Politicians frequently adopt and maintain policies that violate Equal Rights, Common
Law, and Economic Freedom. How can this be explained?
1. the influence of special interests
2. voter ignorance
THE RIGHT FOUNDATION
1. all people are created with equal rights
2. these rights are, the right to Life, Liberty, and Property
3. these rights come from our Creator, not government
Rights is a concept that is widely confused these days. We speak of the "right to affordable
health care", the "right to housing", and so forth. These notions are a gross corruption of the term "rights". A right is
something that is held simutaneously among people and imposes no burden on another...Walter Williams
1. do all you have agreed to do
2. do not encroach upon other people
3. do not encroach upon other peoples property
This is how common law became the source of all our basic laws against theft, fraud, kidnapping,
rape, murder, and so forth. A judge would listen to a case and find that someone had broken an agreement or encroached...Richard
It is essential to the idea of a law that it be attended with a penalty or punishment for disobedience.
A law without a penalty, amounts to nothing more than advice or recommendation...Alexander Hamilton
1. people have the right to engage in, Peaceful, Honest, and Voluntary activity
2. government should not regulate this activity
3. what you acquire by producing it, trading peacefully and honest for it, belongs to you
Welfare is one example where politicians, through the tax code, take the earnings (property)
of one American and give them to another. But there are many examples of this practice. Indeed, more than (two-thirds) of
the federal budget is spent for programs that fit the category of - Legalized Theft...Walter Williams
A man's money is his property, and unless he is free to control and dispose of his labor as he
wishes, he is a slave...Ralph Husted
Unfortunately, ( Statism ) which is the opposite of the original American philosophy, has replaced
- Equal Rights with Artificial Rights, Common Law with Political
Law, and Economic Freedom with a Mixed Economy.
TIME FOR CHANGE
Three good principles for our foreign policy are...
1. peaceful trade with the rest of the world
2. avoid entanglements in their political affairs and quarrels with other nations
3. always remain strong enough to defend ourselves from attack
We must strive to...
1. limit the U.S. military to its legitimate role of protecting the United States from invasion and
2. prohibit the president from waging war without a congressional declaration of war
3. prohibit the disbursement of foreign aid both economic and military
We must also...
1. end our governments role as international cop
2. end our governments role as international welfare provider
3. free the American people to establish business relationships all over the world
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial
relations, to have with them as little (political) connection as possible...George Washington
Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none...Thomas
1. government should not regulate nor intervene in the production, sale, and pricing of goods and
2. wages and work conditions must be the result of free, competitive bargaining between employer
3. importing and exporting of all goods and services must be free of governmental control, regulation,
tariffs, and subsidies
4. quality, quantity, and prices of goods and services must be left up to the competitive forces
of market supply and demand
When politicians speak of "regulating the market", what they are actually proposing is legislation
"regulating people". The USA actually has a mixed economy, a mixture of some "freedom", a little socialism, and a lot of fascism
- where producers are allowed to keep a nominal title to their possessions and to bear all the risks involved, while the government
has most of the control and gets a great deal of the profits, and takes none of the risks...L.M. Tannehill
Depressions and mass unemployment are not caused by the free market but by government interference
in the economy...Ludwig von Mises
Governments view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases; If it moves, tax it.
If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it...Ronald Reagan
The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does
not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective
system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another...Milton Friedman
When buying and selling are controlled by ( legislation ) , the first things to be bought or
sold are ( legislators )...P.J. O'Rourke
Laws that are consistent with economic and personal liberty are those laws that prevent one person,
or the state, from (encroaching) on the God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and Property of another.
Blacks Law Dictionary defines (encroach) as follows: "To enter by gradual steps or stealth into
the possessions or rights of another; to trespass or intrude; to gain or intrude unlawfully upon the lands, property, or authority
If the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it
does not belong, it is (perverted). If the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another citizen, it is (perverted).
Life, Liberty, and Property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was
the fact that Life, Liberty, and Property existed before-hand that caused men to make laws in the first place...F. Bastiat
Three ways to view property...
1. anyone may take anyone else's property
2. some people may take the property of other people
3. no one may take anyone else's property without that persons permission
Let me offer you my definition of social justice; I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn.
Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you - and why...Walter Williams
For a law is just, and therefore binding, if its restrictions are (1) necessary to protect the
rights of others and (2) proper insofar as they do not violate the pre-existing rights of the persons on whom they are imposed;
first come rights and then comes law...R. Barnett
As long as a person does not violate Common Law, that person has the right to live his life as he
chooses, the right to engage in free enterprise, free trade, and the right to accumulate the fruits of those trades (property),
and no group of politicians has the right to encroach (control or regulate) these activities.
I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the
fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men's rights...Abraham Lincoln
The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor
aiding them in their pursuits...Thomas Jefferson
As long as you have rules (common law), you have a chance for freedom. Without common law, freedom
and justice will suffer. In fact, freedom without common law is an illusion.
Common Law...necessary for a civilization to develop and advance; laws on which all major religions
and philosophies agree; (1) do all you have agreed to do (2) do not encroach upon other people (3) do not encroach upon
other peoples property.
If you meet people who disagree with these laws, ask if they would like to live in a world where
these laws are not obeyed...Richard Maybury
When a portion of wealth is transfered from the person who owns it, to anyone who does not own
it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed. This is exactly what the Law is suppose to
suppress. When the law itself commits this act that it is suppose to suppress, I say that plunder (legalized theft) is still
Equal Rights and Government
Governments are created to protect our rights which come from our Creator. Since these rights come
from our Creator, they (pre-exist) government and no group of politicians has the authority to take away or violate our God-given
rights. Without our Creator, rights are created by government and what the government creates, the government can take away.
