Tag Archives: Conservatism

I Am a Conservatarian, Volume I: The Basics

A few weeks ago, I was tossed a “Follow Friday” on Twitter by Kevin Boyd. Kevin graciously tagged me as “Mr. Conservatarian”, and when I’ve gotten in a rant-ish kind of mood over on Twitter recently, I’ve been shooting out pearls of wisdom with the heading and hashtag “I am a #Conservatarian”.

The whole concept of “Conservatarian” probably could use some explanation, and I’m all too happy to oblige. And yes, I’m rather pretentiously labeling this “Volume I”, as this is a topic area that I can drop dozens of posts into, and hope to do so. Continue reading I Am a Conservatarian, Volume I: The Basics

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Harvesting Apathy

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) gave one heck of a speech to the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee a week ago tonight. In fact, it was perhaps the best anti-statist speech given by an elected official in my recent memory. I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t, or at least read Governor Jindal’s remarks as prepared.

Just one of the great points he made spoke to building an electoral majority.

We must compete for every single vote. The 47 percent and the 53 percent. And any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent. President Barack Obama and the Democrats can continue trying to divide America into groups of warring communities with competing interests, but we will have none of it. We are going after every vote as we work to unite all Americans.

He’s absolutely right. Back in my electoral post-mortem (subheading “On Widening the Map”) I noted the necessity of reaching voters, communities, and regions who are considered lost or not worth challenging for in the current political calculus. Libertarians and conservatives are doomed to defeat and extinction unless the map is widened.

There’s another crop of citizens to harvest as well: the forty to sixty percent of Americans who don’t politically engage or vote in biennial national elections. We’ve got to get past people’s apathy and get them involved. And on that, I’ve got a wild premise. Could it be that American apathy is actually an asset in disguise?

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it: bemoaned those who don’t vote or don’t pay attention to the ever encroaching government leviathan on all of our daily lives. To those of us who are concerned and do pay attention, the lack of participation and attention from millions of Americans can indeed cause despair, because either:

  1. The uninvolved mass actually supports the general trend to statism and just lets it go ahead.
  2. The uninvolved mass thinks their voice doesn’t matter and doesn’t bother because intervention is futile.

Both could be true, and yes, both are discouraging, but I think there’s a third explanation that should be encouraging. What if Americans are disinclined to political engagement because they believe they shouldn’t have to pay attention?

Ponder that for a minute. What is the main thrust of anti-statists such as myself? Simply that government should have as little influence and impact as possible on us and our liberty. That is the American system. The texts of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution show that the United States was born on anti-statism. A government-centric society would never have been founded with these words:

That to secure these [unalienable] Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Nor would it have been limited in scope and reach with these words:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

That’s our culture; that’s our society. Government is meant to be secondary to the people. I believe – and perhaps I’m just an optimist – that Americans intrinsically know it.

It’s an explanation for why large numbers of people, perhaps even a majority, don’t pay attention to electoral contests until the range of days between Labor Day and Election Day. Why bother to pay attention to political contests when they’re not supposed to rule your daily existence?

It’s an explanation for why millions of eligible Americans don’t bother to vote too. Again, from a traditional American, anti-statist perspective, government just isn’t supposed to have a huge impact on daily life, so it’s not essential to use whatever influence one has on the electoral/governmental process to influence it. We’re not supposed to be government-centric; we’re not supposed to have our lives hinge on what happens in Washington. As Governor Jindal said:

America is not the federal government. In fact, America is not much about government at all. In America, government is one of those things you have to have, but you sure don’t want too much of it…kind of like your in-laws. This is of course the polar opposite of the political debate in our country today. At present we have one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can expand it, and one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can get it under control. It’s a terrible debate, it’s a debate fought entirely on our opponents’ terms.

It’s easy to turn off a political discourse between two sides that are fighting for the same side of a societal coin. We are society; we are supposed to be government. The government isn’t supposed to dominate us or our society.

The electoral participation statistics from other western democracies – many of which have average voter turnouts upwards of 85 percent – back this up. Those societies don’t have the independent, no central authority tradition of the United States. When you’re in a society in which there always has been a centralized, powerful government, you’ll take whatever opportunity you get to have your voice as a subject heard in the hopes of becoming “the governed”.

For most of our history in the United States we’ve been governed, not ruled. We’re increasingly becoming subjects. The increasing push into our daily lives by statism hasn’t been met with increased involvement of the people. How to wake people up?

I don’t think we’re ever going to win masses of voters over to an anti-statist position, nor will we get the 40 to 60 percent who don’t participate involved, so long as the core message is couched in policy and numbers. Issues of budgets and spending, debts and deficits, are essential to deal with, but produce either instant boredom or (particularly in the case of spending) a transition to wondering “what’s in it for me?” – and then taking and accepting what crumbs one is given as a net good.

