Monthly Archives: April 2008

Disturbed by the FLDS Raid

The FLDS raid is certainly hot news.  I admit I am interested, though not in the “freak show” mentality many seem to have about the FLDS and their quaint (or many would say “oppressive”) lifestyle. 

And so, while watching Nancy Grace last night, I was disturbed, and grew more so as the show wore on. 

For me, the climax was probably this statement:

“Keep in mind these are 416 abuse victims we are talking about here,” thus authoritatively declared the talking head, citing his justification for taking them from their homes and keeping them as wards of the state.  (The name and position of the talking head is irrelevant.  Suffice it to say he was as distanced from the scenario as I am.)

I wondered “Do they really have hard evidence for 416 specific cases of abuse?  How about soft evidence?  Do they have any evidence to cover even half that number?  A fourth?  A tenth?  Evidence of even one instance of abuse?” 

The answer is no.  They have nothing more than an unsubstantiated accusation from an unknown individual, supposedly not in the compound at the time of the call nor in Texas currently.  The accused (Dale Barlow) has not been in Texas for some time.  And this necessitated the break-up of 139 families?  Why was this necessary?  Isn’t there something about warrantless searches and seizures in the Constitution?  Due process?

As if in response, the talking head told us that the justification for the raid (again, from his authoritative high ground) is that these individuals are brainwashed.  Their leaders tell them what to do, and apparently every action they make is through following direction.  Apparently, they have no present capacity or ability to make their own choices.  (How do we know this?  What is our evidence for these accusations?  Why are they unquestioned?)

Let me be clear that I oppose abuse in all its forms: sexual, physical, emotional, etc.  Nor do I condone polygamy as a lifestyle.  But to me, those are not the issues at stake.  The issue is what the government may or may not do with barely a shred of evidence.  Where is the evidence of abuse here?

Nancy Grace and her pundits were shocked that these women would leave their children alone to go back to the ranch.  They neglected to mention that this was because they were forced to do so.  They also neglected to mention how their cell phones were confiscated.

The most disturbing question has come to me since this viewing experience.  I wondered if an anonymous tip from an anonymous source (yet to be located but presumably wasn’t even in the compound at the time of the call, and is now presumed to be outside of Texas) accusing a man who wasn’t there (Dale Barlow) of something untraceable could provoke the tearing apart of 139 mothers from their 416 children, what would it take to tear my wife and children from me?  What would it take to get them back?  These are disturbing questions with more disturbing answers, in light of this recent FLDS raid.

I encourage those interested to visit Connor Boyack’s article, Brooke Adams’ polygamy blog for the Salt Lake Tribune, and especially Guy Murray’s blog.  All is not well here, and I don’t just mean in the compound.

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Filed under Libertarian, Personal, politics, role of government, Social Commentary

The Destructive Nature of Neoconservative-Backed Sanctions

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.  And unto one he gave five talents…and straightway [he] took his journey.  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents…After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.  And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.      
        -Matthew 25:14-21

One of the unfortunate aspects of our foreign policy, especially that supported by mainstream neoconservatives, often overlooked, is the role of economic sanctions on countries we oppose. Let us examine their theory and utility.

When I say “sanctions,” I am referring to trade restrictions on a country for political reasons. We can think of Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq in the 1990s as examples of countries we impose (or have imposed) sanctions on.

How are these supposed to work? The nearest I can tell, the powers that be decide on a country or regime which has interests or ideals we oppose. For instance, Cuba and North Korea are Communist, oppressive regimes. The idea behind sanctions is to punish the country, applying pressure to hopefully result in positive, peaceful change so their government is more in accordance with our wishes.

In theory, this involves no military action and is relatively inexpensive in terms of actual cost. (We’ll ignore the hidden costs from not trading right now.) In some ways, it sounds like an attractive way to combat our enemies without bloodshed.

Let us examine sanctions in practice, by citing just a few examples.  First, let us consider Cuba.

