Signs of Hope

November 22nd, 2011 at 3:06 pm David Frum | 57 Comments |

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My article in New York magazine on the state of conservatism presented a grim picture. Yet there are also signs of hope in the conservative world, evidences of intellectual openness and readiness for problem-solving. We’ll try to monitor them here, with links as they appear one by one.

Today’s entry: Steven F. Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in Breakthrough Journal.

Hayward’s article acknowledges many of the weaknesses of conventional conservative thought and opens the doors to same creative solutions. Unfortunately, the article is not likely to gain as wide an audience among conservatives as it deserves, since Hayward unaccountably chose to post it–not on AEI’s own well-trafficked site–but at a small specialized journal with a self-declared mission to “modernize liberalism.”

The piece deserves a bigger readership. Some highlights:

By allowing their well-reasoned and often well-founded critiques of government action to metastasize into a categorical rejection of all prospective government action, while continuing to deny the basic political economy of the welfare state, conservatives increasingly find themselves in an ideological and practical straightjacket.

Long-term evidence indicates that the starve-the-beast strategy not only fails, but may make the problem of unrestrained spending growth worse, suggesting that a “serve the check” strategy might be a more effective means of curbing the growth of government spending. The simple explanation for this seeming paradox is that the starve-the-beast strategy currently allows Americans to receive a dollar in government services while only having to pay 60 cents for it. Rigorous analyses from centrist economists Christina and David Romer of UC Berkeley, and from libertarian economist (and Reagan White House alumnus) William Niskanen conclude that the starve-the-beast strategy fails. Strikingly, Niskanen’s analysis found that lower taxes correlated with higher levels of federal spending. As a result, Niskanen argues that raising taxes may be the most effective way to reduce gov-ernment spending.

[T]he welfare state, or entitlement state, is here to stay. It is a central feature of modernity itself. We are simply not going back to a system of “rugged individualism” in a minimalist “night watchman” state; there is not even a plurality in favor of this position. A spectrum of conservative and libertarian thinkers acknowledge this, though this perception has not penetrated the activist ranks.

Conservatives who sensibly dislike both the centralized regulation of most environmental policy and the untethered apocalypticism of much of the environmental movement have tended to respond with a non sequitur: the environment has mostly become a cause of the Left, therefore environmental problems are either phony or are not worth considering.

There is a small subculture on the Right, known as “free market environmentalism,” that offers an alternate path toward environmental protection consistent with conservative principles, including respect for property rights, a strong preference for markets, and our congenital suspicion of government and regulation. The conservative movement would be well served to take those ideas more seriously. …

[C]onservatives must rethink their sweeping rejection of public investments in public goods such as science research and useful infrastructure. Once upon a time, conservatives supported large infrastructure projects, such as dams, water projects, the interstate highway system, and the Apollo project. It is generally forgotten now that President Reagan supported both the international space station and the superconducting supercollider.”

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57 Comments so far ↓

  • TJ Parker

    Newt Gingrich! Know Hope!

    Gingrich/Cain 2012!

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Bollocks.

      I just like looking at the picture of RR, as it reminds me of times when America was still great.

      The antidote to Jimmy Carter. The winner of the Cold War. The Great Conservative.

      Ah, what a legacy.

      • jorae

        The legacy of…tax cuts, but record debt.

        The legacy of Supply Side (which is lowering costs to owners by cutting wages either by breaking Unions or shipping your product overseas…China workers get paid $235.00 a month)

        Trickle Down…I think the supply Side and Trickle Down was one idea…Sort of the part that made the ‘Supply Side’ acceptable. Did anyone really know what ‘Supply Side” meant…Something to do with cutting manufacturing costs…I don’t think people bought this as meaning more unemployment in America.

        So, what we have is a guy who started a ‘propaganda’ crusade that, began with, not telling the people it was to remove ‘FDR’ policies (Keynesian policies PROVEN TO WORK with WWII – everyone could find a job…and a lot were working for the government!) Where in truth, Reagonnomics give more tax breaks, with the new idea, they would creat jobs, broke unions, that allowed jobs to move out of the country and or lower the pay for the American worker, so less money is put back into the Capitalism system. WHO IS THIS STUPID!!

        I doubt Reagon really knew what he was talkig about. But the Bean Counters put together the plan…and were happy with the outcome.

