Things you can do/Some can’t be done

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar Reason60 says:

    Very perceptive comment. It is true, that the conservative movement has a couple of paradoxes:

    Wanting to limit government, yet allow the State Security apparatus nearly unlimited power.

    Not believing in government’s role, yet wanot willing to offer an alternative to take its place.

    Republican philosophy pre-Regan saw government as a neutral manager, intervening in the economy only when necesary, but still involved, still serving its role as the People’s expression of common good versus private interest.Report

  2. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Bravo! You have eloquently said some things that I try (and fail) to articulate quite often. It is this very resoluteness against all (non-defense) government that makes me unable to discuss conservatism with a straight face.

    I read Yglesias’s post earler, but your post elegantly weaves this into a much more causative exploration. Thanks for this.Report

  3. Avatar Sam M says:

    Did Reagan really want to dismantle the wlefare state? It was Clinton who signed Welfare reform, I seem to recall. And siad the era of Big Government is over.

    What departments did Reagan dismantle? What agencies went kablooie?

    Rather than refusing to offer these services, it seems more accurate to say that he and other conservatives refused to pay for them.

    Bush did Medicare D. Did you see any corresponding cut backs in government services?

    The analysis that Reagan was a limited-bovernment hardliner will sound like music to his current acolytes. But it hardly seems accurate in light of the evidence.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Sam M says:

      Reagan said he was trying to cut out the welfare state. However he didn’t do it because much of what the state does is popular and successful. Sometimes politicians have slogans and make claims to make themselves sound good, but they don’t always match with reality.

      It is one of central contradictions of the modern Republican party that they scream for lower government but still want to offer popular services. They want to rail against the government they don’t like but don’t have other solutions to many problems.Report

  4. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    David Harvey’s book “A Brief History of NeoLiberalism.” tells it pretty well, why and how the Republican Party got taken over by the conservative libertarians and became the POG (Party of Greed). Capital elites got hammered in the aftermath of the Second World War in terms of their great wealth declining through redistribution by government and trade unions. A class war was pretty well inevitable and the Neoliberals starting with Reagan told a real good story about how freedom was all about the less government the better whilst hypocritically using government regulation, taxation changes and subsidies to dramatically reverse the wealth redistribution. Liberal government and unions had also, of course, played into their hands through abuse and mishandling of power. The recent Financial Super-Bubble Crash substantially caused by their market fundamentalism would be cause for much amusement in the Shakespearean sense of being hoist with their own petard were it not for the dreadful effects on the lives of ordinary working people. Whether American people can now make the effort to decipher their post Second World War history and see through the scam is anybody’s guess but market fundamentalism has substantially weakened the country by putting it in hock to the Chinese and others. Obama’s administration shows little sign of understanding Neoliberalism as the scam that it is so the likelihood of more pain to come may provoke the enlighenment!Report

  5. Avatar Sam M says:

    “the Republican Party got taken over by the conservative libertarians”

    Wow. I didn’t know that. Someone needs to tell the people at Cato and Reason to stop resisting everything the GOP stands for, I guess.

    Seriously. This is one of the most bizarre statements I have seen in a while. Even progressives seem pretty clear on the fact that the GOP doesn’t care too much for real markets or civil liberties.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      I get the feeling that “libertarian” is a lot like “neocon” insofar as people use it because of its personal emotional resonance rather than because of its usefulness when it comes to precision. I think that he’s using the term the way that I would use “corporatist”.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Sam M says:

      Yeah and I have my feelings hurt as a neoliberal too. Regan as a neoliberal? I thought he was the father of neoconservatives?Report

  6. Avatar JosephFM says:

    OT and I haven’t even read the post yet, but between this and “madness”, may I just say that I am really happy to find someone else who loves Deltron 3030 as much as I do. It’s quite possibly my favorite hip-hop album ever.Report

  7. Avatar JosephFM says:

    Absolutely. I mean, were I British, I would almost without a doubt support the Tories under Cameron at this point. But the thing is, and this needs to be pointed out over and over, is that all three major UK parties could – easily if not exactly comfortably – fit within the current Democratic coalition in the US. The Republicans are on an entirely different spectrum, and neither they nor the Conservatives would consider the other truly “conservative”, because they mean different things by it.Report