Back in the 1950s, we were all chummy with Cuba.  For instance, the musical “Guys and Dolls” has a scene where the gambler Guy Masterson takes his Salvation Army girlfriend (the chauvinist that I am, I cannot recall her name, and am too lazy to look it up) to Cuba for an exotic date.  All this changed when Fidel Castro, a Communist, took over Cuba as a dictator in January 1959.  At this point, we cut off trade and travel with Cuba.

What has this gotten us?  Sanctions certainly contributed to the frosty relationship which arguably climaxed in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Thankfully, nuclear war was avoided.  But we were close.

Recently, Fidel Castro stepped down, on his own, forty years after the sanctions started.  The country still gets by without any legal U.S. trade.  But are Americans better off?  Are Cubans?  Is either government?

All too often, sanctions, meant to punish the government, end up emboldening it at the expense of the civilian population.  Think about it: if there’s a repressive government, and very limited resources due to trade restrictions, who is going to get the available resources?  The hapless masses?  I don’t think so.  Instead, sanctions all too often punish the innocent civilians while emboldening the government.  We see this in North Korea (from the Korean War until today) and Iraq in the 1990s.  Why else would North Korea both build a nuclear weapon and have problems with feeding its people?

How many died as a result of the UN-imposed sanctions on Iraq?  Estimates range from 100,000 up to 1 million.  Sanctions were designed to compel the citizens to overthrow Saddam Hussein.  Instead, they emboldened him and impoverished the nation.  We see similar results in North Korea.

What should we do?  Should we just trade with corrupt regimes and rogue nations?  This is a tough question.  The answer depends what we want: do we want to embolden governments or the people they are to serve?

Let’s think about Vietnam and China.  We trade with both nations, and have done so for decades.  And both nations, while struggling with poverty in many areas, are growing in both liberty and wealth.  The government shrinks in power, or is at least checked by the growing influence of the middle class in each country.  The citizens of those nations have a better quality of life as a result of our freer trade policy (as compared to sanctions).  Trade relations mean that a serious, violent conflict is much less likely with either of these countries (or any other country we are trading with) than with a country we are imposing (or planning to impose) sanctions on.

Free association with nations, even with those we may disagree with on fundamental, foundational principles, can break down walls and barriers the harshest sanctions and toughest talk can never accomplish.  If we really are serious about reform and freedom in Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, to name but a few examples, we should avoid sanctions and their destructive effects.

Much more could be said about sanctions: for instance, sanctions in Iraq in the 1990s were accompanied by bombings and the enforcement of a “no-fly zone,” neither of which was terribly cheap or non-violent.  Many support sanctions as some sort of remedy for tribal genocidal warfare in such African regions as Darfur.  And none of these trading agreements with other countries are really “free trade:” there are always restrictions, fees, tarriffs, limitations, regulations, etc. (most of them come from bureaucratic mandate or fiat a la NAFTA, WTO, etc.) which tend to hamper and dampen the positive effects of free trade.  But even a trade association weighted down with nonsensical bureaucratic sandbags and riddled with the frustrating essence of modern leviathan politics is better than none at all.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, foreign policy, politics, role of government

Cursory, Mostly Inadequate, and Admittedly Sloppy Political Thoughts on Mosiah 29:7

Mosiah chapter 29 starts with an interesting political message: the power to rule is held by the people. At the start of this chapter, the aging, outgoing king, King Mosiah II, asked the people what they wanted to do. They wanted an elected monarch: Aaron, the king’s son. Aaron refused. His brothers refused. And so Mosiah wrote a proclamation.

He was concerned that appointing someone else (the father-son tradition was well-established by this point) could cause turmoil, conflict, and even war. And so he was in a quandary. What to do? Mosiah expresses concern that should the kingdom be appointed to someone else, then perhaps Aaron, the original legitimate heir, would be upset and even provoke conflict to oppose the appointment. Mosiah says this “would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people” (Mosiah 29:7).

