The Conservative Crackup

What Is Our Philosophy?
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Nov. 7 2008 6:25 PM

The Conservative Crackup

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Tucker, Ross, Jim, Kathleen, and Christine

Missing: A GOP Philosophy of Governance

Thanks, Jim, for your response. To clarify, I don't actually believe that thoughtful Republicans, as opposed to the Ron Paul acolytes who wandered in and out of the party from the libertarian guesthouse, understand taxation to be theft. But you have to admit that all the hyperbolic caricature of Obama's middle-class tax reform as socialism during the last weeks of the McCain campaign could be misleading. That said, I'm a bit mystified to know what the difference is between modest relief to the poor and outright wealth redistribution, unless the last reference is to Bush's high-end tax cuts and the first is to the way the middle class was treated during the last eight years.

I take it, Jim, you do not dissent from my suggestion that the Republicans exhibit good sense and good will by facilitating the prompt confirmation of the new president's executive appointees. In terms of cooperating with the substantive program put forth by the Democrats: I think that should be determined on the merits rather than partisan label. It's one thing to improve the delivery of health services to the uninsured; it is quite another just to ignore the needs of the uninsured. If Republicans have a better idea for meeting these needs, it should be brought forward. But since John McCain was purveying an idea that would only aggravate the number of uninsured, I didn't think there was anything in the Republican idea cabinet at the moment.

As for the 1980s, my reference to the need for collective action in the domestic sphere being modest was from my vantage point within the Reagan administration as President Reagan's constitutional lawyer. Clearly, the Gipper didn't think the Department of Education or the Department of Energy ought to have been created in the first place, and there was a good deal of talk then of scaling back the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. (Though little was downsized.) I do give the Reagan administration credit for moderating somewhat the rate of domestic spending—which of course was part of the genius of the deficits necessitated by the military buildup. I do think military contracting, then and now, to be wholly inflated and often done on a no-bid basis, and that's not snide; it's just an unfortunate fact. For an example of how unfortunate, see a good many of the public-works projects that the American people have paid for and that remain horribly incomplete or shoddily finished in Iraq. That said, even though we paid dearly, the purchase of military armament did facilitate the freedom of others around the world.

As I remember, one of the linchpins of Reaganomics was taking control of the rather dramatic early 1980s inflation. (At one point I had a mortgage with a 14 percent rate.) Those rates were wrestled to a more accommodating number by a very tight-fisted money supply. Some government efficiencies were achieved by the repackaging of government block grants.

In any event, all this reminiscing about the Reagan administration does not speak to our main charge: putting the Republican Party back together. One needs a philosophy of governance in addition to honoring the constitutional structure. Barack Obama's philosophy of government provides service for needs unmet by the market. And the Republicans' philosophy?

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