The republicans opportunity to restore america


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This PDF was written by Craig Biddle at The Objective Standard. Craig gave me permission to spread it far and wide. It addresses what the Republicans need to know if they are going to restore America.

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The republicans opportunity to restore america

  1. 1. The Republicans’ Opportunity to Restore America . . . and Their Obstacle Craig BiddleG overnment spending and intervention in the economy are destroying America. The government is amassing obscene debt (now approaching $14 trillion), debasing the dollar, causing massive unemployment (nowat 9.8 percent), and wreaking general economic havoc. But in the 2010 midtermelections, the Republicans—courtesy of the Tea Party movement—gained con-trol of the House, picked up several seats in the Senate, and thus were granted anopportunity to begin the process of saving America. Indications are that at least some in the GOP recognize and want to seize theopportunity. Republicans from John Boehner to Rand Paul to Mitch McConnellto Eric Cantor have said that their party’s new agenda will involve cutting spend-ing, reducing the size of government, repealing all recent tax increases, stoppingall the looming tax hikes, balancing the budget, and defunding and eventually re-pealing ObamaCare. Some Republicans are even talking about phasing out third-rail entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This much is goodnews. But talking about such actions and taking them are two different things, andthe Republicans’ track record on following through is, to put it mildly, unimpres-sive. During election campaigns, Republicans always promise to reduce the size ofgovernment, repeal regulations, cut spending, and lower taxes; that is how theyoccasionally get elected. But once they are in office, they invariably take a differ-ent course.Craig Biddle is the editor of The Objective Standard and the author of Loving Life: The Morality ofSelf-Interest and the Facts that Support It. He is currently writing a book on the principles of rationalthinking and the fallacies that are violations of those principles.The Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011 • 15
  2. 2. Craig Biddle Recall, for example, that from 1995 through 2006, Republicans controlledboth the House and the Senate (except the latter from June 2001 and January2003, due to Jim Jeffords’ switch to Independent)—and that, during four of thoseyears, they did so under Republican President George W. Bush. What happened?Government expanded and spending increased—especially under Bush. DuringBush’s first term, the Republicans passed, and Bush signed into law, among otherthings, the No Child Left Behind Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Medicare PrescriptionDrug Act, McCain-Feingold, new farm subsidies, and new tariffs on the steel andlumber industries. Nondefense discretionary spending during this time—with aRepublican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president—increasedby 25.3 percent (in real dollars). These were the biggest expansion of governmentand the greatest spending increase in more than thirty years.1 And while the Republicans actively expanded government and increased dis-cretionary spending, what did they do toward changing laws to begin phasingout Social Security and Medicare? Absolutely nothing. They left these massiveproblems untouched. Why? Why have Republicans historically been unable to walk their reductiontalk—even when they have controlled both the legislative and executive branches?The answer is that Republicans are unable to name and uphold the only principlethat would enable them to do so, namely, the principle that the only proper pur-pose of government is to protect individual rights. In order to reduce the size of government or cut spending, politicians mustfirst differentiate the essential from the nonessential aspects of what the govern-ment does. How can they do this? They can do it only by reference to the prop-er purpose of government. Should government expand further into health care?Should it spend more on education? Should it shut down the military? It dependson the proper purpose of government. Should we privatize the public schools?Should we privatize the police departments? Should we phase out Social Security?Should we close down the courts? The answers to all such questions depend on theproper purpose of government. The proper purpose of government—as the Founding Fathers knew—is toprotect individual rights. As Thomas Jefferson put it, the purpose of governmentis to “guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquiredby it.”2 The government “shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leavethem otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement,and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sumof good government.”316 The Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011
  3. 3. The Republicans’ Opportunity to Restore America . . . and Their Obstacle If today’s Republicans were to grasp this principle and bear it in mind, theycould begin to identify the areas in which spending could and should be cut. Theycould ask themselves, “Which aspects of today’s government serve the purpose ofguaranteeing everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired byit? Which aspects restrain men from injuring one another but leave them otherwisefree to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement? And which as-pects of government take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned?” By asking and answering such questions, Republicans could see that programssuch as Social Security and Medicare are inconsistent with the proper purpose ofgovernment, and therefore should be phased out. They could see that departmentssuch as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration,the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Energy—andlaws such as minimum wage laws and Sarbanes-Oxley—violate men’s freedom toregulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and therefore shouldbe abolished. And they could see that the courts, the police, and the military areessential functions of government: the courts being the means of settling disputesamong citizens, and the police and the military being the means of protecting citi-zens from domestic and foreign aggressors. In short, if Republicans could grasp what the Founders knew about the properpurpose of government, they could follow through on their campaign promisesand begin reducing government to its proper functions. The problem, however, is that Republicans face a self-imposed obstacle, anobstacle that precludes them from understanding or accepting the principle thatthe proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights. Rights are moral prerogatives to freedom of action. The right to life is theright to take all the actions necessary to sustain and further one’s life. The right toliberty is the right to act in accordance with one’s judgment, free from coercion bythe state or others. The right to property is the right to keep, use, and dispose of theproduct of one’s effort. And the right to the pursuit of happiness is the right to pursuethe goals and values of one’s choosing. But individual rights are not simple matters; they are complex, highly abstractmoral principles that depend on more fundamental moral truths. In order consis-tently to recognize and uphold individual rights, one must be able and willing torecognize and uphold the deeper truths on which rights depend. Herein lies theRepublicans’ obstacle. Those deeper truths run contrary to the moral status quo,which most Republicans accept as unquestionably true: the idea that being moralThe Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011 17