A simpler, traditional American core message might work: we want to be left alone. Today, we’ve come full circle, having traded one tyrant thousands of miles away for thousands of tyrants in the form of politicians, bureaucrats, and regulators within miles.

[O]ur industry discouraged, our resources pillaged, worst of all, our very character stifled. We’ve spawned a new race here…rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.

— Benjamin Franklin, as portrayed in 1776.

Franklin may not have described American society as it evolved from its European roots exactly in those words, but they’re certainly in his style. Americans as a people are the key, not whatever government we form.

Government, and what we’re going to do with it, can’t be the lead if we ever expect conservatives and libertarians to present themselves as a legitimate alternative to the two-party statist rule we have now. Yes, both elected Republicans and Democrats have built the leviathan, and they’re more concerned with being able to run it than reform it, or better still, smash it to pieces.

If we don’t change the paradigm and focus on individual liberty and opportunity outside or away from government, we’ll only ever appear as “more of the same”. We won’t be attractive to anyone, we won’t convert anyone, and the 40-60 percent who aren’t involved will remain on the sidelines. Bobby Jindal understands this:

We must focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington. We must stop competing with Democrats for the job of “Government Manager,” and lay out ideas that can unleash the dynamic abilities of the American people. We need an equal opportunity society, one in which government does not see its job as picking winners and losers. Where do you go if you want special favors? Government. Where do you go if you want a tax break? Government. Where do you go if you want a handout? Government. This must stop. Our government must pursue a level playing field. At present, government is the un-leveler of the playing field.

We have to harvest people’s apathy. Use the American assumption that government isn’t supposed to matter. Tell people that if you don’t want to have to care, get involved so in the end you won’t have to anymore…at least for a while.

If I’m right, and believing that government shouldn’t be a daily presence in our lives is inherent to being an American, it should be an easy sell.

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Running on the Third Rail

It is past time conservatives start running their campaigns with a “third rail” issue – the supposed politically untouchable – as a centerpiece. We’re all fully knowledgeable that government spending is fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse. Our spending levels on government programs that are nothing but wealth redistribution whose costs far outweigh the value received and are completely unsustainable as we saddle future generations with more and more debt.

“Wait!”, I hear you say, “Aren’t conservatives already fully on board with entitlement spending reform?” Of course they are, for the most part. That isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about defense spending.

Continue reading Running on the Third Rail

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TFH 3/8: The Evil Empire Speech

I grew up thinking Ronald Reagan was wrong for America; that his conservatism was the antithesis of America. I know now how wrong that view, obtained via my parents, was. Ronald Reagan was a man of deep conviction and principle. He was both indomitable in his belief that his principles were correct, and indefatigable in defending them against assaults from all fronts.

Ronald Reagan called things like he saw them. He did not bend principle to fit the whim of the day. Was he always correct? No, but he drew lines in the sand and stuck by them. That is the essence of leadership. That is what inspired our Nation and made his presidency an awesome success.

On this day in 1983, he gave an address to the National Association of Evangelicals that is today known as the “Evil Empire” speech from the language he used to refer to the Soviet Union. I hope you take the time to watch and listen to the entirety of Reagan’s speech.


If you can’t watch, you can get a transcript courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library here. Actually, get the transcript anyway as the video ends before the speech did. There’s too much wonderful content to pick and choose quotes; it should be held in its entirety.

Much of the consternation held by conservatives over the likely 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, goes back to his squishy positions, to equivocation of principle. I don’t agree with all of Rick Santorum’s positions, for example, but I have greater respect for him over his decision to take principled stands and stick by them, come what may, against all-comers.

I work in sales. I develop complex technical solutions for my customers. When I decide on the right way to present a solution to solve a customer’s problem, I don’t equivocate. I don’t back down. I stand by my proposals. Sometimes I lose, but more often I win, and I credit strength in principles as a huge contributor to that record. That is a lesson of the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan, and that’s why he’s today’s finest hour.

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How Not to Run for President

Who do I support for President? I’m firmly in the “Not Romney” crowd. I passionately want to vote for a candidate. I’m sick and tired of picking the “least worst”. With each passing day though, the forces are aligning to anoint Mitt Romney the GOP standard bearer. If that’s what happens, my vote in the Pennsylvania primary will be meaningless and I’ll have the same enthusiasm to vote for Romney in 2012 that I had for McCain in 2008 – which is to say, none.

I’ll admit to being a fan of what I’ll term the “fictitious” Rick Perry, that is, the Rick Perry prior to announcing his Presidential run and his mind-boggingly poor debate performances. The campaign produced a fantastic video which would be even better if the candidate acted as confident and as tenacious as he’s portrayed 24-by-7.

I love this video, and yes, it makes me yearn for a candidate – perhaps Governor Perry – who is not afraid to attack President Obama, Mitt Romney, and the entire Republican establishment with every waking moment, breath, and sound out of their mouth.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Presidential campaigns, but I do consider myself at least versed in common sense. Governor Perry’s campaign thus far has shown none. Had I been running Governor Perry’s campaign, here’s what I would have done differently.