        Let’s not turn a blind eye on Reganomics…Supply Side is China…and Supply Side rewards Banks/Stock Markets and Corporations.

        • nhthinker

          Keynesian policies are basically just spending today by borrowing against projected future optimism in the economy. Keynesian policies were never objectively balanced against the potential for future pessimism in the economy- thus we end up with bubbles and crashes.
          70 years of over-optimism and inflated view of comparative worth of the US and European labor compared to the ROW has led us to a precarious point in the history of the world.

          Will US and European wage earners continue to politically demand substantially more benefits and indulgences than their ROW counterparts? The liberals naively think that a combination of protectionism, tap the rich and delusion will reverse the erosion of American/European wealth. Such is not a realistic assessment.

        • jorae

          Keynesian states …”..the DECISIONS OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR ….CAN lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes…

          1.HUD’s “NO DOWN PAYMENT” 2004 – GOVERNMENT
          2.GreenSpan keeping interest rates low, even though bubles are created this way GOVERNMENT

          3.Removing Glass/Seagell – GOVERNNMENT – Lobbied
          4.Banks merging with Stock Brokers now allowed “too big to fail” GOVERMENT – Lobbied
          5. SEC allowing 30 times the value of stocks for speculation. Government – Lobbied

          6.Stock Brokers grading bundled mortages at AAA – PRIVATE SECTOR
          7.At the time, Freddie/Fannie was a private company…CEO’s made a decision to get into the boom of ‘subprime’… but the banks were still to follow rule on qualifications..which they did not. PRIVATE SECTOR

          Keyanian economis …

          Advocates active government policies in responses by the public sector. Which including monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle.

          ============

          Keynesian aggregate demand…’Place your order…we don’t have it, until you show us the money and your not buying due to LOW INTEREST RATES or NO DOWN PAYMENT because…they don’t exsist under Keynesian policies.

          Aggregate demand is the total demand for final goods and services in the economy at a given time and price level.This is the demand for the gross domestic product of a country when inventory levels are static.

          Two ways…Keyanian…requires you to need it, but your restricted due to interest rages, wages or government policies

          Supply Side…Mass produce to sell the product real cheap, so anyone can buy and push easy credit at the manufactures level. Credit Cards from Wal Mart.

          ============
          /
          Per nhthink

          l. Keynesian policies were never objectively balanced against the potential for future pessimism in the economy- thus we end up with bubbles and crashes.
          ============

          Not true…Bubbles and Crashes are caused by unrealist opptimism – THE GET RICH QUICK SCHEMES ..the 1929 stock market CRASH which brought on the depression, the get rich, by flipping houses… regulations bring up and down interest rates…The Keynesian side looks at the ‘buying American public’ … It accepts that regulations keeps things from going int toat crazy mode of GET RICH QUICK…It’ doesn’t work…Crashes are proof.
          ===========

          Do you understand what regulations were removed, caused the problem.

          The exact opposite of Keyanian principles were used.

          And Dreams prefer the Get Rich Quick approach…But rules are required in a society…otherwise we get the Bank/StockMarket meltdown…which effected the entire world…It isn’t the entitlement that brought down Ireland…it was the moving away from Keyanian principles and going with Corporate rule.

        • nhthinker

          Your logic is completely convoluted and attempts to equate regulation and Keynesism.
          It is also very laughable that “private” companies directly created by federal law to take over the mortgage industry are considered by you as “private”.

          Banks that take FDIC accounts should NEVER have been able to have parts of their entity to become casinos where the the odds were kept secret. That has nothing to do with whether the money policy is balanced-budget or Keynesian.

          Casino-banks should never have been insured nor protected by government obligations.
          HUD insurance should have NEVER dropped REAL downpayment requirements below 10-20%. HUD insurance should have checked if banks were actually meeting the review of application income requirements. The problem was clearly the government insuring bad bets because it was trying to stimulate a sector that the government inappropriately decided had tremendous growth opportunity and wanted lower income and financially less sophisticated people to take advantage of the mirage of an opportunity.

        • jorae

          Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the public sector, including monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle.
          1. Fiscal GOVERNMENT policies

          2. Keynesian economics advocates a mixed economy — predominantly private sector, but with a significant role of government and public sector —

          and served as the economic model during the later part of the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic expansion (1945–1973).

          NthThinker…do you want to tell what your defination of “Keynesian policies are basically just spending today by borrowing against projected future optimism in the economy. Keynesian policies were never objectively balanced against the potential for future pessimism in the economy- thus we end up with bubbles and crashes.”