In this verse, Mosiah links causation of wars and contentions with “perverting the way of the Lord” and “[destroying] the souls of many people.”

How do wars and contentions pervert the way of the Lord?

How do wars and contentions destroy the souls of many people?

Let’s tackle the first question: what is the “way of the Lord?” In this instance, we may suppose what is meant is the methods the Lord uses, as well as the revealed way (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to return to His presence. Wars and contentions pervert the methods the Lord uses and distort the very Gospel itself.

What methods does the Lord use? The words of a hymn come to mind,

He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.

The Lord will not rule by force. That is contrary to His nature.

Starting wars and contentions perverts these methods. Compulsion and coercion replace gentle persuasion. Force and brutality replace mercy and virtue. Hatred replaces love. This is indeed a perversion. Thus, the methods are perverted.  Much more can be said, but this cursory discussion will suffice for now.  On to the next idea, that wars pervert the Gospel.

Wars and contentions cannot be started without disobeying fundamental Gospel principles: Love thy neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Forgive. Repent. Be merciful. Be humble. Thou shalt not kill.

How can someone who starts a war be penitent? Be humble? A peacemaker? Be loving and genuinely concerned about their neighbor? War initiation is the opposite of these.

This disobedience tragically results in the destruction of souls. Latter-day revelation teaches that the soul consists of the body and the spirit. Clearly, war results in the destruction of the body. But this teaching clearly implies a spiritual destruction as well. Any conflict initiation is spiritually destructive, as contention is of the devil. The Lord’s doctrine is that such should be done away.  It is significant to note that this depraved behavior results in the tragic destruction of “many souls.”

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Filed under Book of Mormon, Libertarian, Mormonism, politics, role of government

Can a Mormon Oppose the Drug War?

Can an active Mormon oppose the drug war?

One of my biggest concerns about libertarianism was the federal drug war.  As an active Mormon (and some may say, due to common sense) I am opposed to the use of drugs for recreational purposes.  Why, then, would I oppose what is termed the “drug war,” a federal government-run program to try and reduce the demand and supply for illicit drugs?

The thinking goes that if the supply can be reduced sufficiently via diplomatic or often military means, prices will go so high that they will be cost-prohibitive to most users.  The sad story is that despite government’s decades of effort and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, drug use is still unpredictable, and largely continues to rise.  Crime in drug-ridden areas continues to be problematic.  I am no sociologist or criminologist, so I will leave the trends to the experts.  Suffice it to say we still have a significant drug use problem in America.  Most, I would venture to guess, will agree with this statement.

When Prohibition was enacted in 1920, a Constitutional Amendment was proposed, written, and passed.  This showed that those in favor of prohibiting alcohol consumption needed a Constitutional Amendment to give those powers to the federal government.  No Constitutional Amendment was proposed, written, or passed to prohibit marijuana, cocaine, barbiturates, opiates, or any other drug currently combated.  The current drug war was started on the whim of President Nixon several decades ago.  Drugs, he said, were public enemy number one.  What about rapists or serial killers or terrorists?  He said drugs were public enemy number one.  This is another problem I have with the drug war: it has a false premise.  I disagree that drugs are public enemy number one.

Don’t we use drugs (even hard drugs like opiates and barbiturates?) for medicinal purposes all the time?  Why then, are they not public enemy number one in the medical field?