We hold these truths to be (self-evident), that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their (Creator) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That
to (secure) these rights, Governments are instituted among men...Thomas Jefferson (the Declaration of Independence)
A theme of prominent political thinking is that our rights are gifts from government. This is
just the opposite of what the American Founders thought. Imagine an adult stranded in the wild where there is no law, no police,
no courts, nothing. Another person attacks him and threatens to take everything he has made to survive. The attacker might
say "since government is the source of our rights, and there is no government out here in the wilds, you have no rights. Not
to your life, your freedom, or your property, and certainly not to self-defense. At least not until a government is established
and grants you these rights."... Tibor Machan
The purpose or role of government should be limited to (1) protecting our God-given rights from those
within our country who would seek to violate, harm or destroy our Life, Liberty, and Property (2) providing a national defense
to protect our God-given rights from those outside our country (3) providing courts where people can peacefully resolve their
The federal governments role also includes - protecting our God-given rights from violations
by State and Local governments.
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis,
a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are the gift of God...Thomas Jefferson
Each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property.
If every person has the right to defend his life, liberty, and property, then it follows that a group of men have the right
to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly...F. Bastiat
The State is inevitably at war with property rights. Conflicts are created and maintained by
governmental policies ( laws ) that deprive a property owner of ( decision making control ) over something he or she
Government is instituted no less for the protection of the property than of the persons of individuals;
Persons and property are the two great subjects on which governments are to act; for the protection of which government was
instituted ... James Madison
Property ownership has been undermined through regulations and taxes. True ownership of property
no longer exists...Ron Paul
Smoking Laws...a restuarant, taxi, bar, or mall are all just private places that are frequented by
the public. Just because the public has access to someones (private property) does not mean they may dictate the terms of
access. Politicians have no more business telling you that you can't allow smoking in your business (property) than they do
dictating smoking in your home (property).
Flag Laws...everyone has the right to buy, weave, and therefore own an American flag and to do with
it what he chooses; fly it, burn it, wear it, etc. But no one has the right to burn your flag, or someone else's flag. That
should be illegal, not because its an American flag, but because the arsonist is burning your flag (property) without your
permission. He is violating your (property) rights.
Note the way in which the focus on property rights solves problems. Note also that these two
laws violate - common law ( property owner rights ).
Take for example , the right of free speech. Freedom of speech is supposed to mean the right
of everyone to say whatever he likes. But the (neglected) question is: Where? Where does a man have this right? In short,
he has this right either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed to allow him on the premises. But
he has no right to do it on my property without my permission.
As one who makes decisions over my own life and property, I am responsible for the consequences
of my actions. My authority ends at my boundary line. If I want to make decisions regarding your property, I must enter into
a contract with you to do so...B. Shaffer
Money and property are the fruit of one's labor, and the ownership rights attendant therein is
the (root) of freedom and prosperity...G. Giles
As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in
his rights...James Madison
Three Basic Property Rights
1. the right to ( acquire ) property
2. the right to ( use ) property
3. the right to ( dispose ) of property
in any Peaceful, Voluntary, and Honest manner
Under ( common law ) people cannot ( acquire, use, or dispose ) of their property in ways that
damage or encroach upon their neigbors property. Rights of active use end when they encroach on the property ( rights ) of
others. Thus, common law properly ( limits ) a persons - property rights.
Ever seen two children quarreling over a toy? Katherine Klemp tells how she created ( peace )
in her family by assigning property rights to toys. As a young mother she often brought toys home.
She saw how the fuzziness of ownership easily led to arguments. If everything belonged to everyone, then each child felt he
had a ( right ) to use anything. To solve the problem she introduced two simple rules; (1) never bring anything into the house
without assigning clear ownership to one child (2) the owner is not required to share. Now - property
rights - not parents, settle the arguments. Property rights actually promoted sharing since the kids were ( secure
) in their ownership and knew they would always get their toys back ... Janet Beales
Who really owns your property...what happens if you quit paying your property taxes on your home...will
the politicians take your property by force, sell it against your will, to obtain their (rent) taxes?
Republicans + Democrats = Statism
Statism ... the opposite of the original American philosophy. uses political power to encroach
upon other people and their property. create laws that violate common law.
Both republicans and democrats agree that encroachment is a good thing. Both use political power to
encroach on people who have not harmed anyone.
Both want to encroach ( control - regulate ) two areas of your life; (1) your economic conduct
(2) your social conduct. Economic refers to your money, work, trade, etc. Social refers to just about everything else, such
as, gambling, tobacco, entertainment (books, movies, etc).
Conservatives encroach (less) upon your economic life and (more) upon your social life. Liberals
encroach (less) upon your social life and (more) upon your economic life. Moderates compromise, borrowing encroachment laws
from both conservatives and liberals, they seek to control both your economic and social life about the same. Each group works
to erode ( Liberty ) !
Republicans don't want anyone having more fun than they do, and Democrats don't want anyone making
more money than they do. As long as you don't violate (common law) , Libertarians don't care how much money you make or how
much fun you have.
Non-Statist...protects a persons God-given rights of life, liberty, and property. obeys common law
( do all you have agreed to do - do not encroach upon other people - do not encroach upon other peoples property ).