          Spending today…on ‘goods’ that are in demand…like WWII goods…It allowed full employment of the American people. It should be a perfect example why Keynesian works over Supply side…Those are the two perfect examples of your choices in America. We have had Supply Side ever time a repblican gets into office. We have a ‘fascious’ push for government and corporations to join forces … with the goods being cheaply made by non Americans. Goods needed, made by Americans is Keynesian…and that isn’t the Get Rich Quick platform of the republicans.

  • D Furlano

    Hey I should get a h/t.

    I commented about this article in your “The Idea of Conservatism” thread.

    http://www.frumforum.com/the-idea-of-conservatism

  • Graychin

    “Starve the beast” doesn’t work? Nominate this man for a Nobel Prize in Economics!

    It’s well and good for conservatives to look for solutions that don’t involve a government program, but it’s loony to adopt the Party Line that every government program is incompetent and evil.

    It’s just as loony to argue (as Mr. Frum so often does) that progressives want bigger government for its own sake. Progressives don’t MIND another government program when it seems like the only way to fix a problem – like unavailability of affordable health insurance for
    millions.

    On the other hand, many conservatives insist that government must be smaller, because…

    Because…

    (Someone help me out here!)

    • Graychin

      What does this article have to do with the accompanying photo of Ronaldus Magnus? The closest person to Reagan running today is… Barack Obama. And Reagan would feel more at home today among Democrats than with that other bunch. You know that I’m right.

    • Carney

      Because, as George Washington is said to have said, “government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force.” Government is inherently coercive, inherently an intrusion into freedom and voluntary self-directed action. The bigger government gets, the smaller the zone of personal liberty becomes. Government should only be as big as necessary but as small as possible.

      • think4yourself

        Carney – if I had a nickle for everything that George Washington is said to have said – I could pay off the national debt.

        “Government is inherently coercive, inherently an intrusion into freedom and voluntary self-directed action.”

        Perhaps and debatable. That doesn’t make it inherently evil. For example a gov’t rule that punishes murders is an intrusion into freedom and voluntary self-directed action – but that doesn’t make the gov’t involvment wrong. A government’s need for revenue that use is to “provide for the common defense” can be viewed as coercive, but since you and I are the beneficiaries of that defense, which allows us to live in a country with lots of opportunity and freedom of choice, we accept that as a trade off.

        All to often I hear conservatives crying about the gov’t when they are the biggest beneficiaries thereof.

        • nhthinker

          Carney – if I had a nickle for everything that George Washington is said to have said – I could pay off the national debt.

          George Washington has not been said to have said 75 trillion things. You could not pay off the debt with that many nickles nor nickels.

          Cut, cap and balance is coming. Keynesians will be spent packing.

        • ottovbvs

          The thinker’s latest bumper sticker. The man with the bumper sticker brain gives us the benefit of his wisdom.

      • Graychin

        “As big as necessary, but as small as possible.”

        NO government AT ALL is “as small as possible.” So the people of Somalia have the maximum zone of personal freedom? I doubt it.

        How big is “necessary”? Reasonable people will disagree. Mr. Washington’s alleged statement hardly justifies refusal of all government “intrusions” under all circumstances – the common Party Line of the Right. Have you observed with the rest of us that unregulated laissez-faire capitalism often leads to disaster? We’re suffering through one of those disasters right now. LACK of central government was the very reason for drafting our Constitution.

        To me, freedom to die in the street for lack of medical care is worth giving up to bigger government. How about you?

        • Probabilistic

          refusal of all government “intrusions” under all circumstances – the common Party Line of the Right

          Patently not true. Don’t go around accusing these good folks of being consistent.

      • wileedog

        You know I think the important thing to remember when Washington and all of these other founding fathers were busy running around spouting off about small government is that they had just succeeded in throwing off a monarchy. To them of course government was a huge intrusion into freedom because they and their immediate ancestors had grown up in a civilization not too far removed from when a noble class basically could control every facet of your life. That’s a pretty far cry from where we are as a society today.

        They weren’t talking about things like taxes or social security, they were talking about governments that could station troops in your house, take away your ability to defend yourself, seize your lands, or lock you up for complaining too loudly about any of the above. This idea that the founding fathers would go crazy because we instituted a way to care for our older and poorer population and that we have to pay taxes for that to happen doesn’t take the big picture into account.

