Thursday, May 04, 2006

Stalled Conservatism: What Next?

David Frum writes an essay for one of the CATO Institute websites. Titled Republicans and the Flight of Opportunity, he essentially declares the conservative movement towards reestablishing limited government for the United States has failed. The moment of opportunity is passed as the forces of socialism have blunted true reform of our federal institutions. He is correct and revolutionary restructuring of the welfare state is not going to happen soon.

The silver lining may be the fact that big money special interests are still the financial engines of both parties and will serve as inertial dampers to the socialist activists on the left in the same way they blunted the momentum of the Reagan revolution. Scattered within blame game criticism and wishful daydreaming in the discussion at Right Wing News, are the seeds of the debate about what to do next. Since I have my own blog I don’t have to be comment number 216 about what happened and what next.

The explanation in a nutshell is that I don’t care how much money the government spends in exactly the same way I don’t care how much Wal-Mart spends or how many dollars, yen, euros, pesos or IOUs are dispersed from ExxonMobile accounts. I care about how much of my money is taken from me without my full affirmative consent.

I cringe whenever science fiction uses the simplistic and overused cliché “reverse the polarity” to fix a problem, but this is exactly what the conservative movement needs to do. Free people want services and they want the sewer systems to work as much as they want electricity to flow into big screen televisions from American TV or Best Buy or even Sears. The way to win voting majorities is to stop fighting the demand for government services and start fighting for the right of individuals to pay for government the same way they pay for everything else, by free choice.

The concept of limited government needs to realign the focus away from the shape of government and towards the role of the individual in society. There is support to be found in the idea that a person has both individual human rights and political citizenship rights. There is fertile ground for policies that affirm there is both an obligation to self and an obligation to others, and society is best served if government allows individuals to retain resources to take care of themselves before demanding they take care of strangers.