Another reason I am opposed to the drug war: government actions have unintended, negative consequences.  One example of an unintended, negative consequence is an increased difficulty in procuring medicine.  If I am a low income individual, and I want a special type of antibiotic for a special type of infection, government regulation of drug products (part of the drug war) makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get one.  An market void of government regulation would make it much more available.  But you ask, “Without government regulations, how can we know something is safe to consume?”  One answer is that an unregulated market can provide all different private levels of certification, so I may prefer “XYZ” certified drugs where you prefer “ABC” certified drugs and someone else prefers (or does not want to pay for) any certification at all.  What about mistakes?  When a private company makes a mistake, his competitors will take advantage and the mistake or its effects will be lessened, if not eliminated.  His reputation and that of his certifier will be damaged.  In a free market, such irresponsible behavior is strongly discouraged.  In the corporate system as currently set up today, however, if a drug company releases a dangerous drug (i.e. Viox) approved by the FDA, someone shouts at the FDA and perhaps the company, but life goes on with both the certifier (FDA) and the company largely unaffected.  If there was a chance of a private certifier getting closed down, what would be the incentive to make sure they really did their homework before certifying a new drug?  With lower barriers to enter the market, surely there would be more inexpensive and effective medicinal options than their currently are.  More options mean that avoiding a particularly troublesome company would become a real option.

The FDA is not really accountable, except in a vague way to some occasional government oversight.  For instance, a few months back, a study indicated that eating thirty cherries can have a similar analgesic effect to a tablet of aspirin.  When cherry growers planned to use this pain-lessening effect as a marketing tool, the FDA started playing hardball.  If cherry growers were going to make that claim, then cherries would be regulated as a drug.  This would cripple if not kill the domestic cherry industry, so the farmers backed off.  Meanwhile, the FDA regularly approves sketchy pharmaceutical drugs that result in very serious health complications.  Again, if the FDA were a private company, it would have to restructure its philosophy to compete with effective certification companies, as the market requires.

Again, if private organizations were involved in food certification, then the market (individuals) would determine the most cost effective and life effective way of regulating food and drugs.  But in the case of a government-run monopoly, we are stuck with the government’s decision, no matter how inept.  We may try to exert pressure to make a change, but we are ultimately stuck with their decision and their methods.

Another unintended consequence is innocent individuals caught in the crossfire.  I am opposed to the death and harm of innocent individuals which could have been prevented.

Another reason I am opposed to the drug war is the manner in which it has historically been carried out.  Usually, military operations resulting in burning or destroying fields in third-world countries is a significant part of the drug war.  I am uncomfortable with the United States military destroying the livelihood of destitute third-world farmers.  I never approved nor signed up for that, and am uncomfortable with bureaucrats making these types of decisions for me.

Another reason I am opposed to it is that it has not worked: a huge criminal organization has continued to flourish for decades of drug war prosecution.  There have been ups and downs, but for the money and effort expended, there is very little (negligible) measurable progress to show for.  Why should my tax money go to a wasted effort when I would rather invest in someone else (like my own retirement)?  How much money can the government take from me without my consent for purposes I strongly disagree with?

It was thought that tough sentencing of drug users would solve the problems.  What has happened?  Prisons are overrun with non-violent drug offenders while those who should be in our prisons (i.e. rapists, sex offenders) are released.  More and more taxpayer money is needed to build more and more prisons to lock up the end drug user, many with no other record of non-violent crime.

Some of the more controversial elements of the drug war involve medical marijuana, or use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.  There are several state laws that allow use of medical marijuana.  Federal drug agents will often overturn these state laws and prosecute individuals using marijuana for medicinal purposes, even those with significant health conditions.  Considering problems with overrun prisons (see above) I have issues sending the chronically ill and elderly to jail.  I also disagree with federal agents and federal policy trumping state laws.  Unless there is a significant amount of interstate trade involved (a.k.a “commerce” as in the Constitutionally controversial “commerce clause”), I see absolutely no basis for federal agents to trump state law in such matters.  It is simply not in their jurisdiction.  Unfortunately for me, this is an unusual position to take.  But this particular point of contention is more about states’ rights (negative federal government rights) then it is about drug use.

The astute would note that if a Constitutional Amendment was introduced to combat certain drugs, and those drugs were clearly specified, as were the intended means of combating drug use, then I may have to reconsider my position, especially if the means employed were more humane (not military-focused and non-interventionist) and the funding was voluntary (not compulsory taxation).  In that case, I would be less strongly opposed to the so-called “drug war.”  But even in that case, private agencies and charities, voluntarily donated to and invested in, would do a more efficient and cost-effective job dealing with such social problems as opposed to a government monopoly.