1) Debates
Anybody watching the GOP debates can see that the entire boring spectacle is designed to boost Mitt Romney. Some accounting of the debates show Governor Romney getting as much as 25% of the time, when there are eight or nine candidates there. The Perry campaign knew going in that their candidate is a poor debater. Sources friendly to Governor Perry even indicated that he doesn’t enjoy the debate process. What to do? Avoid the debates!

Wait, what? Don’t debate? Absolutely. The Perry campaign also had to know that their candidate would be instantaneously attractive to the “Not Romney” forces. They had to know that Governor Perry would instantaneously become one of the front runners if not the front runner. What would I have coached Governor Perry to say regarding the debates? Something like this:
The debate schedule and format is designed to make Governor Romney’s six-year quest to be the Republican nominee appear inevitable. Until such time as Governor Romney will agree to one-on-one debates, there is no point in participating in a process whose sole purpose is to benefit Governor Romney.
Establishment Republicans would have gone ballistic, and the grass-roots would have gotten even more excited about a Perry candidacy. That, in my book, is a win-win.
2) In-State Tuition
Another thing that Governor Perry’s campaign staff had to know was that their candidate was going to be vulnerable on illegal immigration with Texas’ providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. The Perry excuse is to tout the overwhelming tally of the Texas legislature in support. What drives me nuts about that response isn’t that it’s correct, it doesn’t dispense with the significance of Perry’s support of the issue from a national perspective.
Governor Perry wrote an entire book, the central theme of which is the importance of the Tenth Amendment. It’s a very good read, by the way. The answer to the Texas’ in-state tuition should be a Tenth Amendment answer, which I’d phrase like this:
The decision Texas made to grant these individuals in-state tuition is precisely why the Tenth Amendment is important and why these issues should never be the purview of the federal government. As President, I will seek to reduce the impact of the federal government on the business of the states. Education policy is an area where the federal government has no enumerated power under the Constitution and should leave the states alone.

That turns Texas’ decision to grant in-state tuition into a debate on the role of the federal government and not what Texas did. Incidentally, the same stance could be used by Mitt Romney to help defuse Romneycare. (If it needed defusing, since all the other candidates seem determined not to criticize him on it.)
3) Taking the Message to the People
Since Tuesday, October 11th, the Perry Campaign has been hyping his “major” policy speech on his economic plan to be given in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area today, October 14th. The problem? It’s a private event. Pennsylvania will likely be a key battleground in the 2012 election. I can’t see a single formula for the New Soviet Man to get 270 electoral votes if he loses Pennsylvania. I’d have gone to see Governor Perry today if it was public, but alas. Why hype the location of an event if it isn’t open for attendance? If your candidate is best on the stump and with the people, get him with the people.

Can Rick Perry save his candidacy? Yes, but not without a lot of work to fill in the hole that he dug for himself by the missteps so far.

All that said, I’m still not wild about any of the “Not Romneys”. I like some things about Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum – but I have enough “not likes” or “unsures” about all of them too to not hitch my wagon to any of them. I’m still hoping to move to a “For Candidate” stance from the “Not Romney” stance.

Could be worse, I suppose. Jon Huntsman could be in front.

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Wisdom of the Day

And yet however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have
already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former
cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions
will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall
be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their
opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their
declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the
energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a
temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over
scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more
commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere
pretense and artifice; the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the
public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual
concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be
infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it
will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the
security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed
judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition
more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people
than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of
government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more
certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those
men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have
begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing
demagogues, and ending Tyrants.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #1

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Another Liberal Sees the Light!

Heard about this piece from American Thinker this morning on Jim Quinn’s program entitled: Why Do Liberals Bleed? It’s dead on.

The money quotes are in the writer’s conclusion:

As a good, loyal liberal, I always expected others to take care of me. If I gave my unqualified loyalty to the system, I could sleep well at night. But now, with victims left bleeding, a dangerously naive government, and sheep like masses, I see the absurdity of my thinking.

I heard a philosopher once say that one of the biggest existential tasks of life is giving up the fantasy of the ultimate rescuer. Liberalism reinforced this fantasy for me, as it does for so many others. Now I see the truth: We come into this world alone, and we will leave it alone. When we live our lives in the back seat of the car expecting Daddy to drive us, we only have a child’s view of the world.

On that very dark day in November years ago when I became an object of someone’s evil and inhumanity, I glimpsed a truth I never wanted to see: that there really is no protection, not in the way I had always thought, not by other flawed humans. I didn’t know what to do with this insight until 1 1/2 years ago when I discovered that there were others out there like me, that there was something called conservatism, and now slowly but surely the pieces are coming together for me, one by one.

As I continue on the path to independence and personal responsibility, perhaps looking to myself for protection is another step on my journey.

Welcome home, “Robin of Berkeley”, and America is better from your homecoming.

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