Ron Morley's Freedom Blog

This is the place where I do my little bit to explain the evils of the State.

March 2012 - Posts

Why "Conservatives" aren't necessarily good for America

I've just finished reading Richard A. Viguerie and Mark S. Fitzgibbons recent pamphlet titled Reclaim the Constitution: A Pamphlet of Principles, Purpose, and Proposals for Constitutional Conservatives and must say that I am very impressed with the effort. One of the things which I am glad to see that the authors did was to disclaim any copyright of the document. This will allow it to be copied and distributed by anyone who wishes to do so. The document is released in PDF format and I've taken advantage of that to make my own comments about what has been written. I plan on sending the annotated document out to my mailing list of people whom I am concerned about. That list is not solely inhabited by constitutional conservatives. There are several liberals on the list and it will be interesting to see what they have to say about the pamphlet and my comments.

But it's the "conservatives" who may be most dismayed to read my comments. The fact that I am a libertarian drives some of my conservative friends batty. However, I have good reasons to be leery of the goals of the conservative movement in general, although those who declare themselves to be constitutional conservatives don't bother me as much. The reason for my differentiation is that so-called “conservatives” such as Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and others of their ilk is that they are, based on statements they have made in the past, ready and willing to use the power of the Federal government to enforce a particular moral code upon Americans. For instance, those mentioned, and many more like them, have no problem with the Federal law called the “Defense of Marriage Act” -- which defines an “official” marriage to be only that state-sanctioned relationship of a man and a woman. No gays, transgendered, transexuals, or lesbians need apply. According to the moral code of conservatives the Federal government should legally exclude any other type of relationship from coverage of insurance, survivor's benefits, and any other financial and legal items that members of a traditional marriage can count on.

Such an outlook is simply wrong. For starters it is, on the face of it, unconstitutional. Nowhere in my multiple copies of the Constitution do I find anything related to marriage among the powers granted to the Federal government. Conservatives were (and probably still are) angry over Attorney General Eric Holder's decision not to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act” against suits brought in Federal court. The thing is, that is about the only constitutionally-defensible decision that the Obama regime has made. The AG is correct when he says that there is no constitutional justification for the act. It is the willingness of many conservatives to use the coercive power of the Federal government to enforce a particular moral code which makes me concerned about having any of them elected. After all, we've reached the point at which the Federal government pays little or no attention to the Constitution; a situation which conservatives generally ascribe to ill-will on the part of liberals and what they consider to be “activist” judges. What is it that makes them believe that their proposed exercise of government power is different from what they so detest liberals for doing? The answer is, nothing. Neither side is acting constitutionally in such matters. It seems to me that those who call themselves simply conservative have not really understood what the struggle to restore America to its position as the envy of the world for both our economy and our liberty is all about. The problem is that the Federal government is not only the nation's greatest law-breaker, but that its power continues to grow because of the efforts of statists, both Republicans and Democrats. People who propose to use the power of the government in order to enforce some particular way of acting, whether that is telling people not to drink corn-syrup sweetened sodas, not to eat salty snacks, not to marry someone of the same sex or not to ingest certain drugs are espousing expanding the power of the government.

It is by conflating social responsibilities and concerns with those of government that we have arrived at the current condition of government out of control at all levels. It is no legitimate concern of the government's whether or not gays marry. Indeed, one can go down the list of social concerns, ills, and wishes and find some element of governmental interference in the majority of them. It was a concern for the poor of this nation which began the Great Society drive of President Lyndon Johnson, though the groundwork of government involvement in social issues was laid long before. And, indeed, who could argue with the goals of the program: better education for children in impoverished areas, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid as a way to help Americans afford better medical care, among other things? Where people went astray was with the assumption that “only the Federal government has enough resources and power” to attain their desired ends. That was not true then and it is not true now. All that results from reliance upon a faceless and increasingly soulless government bureaucracy is an ever-expanding list of things that people cannot do. It is only by establishing limits on human activity that bureaucrats can hope to write rules which may apply to everyone.

Of course, as soon as the rules writing begins, those who want some advantage or other under the government program begin lobbying for special treatment. When others eligible for the program see this they begin to worry that their share of the new government largess will be reduced and they marshal their forces in the form of demonstrations, ad campaigns, lobbyists, and all the other tools that the professional looters of the common purse have come to know so well. Some “worst-case” example is trotted out before the TV cameras and the sob-story is told, the underlying message being, “How can anyone object to helping this person/group?” In the end, whatever program is adopted, more money than originally advertised is spent and more restrictions are placed on the activities of those wishing to take advantage of it. Americans as a whole become poorer and less free while the government becomes stronger and more intrusive. And once the program, whatever it may be, is in place those who benefit from it fight to not only keep it in place, but expand it despite any counterproductive effects it may have on the budget, the supposed beneficiaries of the program, or the nation as a whole.