As it is now, the drug war seems like “anarcho-tyranny” as described by Samuel Francis.  The situation is anarchic (chaotic) because the guilty, those who sell and distribute drugs, largely go free and unpunished (the laws are not enforced, either due to feasibility, ineptitude, or some other reason), while the innocent and law-abiding suffer from enforcement of laws for oppressive purposes, a near tyrannical control (certainly unconstitutional) over their lives.  (For any true anarcho-capitalist reading, I would ask for your latitude: please try to understand the tenor of this term.)

The government struggles to convince individuals not to ingest or inhale drugs.  It is my opinion that leaving out the spiritual element is leaving out a large (perhaps the largest) component.  Perhaps decrying drugs is best left to families and churches operating independently of the government.

There are other issues at hand as well, but I think you get the point.

As a Latter-day Saint, I have noticed that those who want to partake of recreational drugs may do so.  Does having alcohol or tobacco legal make it that much more tempting or difficult to avoid?  Though most would say that having drugs such as LSD, cocaine, and marijuana illegal makes them that much more difficult to partake/inhale/ingest than if they were legalized, I would ask: what data do we have to suggest that the drug war is actually accomplishing its stated mission and objectives of reducing drug abuse in the United States of America?  Whether a substance is legal or not (i.e. cold medicine, superglue, whiteout) a Latter-day Saint may successfully apply his or her agency to determine whether they will partake/ingest/inhale or not.  In other words, a Latter-day Saint, even if drugs were legalized, has the divine-given ability (as does anyone else) to navigate his or her life, including avoiding harmful substances, whether they are regulated by the government or not.  We live by the health code known as the “Word of Wisdom,” after all.  Might we not have at least some wisdom?  It ultimately comes down to the exercising of agency, not the exercise of compulsory government control.  Zion was of one heart and one mind because individuals exercised their agency to be pure in heart, and that there would be no poor among them.  Compulsion is alien to the divine; God cannot compel us to be good, and to suggest we can be compelled to be good contrary to our will is, in my opinion, a near-devilish doctrine.  But to me, that is the type of morality often suggested by the war on drugs.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, Mormonism, Personal, role of government

Paleoconservatism (Traditional Conservatives) vs. Libertarianism

In addition to neoconservatism, there is another branch of conservativism, sometimes called paleoconservatism.  This is more in line with traditional conservative ideas and beliefs: limited government with a focus on liberty.  There is an emphasis on that which conserves culture, tradition, values, beliefs, etc.

Many of these traditional conservatives trace their philosophical lineage back to American thinkers like Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk rather than Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Jr. and Irving Kristol (or even some liberal Presidents such as FDR, JFK, and Harry Truman), as many neocons would.  If you go way back, you have thinkers like Edmund Burke who shaped conservative thought and ideas around the time of the American Revolution.

In the 1930s, when FDR started up The New Deal, which was a huge expanse in government at the time, many stood in opposition to his actions and policies.  There were also many in support of his policies: after all, it was The Great Depression, and we had to do something, right?  Something is better than nothing, right?  (So the mainstream liberal logic goes.)

Those that stood united against The New Deal constituted a wide coalition known then as the Old Right.  It was then part of the GOP.  (Before then, and before Woodrow Wilson, most classical liberals found a home in the Democratic party.  That was the home of laissez-faire economics, personal liberty, and limited government as compared to the then more-interventionist Republicans.  But I digress.)

The Old Right was a home for libertarians and conservatives.  All were opposed to The New Deal, to the huge increase in government spending and dependency that resulted from it, and to the concomitant contraction in personal liberty.  They were also opposed to a foreign policy of interventionism, instead favoring non-intervention.  This is sometimes incorrectly called isolationism.