      • medinnus

        …and yet… these are the same people who want to legislate their interpretation of Christian coercive law, approve of every civil rights violation done in the name “National Security” (even without evidence or even reasonable suspicion), and elevate the military spending off the charts even when there are no existential threats to the country.

        You can’t have a ginormous military and small government. You can’t have the trite and ineffective “National Security” police state AND small government. You can’t essentially make non-whites and non-Christians second-class citizens and criminalize actions the Christians consider anti-American without an invasive police state.

        Just as you can’t really be a Christian and at the same time shaft the poor, the hungry, the homeless… well, you can, but they’re called CINOs

      • balconesfault

        Government is inherently coercive, inherently an intrusion into freedom and voluntary self-directed action.

        Yep. Because one thing we know about people – while they’re capable of doing wonderful things, they’re also capable of doing very selfish things that have disastrous effects on the communities in which they live.

        Actually, two things. They’re also capable of doing very stupid things that can also lead to disasters for those around them.

        So we form governments, and we surrender some portion of our freedom, because we acknowledge that we’re better off each time we try to cross the street if idiots don’t feel they can 150 mph through our neighborhoods, and cheap fools can’t get away with skipping on actually paying to have their brakes maintained.

        • Rich T Bikkies

          His safety must his liberty restrain:
          All join to guard what each desires to gain.

          Aexander Pope, “Essay on Man”, 1734.

      • mlindroo

        > Government should only be as big as necessary but as small as possible.

        Please define “as big as necessary”, Carney. Was America better off in 1776 than it is today?

        Grover Norquist recently told a group of liberal billionaires that he only saw three essential functions: national defense, police and a judicial system. “Those are actually mentioned in the Constitution and in the history of our country as legitimate things for our government to do and they make us freer, not less free.”

        Sounds like Grover & co. ought to like the old Roman Empire… Even the tax collection was done by private contractors. The Roman state maintained a powerful military and little else. There was a minuscule police force in Rome itself but prisons were deemed too expensive; criminals were either executed, publicly flogged or had to pay financial compensation. There was no real equality before the law (the judicial system mostly monitored the process of private individuals sorting out their legal disputes).

        I do not believe bigger and more intrusive government automatically is “better.” But Rick Perry and Rand Paul are fools: no sane person would want to return to the 1920s before the advent of social security, Medicare/Medicaid, civil rights and government programs to help women, minorities and the poor.

        MARCU$

        • overshoot

          Grover Norquist recently told a group of liberal billionaires that he only saw three essential functions: national defense, police and a judicial system. “Those are actually mentioned in the Constitution and in the history of our country as legitimate things for our government to do and they make us freer, not less free.”

          I’m curious — where does the Constitution mention a police force? Or is that going to be in the same Amendment that abolishes the Post Office, the Federal currency, interstate commerce, etc?

    • nepr

      …many conservatives insist that government must be smaller, because…

      In my view…

      Somewhere between anarchy and tyranny there’s a sweet spot; let’s call it “freedom”. Conservatives think that modern society has already gone past it and is too close to tyranny, and is getting closer all the time. Therefore, anything new that government does can only move us closer to tyranny. Conversely, power or responsibility that can be taken away from government allows us to move closer to “freedom”.

      So, the conservative agenda is to resist almost any increment to government power or responsibility, and to encourage almost anything that decrements it. But, since, as far as I know, no reasonable conservative has had the arrogance to try and specify the exact form, nature, and structure of a “free” society, their (I’m not a conservative) strategy seems, to me, to be that we should cut back until it’s pretty clear that we’ve gone too far, and to stop there.

      An important basis for the conservative, small government agenda, I think, is that it’s easier to give than to take away; so conservatives set themselves the more difficult task of taking away, in full confidence that the giving will take care of itself.

      So, to summarize: Cut back ’til it hurts. Stop. Wait for the giving to resume. Repeat. I don’t think many conservatives think we’ve reached the hurting phase, yet.

      • overshoot

        So, the conservative agenda is to resist almost any increment to government power or responsibility, and to encourage almost anything that decrements it.

        So when are they going to whack the TSA, War on Drugs, “Homeland Security” police state, etc?

