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As an unwavering Christian conservative, I’ve been profoundly
appreciative of Pat Buchanan’s bold, conservative stance for many
years. Precisely because of this appreciation, it’s been painful to
observe his words and actions the last few weeks. First, he bolted from
the Republican Party to Ross Perot’s Reform Party. Why he abandoned the
GOP is at least understandable, if perhaps unwise; why he embraced the
Reform Party is not. The Republican Party is seriously, perhaps
terminally, ill. Further, it has been caring less and less for
Buchanan’s views. Still, it has a significant contingent committed to
the basics of conservative, pro-liberty truth — though, admittedly, the
influence of this contingent seems to be shrinking.

By contrast, the Reform Party has from its inception distanced itself
from “social issues,” the very topics that have been Pat’s bread and
butter for 30 years. The Reform Party is about changing the political
system and hampering free trade, not in recovering the moral fiber of
the nation, the program Pat is all about — until recently, that is.

Lo these many years, Pat has been a true, rock-ribbed conservative:
pro-Christianity, pro-individual liberty, pro-free enterprise,
anti-communist, anti-big government, anti-abortion. He’s not repudiated
these views, but he’s seriously muted most of them. He’s replaced
conservative rhetoric with, to be blunt about it, socialist rhetoric.

In a recent joint news conference where he accepted ultra-left-winger
Lenora Fulani’s endorsement and welcomed her to his campaign, for
instance, Pat said, “You will be hard pressed to find a farm in America
today where the family farmer is getting the price for his commodity to
equal the cost of his production. …” This is Marxist reasoning, plain
and simple. It’s an implicit advocacy of the theory of the “just
price,” that sellers should get for products what it costs to develop
them and get them into the marketplace. It is a cornerstone of Marxist
economics. True conservatives know differently. Products and services
are worth what people will pay for them. Further, Pat declared,

    My campaign is committed to a living wage for every family. What
    does that mean? It’s not an outrageous concept. It goes back a long way,
    in my tradition (Roman Catholicism). A hundred years, as a matter of
    fact, if you go back to some of those encyclicals. It means that one
    member of the family, one spouse, a husband or wife, ought to be able to
    earn enough to enable the entire family to live in decency while the
    other spouse, if they choose, stays home with the younger children or
    raises the children, as was true in my household, or the one I grew up
    in. And that’s not so wild a dream, but it’s our dream.

To recover a single wage-earner family is a great objective,
especially if it means moms can stay home and rear their children. We
could do this if we drastically lopped the tax rate. But Pat says
nothing about tax reduction. In fact, he has said nothing about tax
reduction in a long, long time. Just what does it really mean to be
“committed to a living wage”? Does it mean to push for slashing taxes so
families have fatter paychecks, thereby eliminating the pressure toward
a two-wage-earner family? Or does it mean almost the opposite,
coercively redistributing wealth to guarantee this arbitrarily devised
“living wage”? The first constitutes pro-liberty capitalism, the second
pro-slavery socialism.

As if to forestall just this criticism, Pat stated, “Now, let me say,
I’m not and never have been a believer in the politics of envy. I don’t
believe we ought to take away the money or the wealth of those who have
earned it legitimately.” But how can you guarantee a “living wage” if
you don’t cut taxes, or, alternatively, if you don’t rearrange taxes to
divert other people’s money to people who don’t get it in the
marketplace? Does Pat think high tariffs will do this? High tariffs can
guarantee a “living wage” only to state-”protected” industries. They
don’t guarantee a “living wage” to those people not in state-”protected”
industries who must pay the higher market prices that those industries
can afford to charge because they are not forced to compete in the
marketplace. As Henry Hazlitt showed years ago, “protectionism”
protects the inefficient or outmoded few by subjecting the vast majority
of consumers to pay higher prices for their products or services.

Despite what Pat may say, tariffs are a form of tax, coercive wealth
redistribution: they tax consumers in the form of higher prices charged
by “protected” industries. Wealth is coercively transferred from the
consumer to the employees of certain favored industries in the higher
prices consumers are forced to pay.

Pat throws down the gauntlet to his conservative colleagues, “I would
ask my conservative friends, what in Heaven’s name is it we want to
conserve any more, if not towns and communities and country?” He
apparently thinks that protectionism alone will do this. If so, he’s
wrong. The right answer is, “You conserve towns and communities and
country by conserving liberty.” And that includes economic
liberty.

You don’t conserve towns and communities and country by allowing Big
Brother to take away people’s liberty to purchase what they want in the
marketplace at the price they are willing to pay. You don’t conserve
towns and communities and country by allowing Big Brother to punish
efficient, competitive businesses, which want to serve their clients by
offering the best products or services at the best price. You don’t
conserve towns and communities and country by authorizing Big Brother to
“protect” the jobs of outmoded or inefficient industries against foreign
competition that gives the country’s citizens more buying power that, in
turn, produces new, efficient industries and thus more jobs at home. You
don’t conserve towns and communities and country by putting into the
hands of the state the power to regulate the economy. But this is
precisely what Pat is now advocating.

I agree with Pat’s non-interventionism — we should be “doves” when
contemplating the military invasion of any other nation’s borders, and
“hawks” when defending our own. This is the older conservative
position, far removed from the “neo” conservatives’ mad dash to a New
World Order. But Pat is not a consistent non-interventionist. He
embraces non-interventionism as a foreign policy, but not as a domestic
policy. He correctly wants to keep the state out of every other
nation’s borders, but, unfortunately, not out of the economy of its own
country. Pat may be militarily non-interventionist, but he’s
economically interventionist. This is a form of state socialism. The
fact that he supports this socialism in the name of a strong nation and
strong families does not make it any less socialistic.

Pat is sounding less and less like a conservative all the time. If
this is the price of “political reform,” let’s forget about it. After
all, true conservatives are interested chiefly in liberty, not in
politics.

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