OSHA to legislate without any deliberation in Congress, in a way that affects every single American any time their unelected leaders want, are what are now on the table for the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. These issues are critical. We live or die as a republic based on how we answer these challenges, and the people of this nation are waking up to a tremendous degree because they realize it. In this environment, to call for “moderation” and “compromise” above all things is to say that there are no absolutes, that everything is negotiable, that there is no Constitutional or moral line, that the Republican Party stands for what the Democrats stand for but a little less so.

After Goldwater, with his lack of consistent ideological and political platform energized the conservative base (again, insert Palin here), the Moderates took over in order to avoid another electoral catastrophe. They gave us Nixon. Nixon sounded “conservative” when campaigning, but governed as what he was, an old-fashioned, liberal Republican. He gave us the EPA, he gave us the floating dollar, price controls, and a spectacle in political immorality that shocked the World and destroyed the momentum gained by the Republican Party up till then. We now, today, have an entire generation of hard-line liberals in Congress who got there on the wave of Watergate backlash. Nixon was a pragmatist. He was a moderate, he went with what worked, he did not stick with some inflexible ideological stand. He went along to get along and did whatever was expedient. He was exactly the man today’s Colin Powells and John McCains would put back in the White House today. He was the biggest disaster for the Republican Party since Franklin Roosevelt.

Republicans today mention Reagan so much that his memory becomes meaningless to people, which is really too bad, because he had a profound effect on my generation, and I really think that many in the older generations did not really appreciate him. I won’t say the obvious thing; that we need another Reagan not another Nixon, I will say that Goldwater (and probably Sarah Palin) were not successful not because they believed the wrong things, but because they failed to articulate them in a structured, disciplined, and compelling way. We cannot reject the basic values that define conservatism, because conservatism today is the only thing that is still trying to defend our republic against a “democracy by consensus” where everyone must demand the government extort from their neighbor and give to him, and because of it, all power resides with the man in Washington doling out the handouts.

There is too much at stake today. We have done this all before, we have tried everything under the sun except real freedom in this country in the last century. We cannot continue to compromise now with our republic in such clear peril and the forces arrayed against us so united and emboldened. To put it simply; we don’t need no stinking moderation.

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~ by Jubal Biggs on March 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “We Dont Need No Stinking Moderation”

  1. It was good enough for St. Paul.

    • And yet St. Paul was a hard line absolutist when it came to principles and morals, telling early Christians to “cast out from among you” people who did not live up to a moral standard. He was a moderate in outer forms of life and completely inflexible in his beliefs. I write an article about beliefs, principles, and our conception of government which is based on the kind of beliefs St Paul advocated, and you reply that he, in essence, would have no particular political opinion today since he said people should have “all things in moderation” in their personal lifestyles. You display an extremely shallow understanding of what St Paul actually believed; I would suggest you re-read your New Testament.

  2. Wow, that is so absolutely correct. Great insight. We need more people in Washington with such clarity of thought and strong values. Unfortunately we also need a party to back them and it needs to be a “republic” party. I’m not sure the Republican party can straighten out enough, they’ve been bent for so long.

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