        • nepr

          Note the “resist”, and “almost” equivocations! One of the differences, I think, between “conservative” and “libertarian” is that a libertarian would have to reject all those programs, on principle, whereas a conservative can say, “Bad ideas, but what are ya gonna do?”

    • overshoot

      it’s loony to adopt the Party Line that every government program is incompetent and evil.

      That’s just the executive summary. In fact, the Government can and does do a lot of things not only well but perfectly. To a first approximation, they can be summed up by “killing people,” but it’s really not that simple.

      Obviously, anything the US military does is perfect and good. Also, the law enforcement system does a great job of arresting, charging, convicting, and executing only those who deserve it (assuming they aren’t shot in the street or pepper-sprayed etc.) We’re extremely good at major public-works projects like building a fence along the US’ southern border. Our spy network is the wonder of the world, and our antiterrorism measures (notably the TSA) are awesomely effective and cheap at the price.

      There are a lot more of that general nature. It’s not that the government can’t do anything good, it’s just that it can’t do things for people well.

      • Rich T Bikkies

        I hope your second paragraph was meant to be ironic (particularly the first two sentencea, “Obviously, anything the US military does is perfect and good. Also, the law enforcement system does a great job of arresting, charging, convicting, and executing only those who deserve it (assuming they aren’t shot in the street or pepper-sprayed etc.)”?

        If not, your post is a particularly crass and mindless endorsment of the status quo.

  • think4yourself

    David – thank you for the link to a really outstanding article!

    If you can get Conservatives to act in this manner, I’m happy to engage with them – even when I don’t agree. Here were some of my highlights:

    “Requiring the American people to actually pay for all of the government they receive is, … the most effective way to limit its growth. Right now the anti-tax bias of the Right results in shifting costs onto future generations who do not vote in today’s elections”

    “…American conservatism, which has at this point almost entirely conceded areas of sustained public concern (environmental health, the provision of parks, and the protection of wildlife and scenic landscapes) to its political opponents.
    There is a small subculture on the Right, known as “free market environmentalism,” that offers an alternate path toward environmental protection consistent with conservative principles, including respect for property rights, a strong preference for markets, and our congenital suspicion of government and regulation. The conservative movement would be well served to take those ideas more seriously.”

    “Conservatives and liberals ought to be able to join hands on basic projects that modernize the infrastructure for roads, energy, and water”

    “Of course, a reformation in conservatism demands corresponding reforms within liberalism. Liberals need to acknowledge that the American people will never support the high level of taxation — let alone wholesale redistribution — that would be necessary to support the future welfare state that has been set in motion”

    “…the reconstruction of a “vital center” requires an end to the view of practical politics as a zero-sum game, in which compromise is regarded as a defeat by both sides.”

    “when there is bipartisan compromise between two outdated ideological camps it is usually unsatisfying to almost everyone. The lesson we should draw is that before the two camps can agree to an agenda truly in the national interest, liberals and conservatives must first reform themselves.”

    David, I keep asking you for Conservative solutions to America’s problems. I appreciate this kind of input. Let’s have more.

  • heap

    I’m just wondering how far into your cheek your tongue was when typing the phrase “since Hayward unaccountably chose to post it–not on AEI’s own well-trafficked site”

    Unaccountably, AEI tends to show people the door if they don’t chime in chorus with the echo chamber.

  • nuser

    David Frum
    We have heard the same spiel for a long time, Less government, or small government, less regulations, low taxes. Would it be too much to ask for a detailed description of all three?
    And while you are at it please forward your solution(republican) to present economic crisis.
    In your opinion did Bush operate a small or big government?

  • overshoot

    It is generally forgotten now that President Reagan supported both the international space station and the superconducting supercollider.”

    Who cares what some RINO said?

  • LFC

    “Conservatives who sensibly dislike both the centralized regulation of most environmental policy …”

    Centralized is required as a baseline because pollution and environmental impacts don’t understand state lines. Heavily polluting coal fired generators in one state destroyed trout streams in multiple downwind states due to acid rain. The centralized EPA stopped much of that, and rightly so. Turning over the majority of environmental policy to the states is moronic.

    “There is a small subculture on the Right, known as “free market environmentalism,” that offers an alternate path toward environmental protection consistent with conservative principles, including respect for property rights, a strong preference for markets, and our congenital suspicion of government and regulation.”

