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Republican Soul-Searching


Pity Republicans and conservatives. At a time they thought they would be celebrating the Christmas season with planning for inaugural balls for Mitt Romney, they are instead wallowing in depression and soul-searching. They were so sure they were going to win. Now, they’re already overly preoccupied over whether Hillary Clinton will run again in 2016.

In their soul-searching Republicans need to ask themselves an important question: Why should Americans have voted for Mitt Romney?

After all, let’s face it: philosophically, there isn’t any difference between Romney and President Obama. They’re both statists. As firm advocates of the welfare-warfare state, they both believe in socialism, interventionism, and imperialism.

Both Romney and Obama were fighting for the statist vote. They were both appealing to the same constituency — voters who believe in the welfare-warfare state.

The problem that Romney had was that he came across as a statist-lite while Obama came across as the real thing. Given a choice between a genuine statist and a statist-lite, which one is the statist voter likely to vote for?

This is the fundamental problem that has bedeviled Republicans and conservatives ever since the triumph of the New Deal in the 1930s. At that point, they had a choice. They could have maintained a principled commitment to libertarian free-market principles, which likely would have meant a loss of political power for some long period of time. Or they could throw in the towel and join up with the statists by embracing the welfare-state and, later, the warfare-state way of life.

They chose the latter. Over time, Republicans and conservatives became fierce defenders of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, immigration controls, trade restrictions, embargoes, sanctions, income taxation, public schooling, the drug war, and other violations of the principles of liberty and free markets. They became died-in-the-wool statists.

However, in an attempt to mollify what had been their base — people who continued to hew to libertarian free-market principles — they retained the old mantras. One of their favorite mantras is “Free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” It’s found on their websites and journals and repeated often in their speeches and articles.

But the fact is that Republicans and conservatives have long lived the life of the lie. It’s a life that teaches their children and their base of free-market supporters that “We favor free enterprise, private property, and limited government and remain fierce defenders of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the drug war, and other socialist and interventionist programs.”

Over time, people figure out what’s going on, especially with the rise of libertarians and libertarianism. When it comes to the principles of liberty, libertarians are the genuine thing. We do in fact favor free enterprise, private property, and limited government, which is why we oppose Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farms subsidies, public schooling, the drug war, and all other socialist and interventionist programs.

That’s undoubtedly why Republicans and conservatives resent libertarians so much and why they try so hard to exclude libertarians from the political process and the public debate. We remind them of what they should be.

To compound the matter, in the 1940s Republicans and conservatives embraced the warfare state, one consisting of a vast standing army, a giant military-industrial complex, a CIA, a national-security state, and an empire of overseas military bases. It was all justified under the rubric of the Cold War — to oppose the supposed threat posed by America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union.

But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Republican and conservative embrace of big government didn’t collapse. In fact, it became more fervent than ever. Their philosophy of foreign empire and foreign interventionism led to a series of terrorist attacks against the United States, culminating in the 9/11 attacks. That’s how we got a nation that’s now based on the war on terrorism, torture, rendition, assassination, denial of due process, and militarism.

Romney had clearly planned to run on warfare-state principles in the hopes of attracting the statists who believe in the warfare statism. Alas, Obama outmaneuvered him. After his election in 2008, Obama became a fierce defender of the warfare-state way of life, even to the point of making assassination the premier element of his foreign-policy initiatives. Obama’s killing of Osama bin Laden sealed the deal for him insofar as warfare statists were concerned. Whenever Romney would insinuate that Obama was soft on terrorism, warfare statists scoffed.

Thus, Romney never had a chance. His base — people who oppose the welfare-warfare state, that is, people who believe in economic liberty and a limited-government republic — weren’t interested in voting for him, even as a the lesser of two evils. And when it came to the statists, Romney, as a statist-lite, was unable to draw statist voters away from the genuine statist, Barack Obama.

So, what do the Republicans and conservatives do now? Do they continue to maintain their fierce commitment to big government? Do they continue to pledge allegiance to socialism, interventionism, and imperialism.

Or do they join up with us libertarians in trying to move our nation to the principles of liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government?

Hopefully, that’s what the soul-searching is all about.


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.