  4. 4. Craig Biddleconsists not in selfishly pursuing one’s life-serving values but, rather, in selflesslyrelinquishing one’s values, giving them up for the needs of others. This notion of morality is incompatible with the principle of individual rights.Thus it is incompatible with the Republicans’ stated agenda to cut spending andreduce the size of government. • Repeal ObamaCare? How can we do that if the right thing to do is to sac- rifice for others? People need medical care, and ObamaCare will provide it by forcing everyone to sacrifice as he should. • Phase out Medicare? How can we do that if we are morally obliged to pro- vide for the needy? The elderly need medical care, and Medicare provides it by forcing everyone to pony up. • Phase out Social Security? How can we do that if, as the Bible tells us, we are our brother’s keeper? The elderly need money for retirement, and Social Security provides it by forcing everyone to do the right thing.In short, how can we justify repealing or phasing out programs for the needy ifbeing moral consists in providing for the needy? Answer: We can’t. The morality of self-sacrifice (aka altruism) is incompatible with the goal ofcutting spending on such programs—never mind phasing them out or repealingthem. And the left knows this. As one leftist recently put it: The Tea Party’s supreme value is the rights of individuals, which sounds good when first heard. The cry “take back our freedoms” may seem inspiring, until it is set along side of the Jesus vision of the kingdom of God on earth. Implicit in the Jesus vision of justice is accepting responsibility for one’s neighbor.4Outspoken leftist Jim Wallace makes this same point almost daily: Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition. The Christian answer to the question “Are we our brother’s keeper?” is decidedly “Yes.” Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. Loving your neighbor is a better Christian response than telling your neighbor to leave you alone.5 The left does not make this stuff up; they get it from the Bible, which is chockfull of passages demanding that we sacrifice for others. “I command you to beopenhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land,”says God (through Moses).6 “Woe unto those who . . . turn aside the needy,” saysGod (through Isaiah).7 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes whatbelongs to you . . . do not demand it back,” says Jesus. “Sell all that thou hast, and18 The Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011
  5. 5. The Republicans’ Opportunity to Restore America . . . and Their Obstacledistribute unto the poor.”8 And so on. The Bible is riddled with such command-ments; politically speaking, it is a socialist manifesto. As the left knows, so the right needs to learn: The morality of self-sacrifice—the morality of the Bible—is incompatible with individual rights. Rights are patently egoistic principles. Consider the right to life: What couldbe more selfish than taking all the actions necessary to sustain and further yourlife? Or the right to liberty: What could be more egoistic than acting on your ownjudgment, free from force by the state or others? Or the right to property: Whatcould be more self-serving than keeping, using, and disposing of the product ofyour own effort? Or, perhaps most obvious of all, consider the right to the pursuitof happiness: What could be more egoistic than pursuing the goals and values ofyour own choosing? If Republicans want to do more than fecklessly chip away at America’s rapidlyexpanding statism, if they want to reverse the statist tide and return America toa rights-respecting republic, then they must find the courage to do what it takes.They must recognize and embrace the principle that the proper purpose of gov-ernment is to protect individual rights. And, in order to do that, they must recog-nize and embrace the principle on which that principle rests: that acting in one’srational self-interest—while leaving others free to do the same—is moral. Political questions such as how to phase out Social Security and Medicare,how to cut discretionary spending, and how generally to reduce government to itsproper function, are technical matters that can be worked out once Republicansrecognize that such goals are morally correct and thus politically necessary. Forinstance, once Republicans understand that Social Security is immoral, they canidentify possible ways to phase it out over time. One possibility is to graduallyincrease the age of eligibility and gradually decrease the benefits. Granted, thiswould cause some financial fatigue for retirees over the next few decades. But,given the nature of the massive Ponzi scheme that is Social Security, undoing itwill necessarily entail some pain, and the pain is more justly suffered by those whohave permitted the scheme to remain in existence than by those too young to haveever voted or those yet to be born. But there is no point in Republicans planning to take political actions thatthey regard as immoral. As Republicans have amply demonstrated over decades,a person’s or a Party’s ethical views will trump his or its conflicting political goalsevery time. If Republicans want to save America, they must grasp and upholdthe only morality that is consistent with that goal: the morality of self-interest.America’s future is egoism or bust.The Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011 19
  6. 6. Craig Biddle The Tea Party has given the Republicans an opportunity to begin restoringAmerica to a republic in which the government is limited to the protection of in-dividual rights. Will the Republicans find the courage to embrace the morality ofself-interest? Or will they capitulate, once again, to the statism demanded by themorality of self-sacrifice? Those are the Republicans’ alternatives. And it is high time they realize it. Endnotes 1. “Under Bush, Federal Spending Increases at Fastest Rate in 30 Years,” The Independent Institute, June 24, 2004, asp?newsID=31. 2. Quoted in Thomas G. West, Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), p. 136. 3. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801, pres16.html. 4. Howard Bess, “Jesus’s Teachings and the Tea Party,” November 8, 2010, http://www. 5. Jim Wallis, “How Christian Is Tea Party Libertarianism?,” May 27, 2010, http://www. See also practically any article by Wallis at Sojourners, 6. Deuteronomy 15:11. 7. Isaiah 10:1–2. 8. Luke 6:30 and 18:22.20 The Objective Standard • Winter 2010–2011