Traditional conservatives of the Old Right ilk and libertarians agree on many nuts and bolts issues, or at least have many overlapping concerns.  Generally this is expressed as a concern about or opposition towards domestic and foreign intervention.  Some practical implications:

1. We should avoid foreign wars in foreign lands.  This would include WWI and WWII, at least to some adherents.

2. Our government should be much much smaller.  Some individuals were opposed to old school agencies like the FDA and the SEC even.

3. Budgets should be balanced.  It sounds silly that this is an actual political belief, as it should simply be common sense, but our patterns today are so different from common sense in so many ways (at least to my common sense).

4. We should have a sound monetary policy.  There was an opposition to the loose, inflationary monetary policies often associated with war financing.  What had once been used only in times of exigent circumstances (namely war) become the common monetary policy of the time: we print money when we need it.  Oh, and we print money without government supervision, at the discretion of a quasi-government and very secretive entity known as the Federal Reserve System.  Few talk about this today, of course, except a few anomalies like myself.  But they used to.  The most agreed upon way to have a sound monetary policy among the Old Right was to return to the gold standard, where the money we carry in our pocket is actually redeemable for something of value, namely, gold or silver, as specified in the Constitution.  Instead, today, the money in our pocket is redeemable for nothing, except the good warm feelings associated with an exchange of cold cash.  If cash reserves were commodity-backed, this limits the amount of money the government can print.  There are all sorts of problems with inflation that I should not get into here.  Suffice it to say there used to be much more opposition to it than there is today, where it is considered a fact of life for the most part.

All of these areas I would agree with, and others besides.  But the common thread was a support of liberty, and an opposition towards government intervention, both domestic and foreign.

After WWII, the Cold War changed the conservative movement, where a permanent bureaucracy was accepted in order to fight and oppose communism.  Interesting that we used central economic planning to oppose a country that used central economic planning (the USSR).  Hence, a large, strong, engaged and international military presence and even a permanent military-industrial complex was seen as helpful or even necessary to combat the Soviet menace.

After the Cold War was over, many traditional conservatives wanted to scale things back.  What was the need for such a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons, for instance, and troops scattered across the globe?  Let’s step down as superpower now that the Soviet threat vanished.

It turns out that this philosophy (more conservative in my opinion) was rejected in favor of a much more aggressive and interventionist foreign policy.  We not only kept our military strong, but we wanted to maintain our presence and monopoly as the world’s sole superpower.  We would make sure another country would not challenge us for this role.  Sounds a little too imperialistic for my tastes.  But by and large, the masses have swallowed this.  Even in discussions about Iraq, nearly no one is talking about re-thinking our interventionist foreign policy.  Instead, we need to get more involved in other regions and conflicts (i.e. Darfur for the Democrats and Iran for the Republicans) than we are today.  As I have said before, I am staunchly opposed to this aggressive, arrogant, militant attitude many mistake for patriotism.

In any case, there are paleoconservatives out there I agree with on many issues; examples include Pat Buchanan, Clyde Wilson, Tom Fleming, and Paul Craig Roberts.  While I may not agree with the vitriol used (especially in Dr. Wilson’s and Mr. Roberts’ articles) there is definitely compatibility with certain subjects and ideas about the role of government.

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Filed under fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, monetary policy, Paleoconservatism, politics, role of government

Who’s Regulating Who?

Ron Paul had another great exchange with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill. Paul provides key insight into core philosophical ideas of Austrian economics and paleoconservatism. I find Paul’s perspective on government regulation quite refreshing, particularly in light of the founders original intent in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Checks and balances (forms of regulation) were put into place for the people to regulate the government, not for the government to do the regulation. As leviathan government creeps towards becoming the creator and not the creation thank goodness for people like Ron Paul who invite us to re-examine the direction our government is headed.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, monetary policy, Paleoconservatism, politics, role of government, Ron Paul

Neocons and Libertarians: Common Ground?

