Santorum’s philosophy of government

Michael Gerson on Rick Santorum’s brand of conservatism:

Perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to its center. Rick Santorum is not just an outspoken social conservative; he is the Republican candidate who addresses the struggles of blue-collar workers and the need for greater economic mobility. He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family. He draws out the public consequences of a belief in human dignity — a pro-life view applied to the unborn and to victims of AIDS in Africa.

Electability Republicans can live with Santorum’s populism and moralism. Anti-government activists cannot and have begun their assault. Santorum is referred to as a “pro-life statist.” David Boaz of the Cato Institute cites evidence implicating him in shocking ideological crimes, such as “promotion of prison ministries” and wanting to “expand colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries.”

But Santorum is not engaged in heresy; he represents an alternative tradition of conservative political philosophy. Libertarians may wish to claim exclusive marketing rights, but there are two healthy, intellectual movements in American conservatism: libertarianism and religious (particularly Catholic) social thought.

Libertarianism is an extreme form of individualism, in which personal rights trump every other social goal and institution. It is actually a species of classical liberalism, not conservatism — more directly traceable to John Stuart Mill than Edmund Burke or Alexis de Tocqueville. The Catholic (and increasingly Protestant) approach to social ethics asserts that liberty is made possible by strong social institutions — families, communities, congregations — that prepare human beings for the exercise of liberty by teaching self-restraint, compassion and concern for the public good. Oppressive, overreaching government undermines these value-shaping institutions. Responsible government can empower them — say, with a child tax credit or a deduction for charitable giving — as well as defend them against the aggressions of extreme poverty or against “free markets” in drugs or obscenity.

This is not statism; it is called subsidiarity. In this view, needs are best served by institutions closest to individuals. But when those institutions require help or protection, higher-order institutions should intervene. So when state governments imposed Jim Crow laws, the federal government had a duty to overturn them. When a community is caught in endless economic depression and drained of social capital, government should find creative ways to empower individuals and charities — maybe even prison ministries that change lives from the inside out.

via Rick Santorum and the return of compassionate conservatism – The Washington Post.

Santorum has been dismissed in some of our comments as a “big government conservative.”  But isn’t his political philosophy, if Gerson is right, more Burkean in its attention to other social institutions?  (For example, he blames poverty in part on the breakup of the family.)

Do you see anything distinctly Roman Catholic about this version–”subsidiarity”–or can it fit just as well with Protestant theologies?  Does it assume the church’s earthly authority (which both Catholics and some Reformed could agree with)?  Does it work with the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms?

The Captain Ahab of the primaries

Charles Krauthammer takes the prize for the best literary allusion in election analysis so far:

Gingrich is staying in. This should be good news for Romney. It’s not. In his Iowa non-concession speech, Gingrich was seething. He could not conceal his fury with Paul and Romney for burying him in negative ads. After singling out Santorum for praise, Gingrich launched into them both, most especially Romney.

Gingrich speaks of aligning himself with Santorum against Romney. For Newt’s campaign, this makes absolutely no strategic sense. Except that Gingrich is after vengeance, not victory. Ahab is loose in New Hampshire, stalking his great white Mitt.

via A worthy challenger – The Washington Post.

Paul’s newsletters and the changing tactics of libertarianism

Libertarian Steve Horwitz explains the context of those Ron Paul newsletters with a fascinating survey of the history and the varying strategies of that movement:

The attempt to court the right through appeals to the most unsavory sorts of arguments was a conscious part of the “paleolibertarian” strategy that Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard cooked up in the late 1980s. . . .

Classical liberalism started as a movement of the left, with folks like J.S. Mill being our standard bearers against the forces of reaction and conservatism in England, especially over issues of race. We were the “progressives” of that era, viewing the market as a force for progress for all, especially the least well-off, and as a great equalizer. It was Mill who argued that it was a good thing that markets would lead to racial equality in opposition to people like Carlyle and Ruskin who rejected markets because they wanted to maintain racial hierarchy. The liberal revolution was a revolution against privilege and the old order. It was the radical progressivism of its day.

Unfortunately, classical liberalism never figured out how to respond to the development of socialism, and especially the state socialism of the Soviets and others in the early 20th century, in a way that maintained our progressive credentials. By default, we moved from the “left” to the “right,” thrown in with the conservative opponents of the growing socialist wave. From the Old Right of the 1940s through the Reagan era, libertarianism’s opposition to socialism, especially interferences in the market, led us to ally with the forces of reaction. But even with the demise of really-existing socialism, we have been unable to completely break free of that connection to the right, though things are better than they used to be.