Welfare Statism...a form of socialism (encroachment). the belief that government should provide (food,
shelter, medical care, retirement, schooling, etc.). requires heavy taxes and a large bureaucracy. requires taking money from
one person and giving it to another.
Political Law...created by politicians, and, if they change their minds, the law changes; which means, it
destroys businessmen and investors ability to plan ahead. it's law based on political power, not on common law.
Remember two points; (1) political law has no requirement for logic or morality (2) it changes
anytime powerholders wish to change it, which means constantly; we cannot plan ahead...Richard Maybury
Imagine trying to play a game of baseball while the audience is voting every few minutes to change
the rules. This is the situation employers and investors are in now...Richard Maybury
America's economic system is a result of its legal system. Or, economics is just a symptom,
the cause is law ... Richard Maybury
Political laws that violate Common law are the root cause of America's economic problems.
Life, Liberty, Property - this is man; they precede all human legislation, and are superior to
it ... Frederic Bastiat
It is strangely absurd to suppose that a group of politicians collected together are not under
the same moral laws (common law) which bind them separately.
The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for
them to do themselves...Thomas Jefferson
No power on earth has a right to take our property ( money - land - etc ) from us without our
consent...John Jay...October 1774
We are living in a sick society filled with people who would not directly steal from their neighbor
but who are willing to demand that the government do it for them...William Comer
And as (taxation) and (regulation) of business increase, motivation to produce will die, leading
inevitably to a nationalization of industry; that is the step that will take America from the decaying stage to the death
stage; it happened in every civilization that tried to provide the (free lunch) for its citizens and then blamed businessmen
for its financial collapse...Robert Ringer
Both (statist-parties) republicans and democrats stand for the same ideological ideas; state interventionism,
wealth redistribution, welfare-state programs, government regulations - government control of (social and economic conduct);
they may only disagree on how to manage the welfare state more "cost-efficiently".
The Non-Statist believe; the purpose of government and the law is to see that everyone is protected
in his life, liberty, and property; not to take the fruits of one's labor (money-property) and give it away to someone else;
not to control or regulate economic and social conduct that is - peaceful, honest, and voluntary - between consenting adults.
When the governments boot is on your throat, whether it is a democrat boot or a republican boot
is of no consequence. Both republicans and democrats have embraced and supported every single socialistic, welfare scheme
- all the things that exist in socialist Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea - that has been implemented in America in the 20th
Electing a few Libertarians (Non Statist) to government, is like having a designated driver in
a car full of drunks.
Republicans and Democrats - what's the difference ? ... please read these two short articles by -
Walter Williams @ ...
Taxes and Government
The more money that remains in the hands of the people , the more will be available to - spend
, save , invest , create jobs - which will benefit the economy - that means all of us. Any tax system that
taxes - income and property - is hostile to economic growth.
What can we do about it ...
1. Abolish the - income and property - tax
2. Replace them with a - sales tax - and close down the IRS
3. Restore our government to its - original function
4. Require a ( super-majority ) vote to raise taxes
Accepting the principle behind the income tax and estate tax concedes the statist notion that
the politicians own the fruits of our labor, as well as our savings, and we are permitted by the politicians generosity to
keep a certain percentage...Ron Paul
I apply a very simple test to any proposal to overhaul the tax code; does it reduce or eliminate
an existing tax? If not, then it amounts to nothing more than a political shell game that pits taxpayers against each other
in a lobbying scramble to make sure the other guy pays ... Ron Paul
The question to ask yourself is this; what would I do with the money withheld from my paycheck
each month? The answer is simple; you would - spend , save , or invest - the money , all of which do more for the economy
and society than sending it to Washington ... Ron Paul
Tax relief is important, but members of Congress need to back up tax cuts with - spending cuts.
If federal spending grows at 5% rather than 7% one year, that's hardly a great achievement on the part of Congress ... Ron
Political Power and the Rule of Law
Our constititional system was designed to restrain political power and place limits on the size and
scope of government. It is this system, the rule of law, which we should celebrate - not political victories.
I believe the proper role for government in America is to provide a - national defense , a court
system for civil disputes , a criminal justice system for acts of force or fraud , and little else.
Those who hold political power, however, would lose their status in a society with truly limited
government. It simply would not matter much who occupied various political posts, since their ability to - tax , spend , and
regulate - would be severly curtailed.
Lets Sum It Up
Liberty ... NOT ... Statism
Equal Rights ... NOT ... Artificial Rights
Economic Freedom ... NOT ... Mixed Economy
Common Law ... NOT ... Political Law
March 2007 --“There is no commonly-acknowledged conservative position
today, and any claim to the contrary is easy to make sport of.” —William F. Buckley, Jr.
The preceding confession is noteworthy because its author has been a seminal spokesman for American conservatism. But
more significant is the fact that by “today” he did not mean a day in 2007. No, William F. Buckley was referring
to the day in May 1959 when he penned those words for the “Introduction” to his conservative manifesto, Up
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Indeed, nothing of philosophic substance has changed for the
American right since the late Eisenhower years, when Buckley first acknowledged that conservatism was “disordered and
confused.” That state of intellectual chaos persists to this day.
The seeds of this chaos can be found in the evolution of modern conservatism. In the aftermath of the New Deal and World
War II, conservatism arose as an anti-statist intellectual movement incorporating two elements: anticommunism and opposition
to the burgeoning welfare state. That intellectual movement transformed itself into a political coalition with the 1964 presidential
candidacy of Barry Goldwater. It achieved its political ascendancy with the election of Ronald Reagan.