    As said by somebody who obvious knows nothing of the realities of environmental protection. When I worked in the business there was a potential client who decided to continue venting a known highly carcinogenic gas into the air from a plant in a dense residential area. Why? Because the tens of thousands of dollars in quarterly fines weren’t enough to justify the cost of the system to control and monitor the venting. Cancer in the locals didn’t weigh in very heavily when it came to a cost-benefit analysis. There’s your market solution. (When the EPA stepped in over the state and slapped them with a 3/4 million dollar fine they took notice REALLY quick.)

    Sorry, but there is a whole pile of things that businesses just should not do. They need to be regulated and enforced, not tossed out in hopes of some market solution. The problem with the fantasy of market solutions in this case is that all it takes is a team of good lawyers and money and the market solution is completely turned on its head.

    • think4yourself

      I’m okay if “Free Market Environmentalists”, have a voice in Environmental policy – and they certainly should have a voice in Conservative discussions about the environment – they just don’t get the final say.

      That’s where honest negotiations between all stakeholders come in. We know there are businesses and individuals who willingly pollute unless there are large penalties for not doing so. We also know there are environmentalists who would lock up all natural resources so they cannot be accessed by the public. So there is a role for government involvement.

      Right now the Conservative arguments for the environment is drill-baby-drill, there is no such thing as pollution, give all the land to be sold to individuals and we don’t need to fund no stinkin park rangers.

      Conservatives can do better than that.

    • John Q

      “Free market environmentalism” – aka Cap and Trade.

      So when Mr. Hayward is shown the door at AEI, Mr. Frum, will you find him a place here?

    • Traveler

      I was amazed at the remarkably sensible and coherent thoughts from a conservative republican point of view. Even Ramesh Punuru posted sensibly recently on the phony tax issue: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/283265/freeloader-myth-ramesh-ponnuru

      These posts harken to the party I learned to respect years ago that disappeared in the last century. While I don’t agree with some of the Breakthrough article, it sure did hold out hope.

      However, it fell quite flat on “free market environmentalism” with a respect for “property rights”. I know he didnt have time to get into this, but this short para was quite pathetic. Perhaps viable if property rights were defined as the rights to enjoy clean air and water and absence of noise for not only our private property, but also our public properties. But to do that, we need those burdensome regulations to define clean, and to ensure it remains that way. There was no recognition of that in the article. Maybe he will expand how that would work more eloquently. But frankly, he hit it when he pointed out that conservatives have completely abrogated any responsibility for care of the environment. To me, this is symptomatic of the entire ugly heart, as so well expressed in icarusr’s comment to JJVs article and Ottovons response yesterday. Indy’s follow up about baby sacrifice resonates well on this issue. It is truly ugly watching these mental processes work out. You should read the comments over at NR to Pununu’s article.

      • valkayec

        Regarding conservatism’s disregard of environmentalism, it appears to me symptomatic of the Ayn Rand version of libertarianism that says “me first and to heck with you” that became so pervasive in the GOP throughout the 2000s. When I heard Romney last night say “life, liberty and property rights” rather than “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” I knew without doubt something dramatic had changed in the national, conservative philosophy.

  • Ogemaniac

    The entire range of reasonable opinions now lies in the Democratic party. If you want to deal with facts, you have to leave your Republican badge behind and move on. There is no hope left for modern Republicans.

    • think4yourself

      Oge – while I don’t disagree, I, like Frum would like to see a responsible second party (or maybe no parties at all). If you have just one party it can become myopic and won’t need to answer to or justify what it does. Competition makes you better – at least that’s my hope.

      I also agree with the basic Conservative/Libertarian ideal that the purpose of the country and gov’t is to provide the greatest amount of freedom to the individual. A progressive/liberal ideal might be more along the lines of the purpose of government is to empower everyone equally through redistribution.

      • ottovbvs

        “If you have just one party it can become myopic and won’t need to answer to or justify what it does. Competition makes you better – at least that’s my hope.”

        No one disputes this but the fact is we now have only one party that is operating within the bounds of reality. No less a person than Frum said this only yesterday.

      • John Q

        A progressive/liberal ideal might be more along the lines of the purpose of government is to empower everyone equally through redistribution.

        Ah, the power of stereotype.