  8. Avatar Lee says:

    It’s probably more accurate to say that under Reagan the GOP went from being the party of fiscal austerity (think Hoover) to the party of tax cuts and spending. (Hence the ballooning deficits under Reagan.) Of course, the spending was mostly military, and social programs suffered accordingly. But I think the Reagan revolution–with the fig-leaf of supply-side economics as its justification–sidestepped, at least to some extent, the question of the role of government (however much conservatives railed against the welfare state). The GOP could cut taxes without making any corresponding cuts in government spending and thus avoid a standoff on social programs. No doubt this laid the groundwork to some extent for the welfare “reform” of the 90s, but I do think it’s significant that Reagan never made a full frontal assault on the welfare state. G.W. Bush was the true heir of Reagan in that sense: cut taxes (for rich people) and jack up military spending. The rest will take care of itself!Report

  9. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    Milton Friedman Libertarian:-

    Extract from Wikipedia on Milton Friedman:-

    His views on monetary policy, taxation, privatization and deregulation formed the policy of governments around the globe, most notably the administrations of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, Ronald Reagan in the United States and Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

    Friedrich Hayek Closet Libertarian:-

    Extracts from Wikipedia on Friedrich Hayek:-

    In February 1975 Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the British Conservative Party. The Institute of Economic Affairs arranged a meeting between Hayek and Thatcher in London soon after.[28] During Thatcher’s only visit to the Conservative Research Department in the summer of 1975, a speaker had prepared a paper on why the “middle way” was the pragmatic path the Conservative Party should take, avoiding the extremes of left and right. Before he had finished, Thatcher “reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Friedrich von Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting our pragmatist, she held the book up for all of us to see. ‘This’, she said sternly, ‘is what we believe’, and banged Hayek down on the table”.[29]

    Hayek received new attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of conservative governments in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. After winning the 1979 election, Margaret Thatcher appointed Keith Joseph, the director of the Hayekian Centre for Policy Studies, as her secretary of state for industry in an effort to redirect parliament’s economic strategies. Likewise, David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s most influential financial official in 1981 was an acknowledged follower of Hayek.[53]Report

  10. Avatar Sam M says:

    “Ronald Reagan’s most influential financial official in 1981 was an acknowledged follower of Hayek.”

    Right. And Clinton’s Sec of Treasury was an Objectivist. I hardly think that makes Clinton a Randian.Report

  11. Avatar Richard T says:

    Writing from the UK, don’t lose sight of the fact that it has taken 2 hammerings and a reasonably good kicking from the electorate since 1997 to get the Conservatives electable. They are in this position not necessarily through their own merits but largely because Labour have shot both their feet off. Even so the polls only give around 40% which might get them a small majority but that 40% is not firm – in an election campaign it may erode somewhat.

    The other point is that the UK has a 2 and a half party system with the Liberal Democrats sitting at around 20% level currently which they have usually been able to increase in an election and this distorts the clarity of any comparison in a 2 party system. The effect is that the ‘rightist’ support electorally is around 40% with 60% on the Liberal/Labour wing and this has largely been the case since the mid 1970s; devolution and the rise of the SNP and Plaid Cymru have weakened further the 2 party balance. the split moves around 5% or so but the electoral system of First Past the Post gives majority government on minority votes – no UK government has had over 50% of the voters supporting it since the coalition in the 1930s. This has lessened the authority of both parties when in Government and has added to the weakening of the UK’ political culture.

    There are elements in the Conservatives who would not look out of place in mainstream republicanism (Daniel Hannam for example) but the high degree of consensus, as you note, puts them outwith the UK mainstream.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    In other words, conservatives need to articulate how government can work well, instead of their two-faced opposition — saying, “No!” to all government while embracing the forms (social security, medicare, defense) that they support.