Why should this factional warfare on the political right matter to any of us?
But as an anti-statist coalition, conservatism always defined itself in negative terms—and remained united in
terms of what it opposed. Members of that coalition did not share a single, overarching, philosophical frame of reference
or agenda. There were a number of competing intellectual forces within that coalition, and as long as they confronted common
enemies, they could remain in an uneasy alliance.
However, with the 1989 collapse of communism and the 1994 Democratic electoral debacle, conservatives found themselves
in the political driver’s seat—and suddenly in need of a positive agenda on economic and cultural issues.
But which competing set of views and values within the coalition would define that agenda?
Ironically, then, at the conservatives’ very moment of political triumph, the unstable fault lines beneath its
“big tent” began to crack apart. By 1996, U. S. News & World Report would note that the primary race
within the GOP had become “a slugfest over the ideas and identity of the Republican Party,” a battle that “exposed
a network of fissures and fault lines that is dividing the party and encouraging Democratic hopes of retaining the White House
in November.” A prescient analysis in New York magazine even predicted “The Coming Republican Crack-up.”
And so it came to pass. Today, the American right no longer consists of just “conservatives.” There are
“social conservatives,” “traditional conservatives,” “economic conservatives,” “religious
conservatives,” “neoconservatives,” “paleoconservatives,” “compassionate conservatives,”
and, more recently, “South Park conservatives,” “crunchy conservatives” (see the book review in this
issue), even “big-government conservatives”—all battling each other for the “conservative” mantle.
And in the wake of the 2006 Republican election defeat, the intramural bloodletting has only gotten more ferocious.
Why should this factional warfare on the political right matter to any of us?
It matters because these battles are being waged among those who proclaim themselves to be the champions of America’s
moral, intellectual, cultural, and political legacy. The combatants all declare themselves to be the keepers of the American
flame, its guardians against the anti-American ideologues who seek to snuff it out. The outcome of their conflicts will either
uphold or undermine the very meaning of that legacy.
It matters critically if America’s moral heritage is seen as standing for the primacy of the individual—or
the supremacy of society over the individual. It matters critically if America’s intellectual heritage is interpreted
as being rooted in reason—or in religious faith. It matters critically if America’s cultural heritage is regarded
as the product of individual creativity—or of social tradition. It matters critically if America’s political heritage
is viewed as founded upon the principles of individual rights and limited government—or upon pragmatic expediency and
These issues are of no concern to the postmodern relativists of the left, who are doing their utmost to obliterate what
remains of the American Enlightenment legacy. Today, only on the political right are these matters seriously addressed and
debated. Therefore, who wins these arguments will decisively shape our future as a nation and culture.
So who are today’s conservatives, and what do they believe?
On his first page in Up from Liberalism, Buckley warned of the danger that “comes when a distrust of
doctrinaire social systems eases over into a dissolute disregard for principle.” Well, then, what principle
do all the various conservative factions share? What single idea would distinguish them, as a group, from non-conservatives?
It is an enduring indictment of the movement that nearly a half-century since Buckley acknowledged conservatism’s
intellectual drift, no one has yet provided a clear answer. Those on the right who have tried to get a grip on the defining
principle of conservatism have approached the subject warily, only to retreat empty-handed.
“So what is a conservative?” asked Jonah Goldberg, an editor at National Review Online (NRO),
in his May 11, 2005 column. “I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time and I don’t pretend to
have a perfect or definitive answer. . . From the beginning, American conservatives have been trying to answer this question
definitively to almost no one’s satisfaction.”
Who are today’s conservatives, and what do they believe?
One would think that the godfather of modern conservatism himself might shed some light here. John Dean, former White
House counsel during the Nixon years, recalls a segment with Buckley on Chris Matthews’s Hardball television
show. According to Dean, Matthews asked for a definition, and Mr. Conservative uncharacteristically stammered, “The,
the, it’s very hard to define, define conservatism.” Buckley then retreated to his more characteristic linguistic
impenetrability, quoting a University of Chicago professor: “Conservatism is a paradigm of essences towards which the
phenomenology of the world is in continuing approximation.”
Yes. Of course. That helps.
A survey of conservative literature does not offer illumination, either. In fact, conservative thinkers are much more
forthcoming about what their “ism” is not than what it is. This is no accident, for many of them seem
to take pride in their hostility to coherent, systematic philosophical thinking.
Writing in The Conservative Tradition (1950), scholar R.J. White described conservatism as “less a political
doctrine than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living.” Similarly, conservative organizer Paul Weyrich,
in an August 15, 2005 column, echoes the anti-ideological rhetoric of Buckley, White, and others:
If there is one clear lesson from the 20th century, it is that all ideologies are dangerous. As Russell Kirk wrote,
conservatism is not an ideology, it is the negation of ideology. Conservatism values what has grown up over time, over many
generations, in the form of traditions, customs and habits. Ideology, in contrast, says that on the basis of such-and-such
a philosophy, certain things must be true. When reality contradicts that deduction, reality must be suppressed.
Leaving aside the falsehood that systematic philosophy must necessarily try to impose itself on reality—a claim
that would have raised the hackles of Aristotle and all those in his system-building tradition—Weyrich nails it when
he describes conservatism as “the negation of ideology.” Humanities professor Wilfred M. McClay, writing in January
2007 on Commentary magazine’s website, affirms that…
…conservatism in American politics is less an ideology than a coalition. It has many different flavors and strands,
and there is no sense in pretending that they do not occasionally conflict with one another, or tug at the fabric of the whole.
