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Where have all the conservatives gone?

Posted By Harry Browne On 06/06/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

There used to be two highly vocal political movements in America – the conservatives and the liberals.

Although there were subtle variations, the basic difference between them was this:

  • Liberals were impatient with society as it was and wanted to use the force of government to change it.

  • Conservatives were skeptical of change, and were reluctant to use government to force changes on society.

Today, however, it’s almost impossible to tell the two groups apart.

Liberals

The modus operandi of liberals has always been:

  1. Cite a social problem.

  2. Assume that this represents a failure of freedom that only the federal government can repair.

  3. Propose a big-government program.

  4. When someone objects, accuse him of ignoring the poor folks who are suffering.

  5. When the new program fails to solve the problem (and instead makes it much worse), throw more money at it, pass more laws, make the penalties more oppressive, and then ignore the situation (until it’s time to cite the failure as a reason to expand the program again).

In this way they’ve turned education into a federal responsibility – leading to unsafe schools and far too many illiterate students.

They’ve ruined what was once the best health-care system in history – making it terribly expensive, cruelly insensitive, and totally out of the reach of many people.

They’ve created a permanent underclass of welfare clients, made America’s farmers dependent on the federal government, and polluted the environment by putting too much land in the care of irresponsible bureaucrats.

No matter how much and how often and how harmfully government fails at what it does, no matter how many problems it causes, liberals still ask government to bring about whatever they want.

Conservatives

Conservatives used to oppose these government programs – fighting them with economic arguments, pointing to unintended consequences, and citing the unconstitutionality of the proposals.

But no longer.

Conservatives have used the federal government to wage a horrendous Drug War. The result has been drug-dealing gangs in the streets, children killed in drive-by shootings, crack babies, increased drug use, and a trashing of the Bill of Rights.

And how do they propose to deal with this enormous failure?

Throw more money at it, make the prison terms more oppressive, take away more of our civil liberties, trash the Constitution even further. In other words, do more of the things that created the problems.

If someone objects, accuse him of ignoring the crack babies and the families hurt by drugs.

If government schools are a mess, cite uneducated children as a reason for a government program to subsidize private schools – which will surely turn those schools into clones of the government schools (as happened with private colleges).

If federal welfare is a tragedy, propose putting religious charities on the federal dole – so that they, too, can become beggars at the government trough, doing the bureaucrats’ bidding in order to keep the subsidies coming.

If it’s revealed that our military, the FBI, or the CIA hasn’t perform its mission properly, throw more money at it, expand whatever program has failed, give more power to the bureaucrats. And if anyone objects, if anyone cites the Constitution, just accuse him of ignoring the victims of 9-11.

No matter how much, and how often, and how harmfully government fails at what it does – no matter how many problems it causes – conservatives still ask government to bring about whatever they want.

No difference

In other words, conservatives now sound exactly like liberals.

  • Cite social problems as justification for expanding the federal government.

  • If anyone opposes the proposal, accuse him of being heartless or anti-American.

  • Ignore the Constitution if it conflicts with one’s pet crusade.

  • And no matter how bad a program gets, the answer always is to make it bigger, more expensive, and more powerful.

What did you get for your vote?

Conservative writers and commentators oppose big-government programs only if they’re proposed by Bill Clinton or some other Democratic president. Then they’re constitutionalists – sounding the alarm against big government.

At least with Clinton, there was an opposition party. But with a Republican in the White House, there’s no opposition. Thus government grew more rapidly under Nixon, Reagan, Ford or Bush than it did under Clinton.

In 2000, many people said they were voting for George Bush because he was the lesser of two evils.

But it turns out that Bush is doing all the things Gore would have done – only now, there’s no opposition.

So it appears that those people who chose Bush actually voted for the greater of two evils – big government and no opposition.


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