    It’s gonna be a long time in the cold, I think. Seems to me that conservative heads are still reeling from seeing Rove’s permanent majority slip through their fingers.Report

  13. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    That Reagan and G.W. Bush didn’t fully implement the conservative libertarianism contained in Neo-Liberalism is more to do with the inherent conflicts within Libertarianism, the need to achieve and hold power and to expand and protect the financial interests of an elite class. That Neo-Liberalism should now be turning sour in the aftermath of the Financial Super-Bubble Crash is largely due to its failure to understand the reasons and uses for democracy and integrate them into its philosophy. This may seem a negative comment but provides a clue for political parties to develop a governing philosophy for the future.Report

  14. Avatar Sam M says:

    “In other words, conservatives need to articulate how government can work well”

    Fair enough, but the liberal side is just as guilty. They have all sorts of consensus regarding what to do, but very few people willing to say how they are going to pay for it all. No new taxes on people who make less that $250,000 a year? That’s no less a fairy tale than the one being spun by hard core libertarians. It just so happens that the conservative fairy tale has been in place for the past decade or so, and people got wise to it. I suspect people will get wise to the liberal fairy tale in just about the same period of time. it has happened before.

    Sure, there are some straight shooters in the liberal progressive ranks who will cop to the need for more taxes. But not nearly enough to actually make it happen to the extent to which it needs to happen.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Sam M says:

      That goes in the same bucket with conservatives and defense spending and the pledge to Grover of “no new taxes.”Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Sam M says:

      Perhaps so Sam. But there’s an important distinction. If the Liberals come out and say “okay turns out we will need to raise taxes to get things under control fiscally.” their base will not punish them. If the Conservatives did the same their base would burn them in effigy.Report

  15. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    Equally true for Liberals is they need to rethink at least two things. How to create democratic solutions that reduce the principal-agent conflict with politicians and government bureaucrats and as a consequence from this how to create non-state alternative vehicles for public goods delivery that will be cost efficient and deliver higher accountability and responsiveness to customers and citizens generally.Report

  16. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    Neoliberal Republicans have a big problem with government. Should it stay or should it go. If it goes, who will they have to capture, or bribe, to increase, or protect, their wealth? How also can they beat the Democrats round the head for wanting big government? If it stays and they’re in power they look like wimps. Best option is to fake it like Reagan and Bush! Watch my lips; not my actions! Same applies to democracy. Push away; or rue the day! If they decide to incorporate it in their Neo-Liberal philosophy it threatens their wealth. If they don’t the next big financial crash could be terminal and most except the really clever ones will lose their wealth anyway! Class divided lifestyles are a pain, too many decisions!Report

  17. Avatar nick.t. says:

    “Thatcher wasn’t on a crusade to undermine the welfare state.”
    This is not a perspective on Thatcher that is widely shared in Britain, Jamelle. I’d like to see some evidence for the claim, rather than simple assertion.Report

  18. Avatar Koz says:

    A couple points: first, you are correct to emphasize the differences in the position of the UK Tories relative to Labour as opposed to the R’s and D’s here in America. And for that reason conservatives in the US should be wary of trying to borrow the Cameron-era Tory playbook. But we need some more context here. Basically, the UK has been in a substantial decline as a nation ever since WWII. Nothing of any consequence has gone right for them except where Margaret Thatcher was involved. And given the mixed esteem Thatcher is held in the UK, it’s very likely that more bad things are in store for them over there.

    Also, I think you’re overestimating Reagan’s hostility to the welfare state. He talked a big game but didnt’ accomplish very much. IIRC, David Frum accused of that very thing in _Dead Right_. In any case, he had other fish to fry and could get some support from conservative D’s in Congress for every part of his agenda except that. So, he took what he could get and kicked the welfare state can down the road. And to a large extent that’s why we are where we are today.Report

  19. Avatar nj says:

    Thatcher was more anti-union than anti-welfare state. Reagan was Bush before Bush, a military keynesist.Report

  20. Avatar Slugger says:

    What recent president actually cut the size of the deficit? He also passed a welfare reform bill.
    Hint: He said “the era of big government is over.”
    Do real world results matter? I’m ok with giving Reagan credit for things he did for the economy, but it seems silly to praise him for sloganeering while doing the opposite. Reagan’s biggest economic achievement, IMHO, is holding the mood of the country up while Paul Volcker choked the economy to get rid of the inflation monster in the early 1980’s. Reagan’s subsequent tax cuts were unsustainable and drove deficits up. Of course, GWH Bush had to throw himself on that grenade.
    Bill Clinton and old Bush, best Republican presidents ever.Report