I'm not going to try to produce an exhaustive list of government projects which began small and, like Topsy, grew over the years into small empires of their own within the Federal government. However, I will note that virtually every one of which I'm aware began with a mis-reading or mis-interprtation of the Constitution. For instance, the now defunct Interstate Commerce Commission, was built on the idea that transportation is somehow commerce – in spite of that never being mentioned in any English Dictionary of which I'm aware. But the constitutionality of the ICC went largely unchalleneged. Why? Because the railroads realized that they could use the commission to do the dirty work of reducing competition for them; by the simple expedient of establishing barriers to entry for new roads which wanted to engage in interstate transportation of goods and passengers. And so it has gone with every other Federal regulatory agency – the “regulated” businesses soon figure out how to use the regulations to their advantage, generally to keep competition out of the field, and soon capture the regulatory agency by providing it with “expert” help in drafting the regulations. Regulation which cost an established business several million dollars a year are generally treated as just the cost of doing business. Those same regulations for a start-up often inflict insuperable costs upon the would-be new enterprise and it soon either drops out of the field or is bought out by one of the existing companies. The American people suffer both a loss of choice of products or services and, also, end up paying higher prices than they would in a free market because new, more efficient competitors are never allowed to get started. The irony of this is that many of the Federal agencies were established so as to ensure “fair prices” or “efficient services” or both: and they end up ensuring that neither goal is achieved.

”Crony capitalism” is a direct result of the growth of the Federal regulatory agencies. Every such agency has its share of lobbyists representing the various interests affected by the regulations promulgated by the agency. Because most of those regulations deal directly with businesses and industries most consumers are hardly aware of their existence. That lack of attention allows the “regulated” businesses to work with and “advise” the agencies, and the legislators responsible for the creation of ever more obscure agencies, on ways to make the regulations manageable or reduce their costs. But the American people pay the costs because of the reduction in market freedom and the limits placed on new entrants to any given established fields of endeavor. In the meantime, the businessmen who help make the rules become richer because they know how to manipulate those rules to their advantage (often with the connivance of the government “regulators” who are supposed to be overseeing them) while imposing new costs on competitors and the American people. Crony capitalism can only exist where the power of the central government is sufficient to reduce market freedom and the liberties of the people themselves. Reducing the size of the Federal government will automatically result in a reduction in the amount of crony capitalism which goes on behind the closed doors of Washington conference rooms, and the corruption which goes with it. If the American people force the Federal government to operate strictly within the bounds set forth by the Constitution, most of the problems of corruption and crony capitalism will go away. After all, no businessman is going to bribe a legislator who can't do him any favors because the government itself is strictly limited in what it can do.

The same would be true with the vast majority of our social problems. Those who truly care for the poor, the ill, and the downtrodden would soon come up with non-governmental solutions to those problems if the money flowing through the public trough were cut off. That's how Americans used to handle social problems, before the Progressives began preaching the “benefits” of an “active government” and that's how they'll do it again when the “active government” is forced to abide by the Constitution. Does anyone really believe that the nation whose people are always in the lead when it comes to giving for world disaster relief, or food programs, or disease eradication would deliberately turn their backs on those among them who are hurting? I, for one, have more faith in the American people than to think that, allowing them more freedom would turn them into a nation of Scrooges. The opposite is far more likely the case. The stories of men who were down on their luck only to have some stranger buy them a suit of clothes and start them on the path to prosperity are not merely folk-tales. Such things did happen in the past, which is why the stories exist, they happen today (as we sometimes hear from the news media), and they would happen in an America which is free of the opportunity-stifling rules and regulations which our governmental overseers insist we obey – for our own good, of course.

Would a freer America be a Utopia? No. But then, the path of socialism we've been on for close to one hundred years has led us only deeper into debt, produced a number of social problems which seem intractable, and, worst of all, destroyed the liberty and independence of millions of our fellow citizens. Surely, we owe it to ourselves and our posterity to put this nation back on the path it was on earlier in its history when we truly were the envy of the world – the place where everyone wanted to come, not becausse of our military might or our “survival net” of social programs, but so that individuals might pursue their own dreams in the way which seemed best to them. Yes, some people got left behind and didn't prosper, but that was largely the result of choices they made in deciding how they wanted to live. Looking at the numbers of people who are totally dependent upon the Federal and state governments for all of life's necessities I can't believe the situation would get worse. Only those who lack faith in the goodness of most of their fellow citizens find it necessary to place limits on how those people may act, force them to live as the government decides, and force them to spend money in places and on projects with which they disagree. Only those who believe that they know what's best for everyone espouse the creation of yet more rules restricting the liberties that America's Declaration of Independence proclaimed and which our Constitution sought to guarantee the continuation of. Both “conservative” Republicans and “liberal” Democrats who seek to use the power of the Federal government to coerce people to act in ways they favor are acting to destroy the very thing – liberty of individual action – which made America great. Only by sending those who would further extend their control over us packing, come election time, can America be restored to its place of greatness in this world. It's paradoxical but true – reducing the power of the government increases the power of the people; which, in turn, makes the nation itself stronger as it serves as an example of hope to millions around the world. Let's hope that the American people have the wisdom to vote in favor of freedom this coming November.