Saturday, September 13, 2014

Policy, Liberty and Coalitions

[Previously published as the 'President's Message' in the August 2014 newsletter of the Southern California Republican a women and Men]
By Howard Hyde
Politics and public policy are overrated.
So says an author, speaker and activist on political economy and president of a prominent political club.

By that I mean, we put more trust than we should in government and regulation to achieve what we could (and in many cases must) just as well do via voluntary cooperation, mutual initiative and free markets. We despair too much if policy doesn't meet our preferences, forgetting that policy isn't the last word as to what happens and what we may do. And the 'we' I refer to is not limited to any one political party.

For example, regarding the current border crisis, if we implemented a policy of rapidly processing all of the asylum claims and swiftly returning denied claimants back to their parents in Honduras, that would displease people of the Open Borders and 'baby Jesus' persuasion. But it would not prevent any American who wants to, from compassionate liberals to Glenn Beck, from providing whatever support, assistance, adoption or sponsorship they see fit to any of the migrant children, whether here or in their home countries. If all government poverty programs were abolished, that would not prevent any Americans who wanted to from taking care of poor people and organizing charitable activities, job training, rehabilitation or whatever is required. Even though abortion is legal, that fact alone doesn't prevent pro-life conservatives from influencing their own families and communities, to persuade women not to have abortions, and to organize and raise funds to provide support services for women in crisis pregnancies. Even if abortion were made illegal, private voluntary initiatives like this would still be absolutely necessary.
The great difficulty of political choices, as opposed to free-market economic ones, is that the former are by nature categorical, all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave it. If you like one candidate's position on foreign policy, you can't have it unless you also accept his or her position on taxes, gay marriage, abortion and health care. It's an indivisible package. Moreover, you only get one chance vote every two to four years and can't change your mind a few months later (as many Obama/Obamacare supporters now wish they could).

It is no wonder then that politics, campaigns and elections are so contentious, and in many parts of the world, bloody.

Contrast that with what you observe in any market. Hundreds, or even millions of individuals come together who don't know each other, may not like each other, and yet they exchange freely, with the result (assuming no fraud or coercion) being the greatest all-around satisfaction possible on an imperfect earth. The contents of every individual's or family's shopping basket is unique and distinct from every other individual's or family's. This one contains two gallons of milk, a pound of broccoli and 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's. That one has one gallon of milk, a half dozen eggs and two loaves of bread. The choices are incremental and adjustable from day to day or even minute to minute. It is the most virtuous circle ever invented.

The great challenge of politics then (at least as we conservative libertarians see it) is to minimize conflict by permitting more choices to be made incrementally and fewer needing to be categorical. It is very difficult to reconcile this view with the liberal progressive paradigm of having the government involved comprehensively in every aspect of citizens' lives, from public transportation systems that require massive subsidies to birth control, which apparently according to liberals, also requires massive subsidies. But it ought to be possible to reconcile the warring factions of the Republican movement, from the 'establishment' to social conservatives to Tea Partiers to libertarians. If the size and jackboot print of government were reduced through lower tax rates, lighter regulation and reduced spending, then each segment of our movement should find greater scope of freedom within which to exercise personal and social preferences.

Even the tension between the anti-interventionist libertarians and the defense-hawk conservatives would be relieved by having a smaller state in which Defense occupies a greater relative percentage of the budget, because with fewer distractions, there can be greater citizen oversight over what our military and intelligence agencies are doing.

In any case, the warring factions of the Republican movement need to actively seek what we all have in common in order to do battle with the greatest threat to our constitutional republic in its history. Let us tolerate differences of opinion within our common framework, not be small-minded, and unite to defeat anti-constitutional leftist socialist progressivism.

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