        I don’t think the liberal ideal is redistribution, but rather fairer distribution in the first place. For instance, who is more valuable to me: the guys who come around once a week and pick up my garbage, or the banker who loses on reckless gambles, and expects me (and other taxpayers) to bail him out? And which of the two is paid more? Personally, I value the garbage collector more. So, Think4yoursefl, just think fairer distribution in the first place before carping about redistribution

        And of course, the progressive/liberal ideal is personal freedom: freedom to breathe clean air, freedom to drink safe water, freedom from poisoned meat – I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
        The libertarian/conservative view of freedom seems to be the freedom to pollute the air and water, to offer for sale unsafe and toxic products – again, I could go on and on.

        There are two views of freedom at odds here: to be free from having harm done to one, and the freedom to do harm. Its regrettable that conservatives/libertarians are so eager to promote the latter.

        The argument I hear from libertarian/conservatives is that “the market will drive out the unsafe products.” So here’s how I understand them: if a manufacturer puts out a poisonous baby food, libertarian/conservatives think its okay for a number of babies to die before parents figure out the cause and stop buying the poisoned food. If I have it wrong, perhaps a libertarian/conservative will enlighten me as to what, given this scenario, they really mean by their adherence to the free market as the ultimate arbiter.

        • overshoot

          So here’s how I understand them: if a manufacturer puts out a poisonous baby food, libertarian/conservatives think its okay for a number of babies to die before parents figure out the cause and stop buying the poisoned food.

          Close. You forgot the follow-up: “After which, the manufacturer will be forced to engage a public-relations campaign to convince parents that the babies died from something else while arranging new distribution channels to keep selling the same products under another brand name.”

  • ottovbvs

    “Unfortunately, the article is not likely to gain as wide an audience among conservatives as it deserves, since Hayward unaccountably chose to post it–not on AEI’s own well-trafficked site”

    I wonder why? Could it be because this would deeply offensive to the usual AEI audience? David with all due respect who do you think your kidding?

    • Rich T Bikkies

      Mr Frum is kidding himself. Why? Because his big problem is that when he finally reaches the point where he is forced to abandon the Republican Party, his goolies will fall off.

  • valkayec

    This was a very interesting article and for the most part advocated sensible advice for conservatives.

    However, my big complaint with it, as well as with many other conservative arguments, is the failure to understand the modern liberal mind. Yes, there are those liberals who remain stuck in the 60s or earlier, but by and large liberals have moved more towards the center. They’re business people who understand capitalism and truly appreciate its benefits while aware enough to recognize its potential faults when taken to extremes.

    Modern liberals hold no animosity towards the successful and wealthy. They only want fairness in tax and employment policy because of the realization that if the middle and working classes fail the political and economic turmoil will ruin the country…as occurred throughout history in every other nation when ordinary people grew tired of carrying the burden for the wealthy. Moreover, liberals are not afraid of changing the earned benefits to insure they last; rather they want to insure that no economic harm comes over the long term to beneficiaries that rely upon the benefits. Current economic realities of those who rely upon these benefits must take precedence over ideology. Unfortunately, far too many policy makers and pundits have no experience living those economic realities so they are unable to understand or empathize with those who have been forced by circumstance to live on those benefits for years or decades.

    What conservatives don’t understand is that liberals want a better world where everyone can succeed to the best of their abilities. Working to make that idealism reality requires a multi-pronged approach that accepts reality, acknowledges the extremely important need for better education and educational outcomes, and insures those who’ve worked hard all their lives and done everything right, yet are without money, power and influence, are not left holding an empty bag so that those who do have power and influence get all the Christmas goodies.

    • Traveler

      As usual, another excellent summation by our Santa Barbara commenter. Thanks!

    • jamesj

      I agree with you. I see a 20-30 convergence between old-school Republican pragmatists like myself and the bulk of the modern Democratic party, which has basically co-opted the major foreign policy and economic policy positions that Republicans held 30 years ago. This would be a good thing, except we also have a sizable sector of the Republican voting base that allowed their thinking to “metastasize” and harden 30 years ago while the rest of the country moved on. I’m sure you and I would differ on the finer points of some policy issues, but I believe we’d also find large agreement on major sweeping policy positions.

      Too bad the country is being held hostage by extremists who hold positions outside the mainstream of economics and outside the mainstream of the rest of Western Civilization.

    • ottovbvs

      What you’re ignoring is that the production of the liberal stereotype is just one component in the edifice that is the rightwing belief system. This edifice has been constructed over 30-40 years to mask what is the real Republican agenda. So much work has gone into crafting it that most Republicans (even sophisticated ones as Frum pointed out the other day) now actually believe it implicitly and with a rigidity that renders impossible the flexibility of thought you describe. Anyone who has followed even loosely these Republican debates has to be astounded at their mixture of unreality, naivete, nativism, oversimplification and general battiness.