As in any coalition, not all of the pieces fit together coherently.
This is always frustrating to those who want their ideology neat and pure. But show me a political movement that
has a clear, crisp, unambiguous, and systematic philosophy and I will show you a movement that will lose, and will deserve
McClay goes on to cite the views of another conservative, prominent blogger and author Andrew Sullivan:
“The defining characteristic of the conservative,” Sullivan asserts [in The Conservative Soul],
“is that he knows what he doesn’t know.” This stance of systematic modesty, or principled unprincipledness,
undergirds the way Sullivan himself, an avowed if unorthodox Catholic, proposes to understand politics, culture, society,
and religion itself.
“The negation of ideology.” “Principled unprincipledness.” Surely, no one can seriously
accuse contemporary conservative leaders of valuing philosophic consistency and integration; what is astonishing, however,
is how many of them tout their quest for intellectual incoherence as a virtue.
Conservatism may be incoherent, but it is not entirely vacuous. The stew that is today’s conservatism does contain
a number of ingredients: a lumpy, indigestible assortment of premises, attitudes, and values meant to satisfy the diverse
tastes of those who bear the movement’s label. Among these ingredients: traditionalism, irrationalism, pragmatism,
altruism, tribalism, and—clashing with all the rest—individualism.
The factionalism on the right can be understood by the differing emphases that various conservatives place on these
For “cultural,” “social,” “paleo-,” and “religious” conservatives, preserving
“traditional values” lies at the heart of their concerns and interests. Traditionalists lean heavily on the presumed
“authority” of what was said and done by others in the past.
Conservatism may be incoherent, but it is not entirely vacuous.
In his influential little book The American Cause, traditionalist conservative author Russell Kirk stressed
the “Christian principles which sustain American society,” behind which “is a great weight of authority
and tradition and practice.” According to the online Wikipedia, the late paleoconservative writer Samuel Francis “defined
authentic conservatism as ‘the survival and enhancement of a particular people and its institutionalized cultural expressions.’
Roger Scruton calls it ‘maintenance of the social ecology’ and ‘the politics of delay, the purpose of which
is to maintain in being, for as long as possible, the life and health of a social organism.’”
For such traditionalist conservatives, this means yearning nostalgically for past ways of doing things. Paul Weyrich
I know America has always been a future-focused country. But that may be changing. . . . Even fifteen years ago, most
people said the past was better than the present and the future would be worse than the present. I think millions of Americans
might rally to a call to return to the ways we used to live, in many (obviously not all) aspects of our lives…. I really
think that a next conservatism that included a movement to recover our old ways of thinking and living could win the culture
war, which so far we have lost. . . . Bill Lind [director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at Weyrich’s Free
Congress Foundation] calls it Retroculture. What it means is that, in our own lives and the lives of our families, and eventually
our communities, we would deliberately revive old ways of doing things.
But why is “old” synonymous with “good”? A withering assessment of traditionalist conservatism
came from philosopher Ayn Rand in her famous essay “Conservatism: An Obituary”:
It is certainly irrational to use the “new” as a standard of value. . . .But it is much more preposterously
irrational to use the “old” as a standard of value, to claim that an idea or a policy is good merely
because it is ancient. . . . The argument that we must respect “tradition” as such, respect it merely because
it is a “tradition,” means that we must accept the values other men have chosen, merely because other
men have chosen them—with the necessary implication of: who are we to change them? The affront to a man’s
self-esteem, in such an argument, and the profound contempt for man’s nature are obvious.
Cultural conservatives reply that their own traditions are grounded in “timeless values” and “permanent
truths.” In fact, though, their hand-me-down values, attitudes, and practices are actually rooted (if that’s the
word) in cultural relativism.
Whose “old ways of thinking” are to be chosen as true and valuable? By what standard is
“a particular people and its institutionalized cultural expressions” to be considered superior to all others?
To simply assert, without reason, the superiority of one’s own cultural traditions to those of any other society is
the height of arbitrariness. Yet that cultural relativism lies at the heart of the traditionalist outlook.
In his book Right from the Beginning, well-known conservative spokesman Patrick Buchanan provides a perfect
example of his own cultural relativism. Note in the following his employment of the words “our” and “ours”:
Traditionalists and conservatives have as much right as secularists to see our values written into law, to have our
beliefs serve as the basis for federal legislation. . . .[We must not stop fighting] until we have re-created a government
and an America that conforms, as close as possible, to our image of the Good Society, if you will, a Godly country. . . .Someone’s
values are going to prevail. Why not ours? Whose country is it, anyway?
This is not a rational voice demonstrating the validity of “permanent truths.” It is a thuggish voice whose
only argument for his views is “Sez me!”—and whose only defense of his values is “…because they’re
None Dare Call It Reason
The gleeful rejection by many conservatives of integrated, coherent philosophical thinking has been noted and quoted.
But that is only one symptom of their broader contempt for reason as such, for the products of human creativity, and for those
eras in human history—such as the Enlightenment—when reason flourished.
For diehard religious traditionalists, the basic institutions of a free society have their basis and justification not
in reason and reality, but in faith and the supernatural. The religious conservative worldview was given voice by Russell
Kirk in The American Cause.