And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
    -3 Nephi 12:43-45

In thinking about common beliefs between a libertarian-minded individual like myself and a neo-conservative of today’s ilk, I had a hard time thinking about what we actually do agree on.  Perhaps I, like Pat Buchanan, feel a little betrayed by the now dominant neoconservative ideology among the GOP.  Perhaps this perspective clouds my judgment.

First off, what does neoconservatism mean to me?  I like the Irving Kristol definition best: “A neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.”  In other words, a liberal with the idea that some liberal programs and mindsets are neither feasible nor realistic.  But note they are defined as a liberal, meaning they have the same sorts of aims that modern-day liberals do: state inteventionism to solve problems.  They just want to scale it back a little.  That’s my take, and I think it is a relatively accurate reflection of reality.

The neoconservative ideology has never been more dominant than it is now in the GOP.  We can see this in the huge growth in domestic government in the last few years under a Republican Presidential administration and a largely Republican Congress (i.e. No Child Left Behind, Medicare Prescription Drug Program, etc.).  We can see this most especially in the aggressive foreign policy agenda pursued now by the Bush administration and the entire GOP, with few exceptions.  How many presidential candidates, for instance, were even uncomfortable with a nuclear pre-emptive attack on Iran?  Most seemed alarmingly at peace with the idea. 

What is the global goal?  One is for the United States to retain its sole superpower status.  This chilling statement from William Kristol is quite telling about the reach of this foreign policy: “The world is a mess. And, I think, it’s very much to Bush’s credit that he’s gotten serious about dealing with it… The danger is not that we’re going to do too much. The danger is that we’re going to do too little.”  To me, there’s nothing conservative about this statement. 

It should be clear that for the most part, commonalities on foreign policy are out.  Nor do I notice neoconservatives, in general, expressing concern for civil liberties and Constitutional rights related to the War on Terror.  It’s hard to find common ground there.

As a movement, it is quite amorphous and has a wide spectrum of views on domestic policy, but in general, they are less liberal than most liberals and more liberal than most other conservatives.  This is a possible area of common belief. 

1. We must be very careful with what the government does with the taxpayer’s money.  We may be able to agree on more caution than is presently used with respect to government spending.  In some areas, like economic regulation, it would be an uphill battle for me, but in other areas where a serious political conflict exists with the Democrats (i.e. expanding government’s involvement in health care), common opposition to growth is possible.

2. Taxes should be cut.  Low taxes are good.  They help nearly everyone.

3. Budgets should be balanced.  I’m going to go out on a wing and hope that there are some neoconservatives out there that still believe in balanced budgets, and are opposed to the current spending habits in Washington.

4. Influence of special interests should be reduced.  We may go about this in different ways, but I think many neoconservatives would agree that special interests are too powerful in swaying government decisions.

5. We should only go to war as an absolute last resort.  I hold out the belief that there are neoconservatives who truly do believe that we should only go to war as a last resort, despite Bill Kristol’s assertions to the contrary, as mentioned above.

Neoconservative views of free markets (i.e. NAFTA, WTO, etc.) differ significantly from my own.  I view large bureaucratic organizations as obstacles to free trade or faciliatators of corporately-biased trade policies rather than allowing for free trade in the classical liberal way.  I’m also concerned about sovereignty issues where these supranational organizations are concerned.  However, it is possible that there could be some common ground when it comes to economic policy.

Many neoconservatives share the hope of a better world.  The question is: what is the ideal role of the United States government in that vision?  I believe that many mainline conservatives hold some aspects of traditional conservatism, of which paleoconservatism is a closer reflection, in my opinion.  And so a future post should discuss paleoconservatism (or traditional conservatism) and its compatibility with the classical liberal mindset.

This has been an interesting exercise for me to reflect on common ground with neoconservatives, who I consider to be a bit of an enemy, as you probably gathered from the scriptural quote at the beginning.  Let me restate that we (myself included) are commanded to love everyone, including our enemies.  Understanding and respect should be a part of that.  Too often, it is not.

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Filed under fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, Personal, politics, role of government