      • valkayec

        Otto, I am somewhat ambivalent on whether conservative actually do hold those views of liberals or if those views are an act. It’s hard to think that someone, supposedly intelligent, educated, and worldly, would continue to believe something when facts are not in evidence. Then, again, the daily long decades of demeaning, anti-liberal rhetoric may have instilled those views so deeply into the conservative psyche that they can’t help but repeat them, like any other deeply held belief that defies reality. One of the things I like about most of the liberals I know which I do appreciate is their ability to face reality, challenge their own long-held beliefs, and change accordingly.

        It’s a shame that conservatives such as those Frum admires for being more moderate appear unable to challenge their antiquated notions of liberals because those views when verbalized cause liberals to back away, feeling insulted, which makes cooperation even more difficult. It’s hard to work with someone whom you feel not only fails to understand you but possibly despises you. This is what the last 30 years of political polarization has caused, and why Gingrich’s mid-’90s political philosophy – Democrats are the enemy and must be totally destroyed – has harmed the country so badly.

        • overshoot

          It’s hard to think that someone, supposedly intelligent, educated, and worldly, would continue to believe something when facts are not in evidence.

          I propose to you that American conservatives have at least as much objective evidence for their beliefs over the last few decades as Christians have had for theirs over the past two millennia. Now, since the conservatives are almost entirely Christian, it’s hardly a stretch.

  • Mayson Lancaster

    Unaccountably? Ockham would suggest that AEI refused it.

  • jamesj

    Good piece. I found myself agreeing with most of it. Too bad Hayward will be called a Socialist and run out of town by the very people who’d benefit from his ideas.

  • ottovbvs

    I’ve now taken the trouble to read the Hayward piece and despite the claims that it gets conservatives to face up to realities it’s so freighted with all the regular Republican delusions on everything from the obligatory worship of Reagan to claims that SS/Medicare is a bubble that it’s hard to take seriously. If Frum thinks this is some sort of endorsement of the claims he made in his own much more cogent analysis of what ails the GOP he must be wearing rose tinted specs.

  • valkayec

    I have a big problem with this statement every time I hear or read it or a version of it:

    A progressive/liberal ideal might be more along the lines of the purpose of government is to empower everyone equally through redistribution.

    It’s time we had a real discussion about what “redistribution” really means in terms of our current economic policy. Here’s an excerpt of what the Encyclopedia of Economics and Liberty writes about redistribution policies:

    “Almost without exception, academic studies and journalistic accounts of government’s effect on the well-being of the poor focus exclusively on the effectiveness of programs that actually transfer income to the poor. What does this leave out? It leaves out all the programs that transfer income away from the poor. To know the net amount the poor receive after considering transfers to and transfers from them, we need to consider all government transfer programs.

    Such an examination yields a striking fact: most government transfers are not from the rich to the poor. Instead, government takes from the relatively unorganized (e.g., consumers and general taxpayers) and gives to the relatively organized (groups politically organized around common interests, such as the elderly, sugar farmers, and steel producers). The most important factor in determining the pattern of redistribution appears to be political influence, not poverty. Of the $1.07 trillion in federal transfers in 2000, only about 29 percent, or $312 billion, was means tested (earmarked for the poor) (Rector 2001, p. 2). The other 71 percent—about $758 billion in 2000—was distributed with little attention to need.”

    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Redistribution.html

    I think anyone not blinded by ideology is able to see the truth of this quote. Since redistribution already occurs, the the most obvious questions have to be has the libertarian/Ayn Rand/ conservation rhetoric disguised the true redistribution occurring in this country…and is it the most effective or efficient redistribution of wealth?

  • nepr

    “life, liberty and property rights”

    Did he really say that (I didn’t watch the debate as my stomach is a little testy in my old age)? Maybe it was another “deliberate misstatement”, like the “Obama’s scared of talking about the economy, nyah, nyah!” add?

  • Emma

    I read the Hayward article. There is nothing in his critiques and proposals that most liberals would disagree with. Indeed, but for the caricatured depiction of liberal positions, it could have written by a progressive economist for a lay audience. I suspect that is the reason for the backwater publication venue.