“Civilization grows out of religion,” Kirk declared. “The ideas of freedom, private rights, charity,
love, duty, and honesty, for instance, are all beliefs religious in origin [emphasis added]. These ideals
also are discussed and advanced by philosophers, of course,” Kirk concedes, “but the original impulse behind them
In other words, there is little reason to be honest, or to love, or to require personal liberty; the ultimate
rationale for such things can only be otherworldly.
Whose “old ways of thinking” are to be chosen as true and valuable?
Among the specific ideas supposedly at the foundation of American freedom—ideas that we must accept on faith,
according to Kirk—are “original sin”; the view that “the world is a place of moral suffering, a place
of trial”; that “perfect happiness never can be attained upon this earth, in time and space as we know them, or
in our perishing physical bodies,” for “this little worldly existence of ours … is not our be-all and end-all.”
Given this lowly view of human nature, it of course follows that there could be no natural source for a conception of
human dignity and worth: “The dignity of man,” says Kirk, “exists only through our relationship with God,”
and from that relationship only “there has grown up a recognition of what are called ‘natural rights.’”
In short, without religious faith—specifically, Christianity, and more narrowly still, a dour, Calvinist brand
of it—there would be absolutely no good reason for men to value themselves, to respect each other’s rights, or
to desire liberty.
Is there any rational alternative to this malignant view of man and his potential? Conflating faith and reason,
neoconservative intellectual Irving Kristol dismissed “faith in the ability of reason to solve all of our moral problems,
including our human need for moral guidance.” Reason, he declared in a 1992 essay, “is a faith that has failed”:
Secular rationalism has been unable to produce a compelling, self-justifying moral code. Philosophy can analyze moral
codes in interesting ways, but it cannot create them. And with this failure, the whole enterprise of secular humanism—the
idea that man can define his humanity and shape the human future by reason and will alone—begins to lose its legitimacy.
The logical implication is clear. Our American way of life—its freedoms, its values, its opportunities, its achievements—cannot
be rationally justified. There is no reason that these values can be labeled “good” or “right,”
no rational method by which they can be validated as superior to the slavery, butchery, and destruction that occurs elsewhere
in the world. Reason can’t sort out the good from the bad in any of this; we must simply resign ourselves to accepting
these things on blind faith.
Neoconservatives are pragmatists who dismiss moral principle—on principle
Because their source of morality is otherworldly, and because they therefore do not believe that morality can be consistently
practiced in this world, many conservatives have thrown in the towel, embracing inconsistency and compromise as “necessary
evils.” Pragmatists are the conservatives who preach “the negation of ideology” and “principled unprincipledness.”
Neoconservatives, particularly, are pragmatists who dismiss moral principle—on principle. In a cynical Wall
Street Journal essay (“When It’s Wrong to Be Right,” March 24, 1993), neocon guru Irving Kristol presented
to fellow conservatives what he called his first law of politics: that “there are moments when it is wrong
to do the right thing.” He explained: “There are occasions where circumstances trump principles. Statesmanship
consists not in being loyal to one’s avowed principles (that’s easy), but in recognizing the occasions when one’s
principles are being trumped by circumstances. . . .”
Of course, there’s a problem with this claim. By what principle could Kristol determine when to abandon
his principles? In reality, there is no such principle. The governing consideration of when to exercise expediency would be
And, indeed, pragmatic expediency has governed most choices made by the Bush administration—no surprise, since
it has been heavily influenced by neoconservatives. President George W. Bush often pays lip service to “principles”
in the abstract, but rarely specifies exactly what those principles are. They certainly have not been the principles
of individual rights, limited government, and free-market capitalism. On the day of President Bush’s State of the Union
address, author David Frum—a conservative more sympathetic to those principles, observed:
The most important thing to understand about George W. Bush’s domestic policy is that he is not and never has
been an economic individualist in the Reagan/Thatcher model. He cut taxes yes, but for essentially political coalition-building
reasons. Beyond that, his instincts have always been statist and centralizing. That’s why he emphasized standards rather
than choice in his education proposals—and why subsidy, not markets, has always been central to his hopes for new energy
sourcing. . . .
The day will come, and probably soon, when American liberals and the American left will wake up to the fact that
. . . on domestic issues Bush was “one of us.” Much as they disliked Bush’s foreign policies, cultural style,
and political methods, he actually had more in common with them on domestic issues than he did with his own political base.
It will someday be very hard to explain why liberals so hated Bush.
Today, pragmatists like President Bush are the most prevalent group among Republican officeholders. The reason is simple:
The other feuding conservative factions tend to cancel each other out, forcing the GOP to resign itself to candidates preaching
compromise and consensus.
But pragmatists have no ideas or agenda of their own: the other philosophical camps provide the ideas and pressures
to which pragmatists respond. Like dry sponges, they soak up whatever notions flow forth from their more ideological competitors.
It’s the latter who define the debates and thus shape the future.
One of the most toxic influences in our political life is the moral view that equates “virtue” with “self-sacrifice.”
No other single factor has been as responsible for eroding America’s individualist heritage and capitalist system than
the view that self-sacrifice to others constitutes our highest moral duty and virtue. Yet, it is a “virtue” that
conservatives have never rejected.
“It is useless to argue, as some libertarians do, that we do not need redistribution at all,” wrote
conservative former senator Jack Kemp in his 1979 book, An American Renaissance. “The people, as a people,
rightly insist that the whole look after the weakest of its parts.” “Democracy works only so long as a sufficient
proportion of the people are willing to place the common good above self-interest,” said Paul Weyrich in 1990. Among
the “major weaknesses in a market economy,” declared Irving Kristol in 1992, “the first is the self-interested
nature of commercial activity.”
