25 February 2012

They Never Learn

2) Santorum isn't JUST a social conservative. Based on his time in office, the most conservative candidate in the race is Newt Gingrich, although he's gone off the reservation on a number of issues in the last few years, which has naturally given some people pause. Going by his record in Massachusetts, where he raised taxes, implemented Romneycare, backed gay marriages, pursued a multi-state cap and trade scheme, and gave $10,000 to a radical gay group that taught fisting and "water sports" to high school students under his watch, Mitt Romney is a barely center-right politician -- at best. Although Santorum has his flaws, I will at least give him credit for being a conservative across the board.
Santorum's social conservative credentials are beyond reproach and on foreign policy issues, he's a knowledgeable hawk who spent 8 years on the Armed Services Committee and has been sounding the alarm on Iran for years. Fiscal conservatism is not Santorum's strong suit, but even there, he's not quite as weak as you might think.
The National Taxpayers Union said Santorum had the 5th best record out of 50 senators during his tenure in office. On the other hand, the extremely harsh graders Club for Growth said Santorum was above average, but had some flaws of note.
On the whole, Rick Santorum’s record on economic issues in the U.S. Senate was above average. More precisely, it was quite strong in some areas and quite weak in others. He has a strong record on taxes, and his leadership on welfare reform and Social Security was exemplary. But his record also contains several very weak spots, including his active support of wasteful spending earmarks, his penchant for trade protectionism, and his willingness to support large government expansions like the Medicare prescription drug bill and the 2005 Highway Bill.

I have no idea when conservatives will wake up to the fact that the trio of social conservatism, imperialism, and small government simply cannot work.  You cannot have an empire on the cheap.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a domestic empire where the government controls every aspect of your personal life (e.g. China) or an international empire where the government tries to boss around other people because they talk funny.  You cannot be an imperialist and have a small government.

Beyond that, I also have no idea when conservatives will wake up to the fact that, of the two alternatives, small government is more sustainable than any form of imperialism.  Quite simply, the United States cannot continue to wage war with Middle Eastern countries indefinitely.  The costs of doing so are astronomical and unsustainable.  Additionally, the costs of maintaining a domestic empire wherein all citizens are subject to a veritable army of bureaucrats is also costly and unsustainable in the long run, especially if citizens get upset with the infringement of their liberties and decide to revolt.  Given the sheer number of firearms (and the staggering amount of ammunition) in this country, trying to suppress an insurrection could turn costly.  Yet, conservatives continue to push their chickenhawk imperialism and social conservatism, even though these things are nothing more than fantastical flights of fantasy in the long run.

Finally, note the hilarity of the claim that Santorum is strong on taxes but weak on spending.  In the long-run, if you’re weak on spending, you are going to be weak on taxes.  Everything has to be paid for at some point, and even if Santorum plans on defaulting on federal debt at some point, the moment he does so is the moment the credit spigot gets turned off.  Thus, the current level of spending will have to be paid for in some form of taxation (and recall that inflation is merely an indirect form of taxation).  And so while Santorum has voted for low current tax rates, his votes for increased spending virtually guarantee in an increase in taxes at some point.

Thus, conservative support for Rick Santorum is completely baffling and illogical.  He has spent his entire career voting against liberty and for increased taxes, which is the exact opposite of the stated conservative stance.  If this is the best conservatives can offer, they may as well consider their political movement dead.


  1. I completely don't get the imperialism argument. I do see a lot of conservatives using the language of imperialism in their discussions about Syria, Russia, China, and Iran, but I attribute that to their sloppiness, not their conservatism. I don't know any conservatives who are demanding empire from elected officials.

    Bottrom line: There are no conservatives running in this election at the national level. All three of them have an easy home run if only they focused on the economy. Every time they let the conversation drift to social issues they are going to lose. This is not because social issues are not important, but because they aren't important right now and they are not as important as the economy and because the future president has no authority to do anything about them.

    The only major issue in this election is the economy. The only thing that a conservative candidate will do about it is roll back government regulation and spending. Take government's fingers off of the throat of the economy so it can catch its breath.

  2. @Prof. Hale- First off, per Merriam-Webster's, imperialism is defined as "the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence." US foreign policy largely fits this definition. If self-described conservatives advocate for greater control or influence over other countries or regions, then they are, by definition, imperialists. I don't care why they are imperialists, or if sloppy thinking is the cause. They are imperialists.

    Incidentally, I personally know several self-identified conservatives who demand imperialistic actions from their elected officials. That the resulting empire is unofficial and publicly unacknowledged doesn't change the fact that it is an empire. (See Merriam-Webster's n. 1(b) for a definition of empire).

    I would say that Santorum is definitely a neo-conservative, and that Romney is most likely a neo-conservative. Paul is a libertarian, and Gingrich is simply insane. The problem with modern conservatism, particularly the neo-con strain, is that it is largely an intellectually bankrupt and self-contradicting philosophy. I've noted in several prior posts how conservatives lack frame control when it comes to politics, and so they often espouse what were once nominally liberal positions over time. Since conservatism is not philosophically grounded, this development should come as no surprise.

    I do agree that the economy is the biggest concern right now. However, most conservatives are not serious about this. When a majority of self-described conservatives are unwilling to even cut the largest (and blatantly unconstitutional) federal expenditure,then the only conclusion to be drawn is that conservatives are not actually concerned about fiscal responsibility.

  3. I agree with your use of the term imperialism. No argument with the rest.

    Conservatisn has become a word without meaning. Reagan was conservative and he won landslide elections. I want to win landslide elections, So I am a conservative. For Republicans, it is a generic form of "good" that no one is forced to define.

    Much like the word "racist" is to label "bad" without definition.

  4. @Prof. Hale- I note that "paleo-conservatism" is the only form of conservatism that still has meaning. The tenets of this belief are quite similar to traditional liberalism, albeit with more of a white nationalist bent to them. Pat Buchanan is probably the best example of this, and Ron Paul is, for the most, pretty close (he's not as WN, though).

    Other than that, conservative has become, as you noted, Republican-speak for good, and is used so nebulously that there is little point in its existence anymore.