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The Confluence of Left and Right

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One of the things that fascinate me about the Rand Paul controversy is how it is exposing the longtime confluence of conservatives and liberals. For 20 years, I’ve been arguing that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between a conservative and a liberal — or, if you will, Depublicans and Remocrats — and the liberal-conservative reaction to the Paul controversy is confirming my point.

Consider these aspects of the welfare state: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, public (i.e., government) schooling, public (i.e., government) housing, SBA loans, mortgage guarantees, foreign aid, bank bailouts, FDIC, education grants, corporate subsidies, and many, many more.

Every one of those programs entails the socialist principle of using the force of the state to take money from people to whom it rightfully belongs in order to give it to others.

I ask you: What liberal does not ardently believe in every one of those programs? What conservative doesn’t also believe in them? Oh, they might argue over which reform should be adopted to deal with the ever-increasing economic crises that come with such programs. But they’d never challenge the nature or existence of the programs themselves. They have come to believe that it is an important role of government to use the force of government to take from Peter to give to Paul.

Sure, you can point to conservatives who pay lip service to “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” But in the final analysis, conservatives are as deeply devoted to this socialistic junk as liberals are, especially when the president happens to be a Republican.

Consider these aspects of the warfare state: presidential wars waged without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, foreign military empire, foreign wars of aggression, foreign occupations, torture, kangaroo military tribunals, kidnapping, rendition, denial of due process, enemy-combatant doctrine applied to criminal offenses, a dual-track judicial system, infringements on civil liberties, assassinations, and much, much more.

Every one of them constitutes a violation of the principles of a limited-government, constitutional republic.

I ask you: What conservative doesn’t believe in every one of these programs? What liberal doesn’t believe in them? Sure, you can point to a few liberals (and a few conservatives) who take a principled stand against them, but in the final analysis most liberals are as committed to this way of life as conservatives, especially when a Democrat is president, as we have once again seen with the Obama administration.

Consider all the regulatory and interventionist programs, including the ones that are racist to the core, such as the drug war and the minimum wage. (See my article “Why Do Daily Kos and Alternet Favor a Racist Government Program?” and “Free Teenagers: Repeal the Minimum Wage.”)

What conservative or liberal doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace them, notwithstanding decades of damage and destruction?

Ironically, both liberals and conservatives are now acknowledging, even if only indirectly and obliquely, that all this socialist and interventionist junk is bankrupting our nation, given the out-of-control federal spending necessary to fund it.

But they are trapped and they know it. They can rail against all that spending to their heart’s content, but they know that their philosophy precludes them from calling for eradicating the programs that produce the spending problem. That leaves them condemning thunder while praising lightning.

Libertarians, of course, don’t have this problem. That’s because, unlike them, we adhere to basic moral principles:

1) It is wrong to take what doesn’t belong to you, even if you want to give it to someone who you think needs it more.

2) It is wrong to attack, invade, and occupy countries that have never attacked the United States, murdering, maiming, torturing, and incarcerating people in the process.

3) It is wrong to forcibly impose your values on someone else in the arena of peaceful choices.

Once those principles are embraced, the next step becomes obvious: Repeal the welfare-state programs, repeal the interventionist programs, and dismantle the military empire and the wars of aggression and everything that comes with them.

That libertarian adherence to principle — that consistency — however, is what drives both conservatives and liberals bonkers.

For example, consider two recent op-eds, one by a conservative and one by a liberal.

The conservative article is “The Principles of Rand Paul” by Ross Douthat, which appeared this week in the New York Times. Douthat is a noted conservative who has written for such conservative publications as the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Claremont Review of Books.

In his opening paragraph, Douthat states: “No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous consistency.”

In those two sentences lie what happened to the conservative movement.

The battle between the advocates of economic liberty and socialism/interventionism, which had raged since the latter part of the 19th century ultimately culminated in the regime of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. During most of that time conservatives fought valiantly to maintain America’s heritage of economic liberty. They had fought against the income tax and Federal Reserve as major assaults on America’s free-market way of life, even pointing out that both institutions were among the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto. They opposed FDR’s New Deal programs, correctly pointing out that they were importing a socialist-fascist agenda to our country.

The battle effectively ended in 1937. From that year forward, the primary purpose of the federal government became taking money from people in order to give it to other people and regulating people’s economic activities. The welfare-regulatory state became an accepted part of American life.

For a time, conservatives continued to fight against this new-fangled, foreign way of life. But they came to realize that if they were to retain “credibility” with the mainstream press, which was predominantly statist, and, more important, if they were to have any chance of winning political power, they would have to compromise — i.e., abandon — their principles.

To put in bluntly, in the struggle between principle and expediency, expediency won out. Conservatives threw in the towel and embraced the socialistic welfare state, even while continuing to mouth the old Ronald Reagan mantra from the 1950s, “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

The liberal article is entitled “The Lesson of Rand Paul: Libertarianism is Juvenile” by Gabriel Winant. It appears on the website of Salon, one of the Internet’s premier liberal sites. Winant writes: “Libertarianism itself is what’s stupid here, not just Paul. We should stop tip-toeing around this belief system like its adherents are the noble last remnants of a dying breed, still clinging to their ancient, proud ways. The libertarian who insists that the state has no place beyond basic night-watchman duties is like a teenager who, having been given a car, promptly starts demanding the right to stay out all night. Sometimes, someone else really is looking out for your best interests by saying no.”

Not surprisingly, Winant trots out the standard liberal line about the New Deal that everyone is indoctrinated with in those government-approved textbooks that are used in those government-approved schools that every parent is forced to send his children to for 12 long years. The New Deal “reforms” (as he calls them) saved free enterprise and private property.

I wonder if Winant has ever read Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbush, which details the similarities between Benito Mussolini’s fascist program in Italy, Hitler’s National Socialism in Germany, and FDR’s New Deal programs in America. Here are three reviews of the book: here or here and here. Or I wonder if he’s read Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism.

So, here we have the confluence of liberalism and conservativism. Liberals are still promoting their socialist-interventionist schemes under the banner of “reforming” free enterprise. Conservatives are doing the same thing under the banner of their old mantra “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

In the process, both of them have lost a grip on reality: Liberal statism is not a series of “reforms” that save free enterprise. It is instead a direct contradiction of the principles of economic liberty and free markets. Meanwhile, conservatives have deluded themselves into believing that reform of statism constitutes free enterprise as long as it’s wrapped into a mantra of free-enteprise rhetoric.

And herein lies the explanation as to why conservatives and liberals are now going on the attack against us libertarians. Unlike conservatives, we libertarians refuse to surrender our principles for a mess of pottage, for expediency, for money, or for power. And unlike liberals, we have a firm grip on reality that enables us to see that it is socialism and interventionism, not freedom and free enterprise, that are at the root of America’s economic woes.

For years, both conservatives and liberals have ignored libertarians, hoping that Americans would never discover libertarianism. That plan obviously did not succeed. People are gravitating toward libertariansim in droves. Now, conservatives have going on the attack, hoping that they can pressure libertarians into becoming like them — people who abandoned their principles to become statists with free-market rhetoric. Liberals, meanwhile, are going on the attack with their bankrupt statist economic philosophy, hoping to pressure libertarians into abandoning their sound understanding of free-market economic principles and embracing statism in the name of “reforming” and “saving” free enterprise.

It’s ain’t gonna happen. We libertarians are not conservatives and we not liberals. The pressure isn’t going to work. We are going to continue adhering to our principles, not only because such principles are moral and right but also because they are the key to saving America from conservative and liberal statism and restoring prosperity, peace, and harmony to our land.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.