The potency of the toxin of self-sacrifice was demonstrated clearly and dramatically in the mid-1990s during the budget
battle to enact the Republican “Contract with America.” President Bill Clinton successfully exploited charges
of “selfishness” against congressional Republicans in order to neutralize support for their economic and political
reforms. By the time the fight was over, conservative Republicans were retreating in full gallop from the principles of individual
liberty and limited government.
“The budget battle,” said conservative strategist and writer William Kristol, “played into the two
great Republican vulnerabilities: that we are the party of the rich and meanspirited.” Vulnerabilities? Only
because the Republicans have never dared to fully embrace individualism. They never have argued, unequivocally, that individuals
have the moral right to exist for their own sakes—and that this is the moral reason to limit government
and slash the spending that plunders some individuals to benefit others.
What followed the failure of the “Republican Revolution”—and what has continued ever since—is
a desperate competition among conservatives to demonstrate that they have just as much “compassion” as do liberal
And how do they demonstrate that “compassion”?
By using the coercive power of government to seize the earnings of some people and to transfer it to others who did
not earn it but who claim to “need” it.
Religious conservative Marvin Olasky, author of The Tragedy of American Compassion, became “the godfather
of compassionate conservatism.” In July 2000, he told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation:
“More people are understanding that the problem with the welfare state is not its cost but its stinginess in providing
help that is patient; help that is kind; help that protects, trusts, and perseveres; help that goes beyond good intentions
into gritty, street-level reality.”
In reality, the problem with the welfare state is neither its cost nor its “stinginess,” but its underlying
ethical premise: that the needs of some constitute valid moral claims upon the earnings and property of others.
Olasky became an advisor to George W. Bush, who adopted the “compassionate conservative” cause as his own
during his 2000 campaign for the White House. “It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need,”
President Bush later declared. “It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results.”
“The President rejects the old argument of ‘big government’ vs. ‘indifferent government,’”
explains a White House Web page on “compassionate conservatism.” “We do not believe in a sink-or-swim
society [emphasis in original]. The policies of our government must heed the universal call of all faiths to love our
neighbors as we would want to be loved ourselves. We are using an active government to promote self-government.”
Translated, “indifferent government” actually means constitutionally limited government. A “sink-or-swim
society” means a society based on self-responsibility. And the call for an “active government”
to help us “love our neighbors” means governmental redistribution of the wealth. What the White House
statement means, then, is this: “We are abandoning America’s founding principles of limited government and individual
self-responsibility and instead adopting a policy of legalized plunder.”
And so they have.
The continuing controversy over immigration underscores yet another ugly premise within cultural conservative circles:
Tribalists draw their personal identities from group affiliations. They believe that there are inherent conflicts of
interests among men that pit their group against all others in a battle for social supremacy. This prompts them to see themselves
as victims of powerful elites, group favoritism, and dark conspiracies—a paranoid view that fuels envy and hostility.
The two dominant tribalist factions within the conservative movement are nationalists and populists.
Nationalists focus on national, racial, and cultural conflicts of interest, seeing themselves as in a “culture
war” to preserve our “national identity” from foreigners and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Thus,
they oppose foreign trade, treaties, immigration, and racial/ethnic integration.
Populists define themselves not by nation or race, but by economic class. They believe that there is a fixed national
economic “pie” to be divided, and so any gains by others must come at their expense. This prompts them to see
themselves as “little guys” exploited by a privileged elite of bureaucrats, businessmen, and bankers.
Prominent tribalists within the conservative movement include writers associated with the magazine Chronicles, political
figure Patrick Buchanan, and radio talk show host Michael Savage.
Samuel Francis, the late firebrand writer for Chronicles, once wrote that “the concept of ‘America
First’ implies a nationalist ethic that transcends the preferences and interest of the individual or the interest group
and may often require government action.” For his part, Buchanan has spent much of the past decade pressing both nationalist
and populist hot buttons, bashing immigrants, foreign trade, and international institutions. Meanwhile, Savage—the third-highest-rated
radio talk show host in the nation, and a bestselling author—delivers nightly tirades “to take back our borders,
our language, and our traditional culture from the liberal left corroding our great nation.”
Such are the major
intellectual forces within the conservative movement that are working to undermine the commitment to our nation’s founding
premises: reason, individualism, capitalism, and limited government.
Fortunately, they are not the only intellectual forces at work.
Individualists constitute the most intellectual and principled elements on the right, upholding Enlightenment
premises about man, his rights, his relationship to his fellow man and to the state. Though fewer in number, they wield disproportionate
and growing influence, mainly via independent public-policy journals and think tanks.
Principled individualists must publicly challenge and repudiate the rising tribalism and irrationalism
on the right.
Among individualist subgroups today are economic conservatives and political libertarians, as well
as rational individualists. To the debates on the political right, they bring, respectively, market-based economic
proposals, initiatives to limit government power, and a cohesive moral-philosophical vision.
Individualists differ over how to advance their shared ends and in their consistency. Indeed, some economic conservatives
and libertarians uphold individualism only tacitly and harbor mixed premises—including some of the premises dissected
above. Confused or even crippled morally and philosophically, they’ve only fought delaying actions for decades, slowing
the growth of government regulation, spending, and taxation, but failing to reverse the trend.
Without more explicit philosophical moorings and guidance, it’s too much to expect economic conservatives and
libertarians always to grasp—let alone publicly resist and repudiate—the many arguments and policies premised
on altruism, pragmatism, tradition, and religion.
But that brings us to the final, and potentially most significant, subgroup on the right: rational individualists.
In her famous novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and in powerful nonfiction works such as Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand forged a systematic philosophy of reason and freedom.
Rand was a philosopher, a novelist, and a passionate individualist. Her stories are compelling hymns in praise of “the
men of unborrowed vision” who live by the judgment of their own minds—people willing to stand alone against tradition,
popular opinion, even the frightful power of the state. Meanwhile, her challenging new philosophy, Objectivism, upholds the power of reason and rejects the tribalist ethics of self-sacrifice.
Objectivism celebrates the power of man’s mind. It defends reason and science against every form of irrationalism. It provides
an intellectual foundation for objective standards of truth and value. It upholds the use of reason to transform nature and
create wealth. It honors the businessman and the banker, no less than the philosopher and artist, as creators and as benefactors
Ayn Rand urged men to hold themselves and their lives as their highest values, and to live by the code of the free individual. She
taught that we bring meaning to the world through the exercise of self-reliance, integrity, rationality, productive effort.
Politically, Rand was a great champion of individual rights, which is the concept that protects the sovereignty of the
individual as an end in himself; of limited, constitutional government, which is the institution that guarantees those rights;
and of capitalism, which is the social system that allows people to exercise those rights. Rand’s vision was of a society
where people live together peaceably, by voluntary trade, as independent equals.
Millions of readers have been inspired by the vision of life in Ayn Rand's novels. Scholars are exploring the trails
she blazed in philosophy and other fields. Her principled defense of capitalism has drawn new adherents to the cause of economic
and political liberty.
Her ideas can now serve as the basis for a new intellectual force: a movement of rational individualists.
However, Rand observed that it’s still too early to expect consistently individualist candidates to win public
office: the moral and philosophical groundwork has yet to be laid. But this suggests where individualists can best make their
Completing the Revolution
First, principled individualists must publicly challenge and repudiate the rising tribalism and irrationalism on
America is a big place of many competing forces and factions. There’s no immediate danger that America will fall
prey to right-wing theocrats or nationalist mobs. The real danger is that the ideas of anti-individualist factions within
the conservative movement will be picked up and “mainstreamed” by Republican Party pragmatists. That is exactly
what happened during the Bush administration, and the results have been catastrophic for liberty.
Those factions and their ugly ideas must be fought by tearing away their deceptive “pro-American” packaging.
We must boldly champion a limited-government reform agenda—on the moral grounds of
an individual’s right to exist for his own sake.
Unique among nations, America was constituted to advance not tribal interests but individual life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. In that sense, nationalism and populism are fundamentally un-American. They are ideologically
alien to America’s Enlightenment heritage of reason, individual rights, and capitalism.
Second, principled individualists must begin to defend capitalism on moral grounds.
Because of the cultural pervasiveness of the “self-sacrifice” ethic, capitalism has seldom had champions,
only nervous apologists. But now there is undeniable empirical evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy pervading the conservative
movement. As if the 1996 collapse of the “Republican Revolution” weren’t enough, the disastrous legacy of
the Bush administration provides damning proof that no free-market economic or political reforms can take root in cultural
soils poisoned by tradition-worship, irrationalism, altruism, tribalism, and pragmatism. A decade filled with glaring examples
demonstrates the futility of an aphilosophical approach to political and social reform.
As we’ve seen, some conservative thinkers have long understood that their fundamental philosophical ideas are
incompatible with capitalism and freedom. Some have even explicitly renounced their commitment to America’s founding
ideals, forsaking any further pretense of defending capitalism or limiting government.
Those of us who have not abandoned this cause—those of us who are fully committed to the promise of America—must
man the ramparts from which the traditionalists and pragmatists have retreated.
We must replace their tribal code of self-sacrifice with an inspiring new moral vision of principled self-interest,
an ethics that will resonate within the American soul and reflect our nation’s highest rational traditions.
We must boldly champion a limited-government reform agenda—on the moral grounds of an individual’s
right to exist for his own sake.
We must proudly uphold the social-economic system oflaissez-faire capitalism: the system that has
allowed hundreds of millions to realize their individual potential, while creating the greatest civilization in the history
of the world.
We must remember that ours is not a battle against self-sacrifice, tradition, or tribalism; it’s a crusade
for individualism. That battle can’t begin within the Republican Party, nor be led by political candidates
dependent upon public favor. It is an intellectual battle, and it must start in the intellectual arena: in the journals, think
tanks, and talk shows of the right.
We must understand that our path to political and cultural influence will be indirect, at first. It will lie not in
politicking, but in the broader realm of ideas.
For well over two centuries, America has been home to the only social system in history fully compatible with human
life on earth. Yet, from its beginnings, that system has been maligned by its sworn enemies and betrayed by its supposed friends.
Irving Kristol was right about one thing. The secular humanism of the Enlightenment era never did produce a compelling
moral code. This failure stemmed from the inability of the thinkers of that era to fully repudiate the tribal morality of
self-sacrifice, and to replace it with a new, individualist alternative.
Now it is time for us to complete the work begun with the American political revolution by launching the American moral
revolution—for the legacy that America’s Founding Fathers bequeathed to us for safekeeping is a legacy that
we truly must conserve.