Even as this happened, though, the liberalism of libertarianism did not die. Within that libertarianism on the right was a strong strain of leftism, particularly from the late 1960s into the early or mid 1980s, both in the broader movement and in the Libertarian Party in particular. When I came into the movement in 1980, I can vividly recall meeting members of the Michigan LP and being surprised at how, for lack of a better word, hippie they were, right down to smoking dope during the breaks at the state convention.

By the mid-80s though, conservatism was hot, thanks to Reagan, and the internal strife of the movement pitted Murray Rothbard against the Koch Brothers, with the accusation by Rothbard that the liberal libertarians were undermining the movement’s ability to appeal to a broader audience thanks to their supposed libertinism. Murray wanted the hippies out. The irony here was that it was the Koch controlled parts that were (largely) the source of the left-deviation that pissed Rothbard off. . . .

This led to the paleolibertarian strategy by the end of the decade after Rothbard broke with the Kochs and helped Lew Rockwell found the Mises Institute (originally located on Capitol Hill – right smack inside the hated beltway, it’s worth noting). The paleo strategy, as laid out here [go to the site for the link] by Rockwell, was clearly designed to create a libertarian-conservative fusion exactly along the lines Jacob lays out in his post. It was about appealing to the worst instincts of working/middle class conservative whites by creating the only anti-left fusion possible with the demise of socialism: one built on cultural issues. With everyone broadly agreeing that the market had won, how could you hold together a coalition that opposed the left? Oppose them on the culture. If you read Rockwell’s manifesto through those eyes, you can see the “logic” of the strategy. And it doesn’t take a PhD in Rhetoric to see how that strategy would lead to the racism and other ugliness of newsletters at the center of this week’s debates.

The paleo strategy was a horrific mistake, both strategically and theoretically, though it apparently made some folks (such as Rockwell and Paul) pretty rich selling newsletters predicting the collapse of Western civilization at the hands of the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists. The explicit strategy was abandoned by around the turn of the century, but not after a lot of bad stuff had been written in all kinds of places. . . .

Through it all though, Ron Paul was a constant. He kept plugging away, first at the center of the paleo strategy as evidenced by the newsletters. To be clear, I am quite certain he did not write them. There is little doubt that they were written by Rockwell and Rothbard. . . .

Even after the paleo strategy was abandoned, Ron was still there walking the line between “mainstream” libertarianism and the winking appeal to the hard right courted by the paleo strategy. Paul’s continued contact with the fringe groups of Truthers, racists, and the paranoid right are well documented. . . .

Those of us who watched all of this happen over two decades knew it would come back to haunt us and so it has, unfortunately just as Ron Paul and libertarianism are on the cusp of something really amazing. And that only goes to show what a mistake the paleo strategy was. . . .

So why deal with this now, when libertarianism is so hot? Because those newsletters are not what libertarianism is and the sooner and louder we make that clear, the better. There are too many young people who don’t understand all of this and who we need to help see the alternative liberal vision of libertarianism – and to understand that “liberal libertarianism” is radical, principled, and humane and not “beltway selling out.” To do that, we need to confront the past and explicitly reject it. That doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting Ron Paul in electoral politics, but it does mean that we cannot pretend the past doesn’t exist and it means that Paul and the others involved need to do the right thing and take explicit responsibility for what they said two decades ago. That has not happened yet. Then we need a complete and utter rejection of the paleo world-view and we need to create a movement that will simply not be attractive to racists, homophobes, anti-Semites etc., by emphasizing, as we have done at this blog, libertarianism’s liberal roots.

How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

This explains a lot, but my questions multiply.  So is Ron Paul just an ideological stalking horse?  Are libertarians deliberately disguising themselves in a bid for popularity and political power?  Is libertarianism actually liberal in its anti-traditionalism, radical individualism, and rejection of moral limits?

I had heard Ron Paul described as a conservative Republican with libertarian leanings. I had no idea he was such a movement figure, his prominence probably coming from his being the libertarian who has risen to the highest public office.  I wouldn’t characterize the Paul supporters who participate in this blog–Cincinnatus, tODD, SKPeterson, Father Hogg [an orthodox priest]–as libertarians.  (I’m sure they will correct me if I’m wrong.)  So it must be possible to support Paul even if you aren’t, as he is, a card carrying libertarian.  I haven’t got my mind around that, though.

HT:  Justin Taylor


Political developments

Michele Bachmann Drops Out of Presidential Race – ABC News.  If her 6% were to go to Santorum, he’d be a big winner in the Iowa caucus.  Won’t her fans go to him rather than to Romney?

Rick Perry will stay in the race for now.  He went back to Texas to consider his next move, but he announced that he will run in South Carolina.  What I want to know is how a state governor can just take off and run for president.  I come back to the office after a few days off for Christmas and I’m swamped just getting caught up with e-mails!  What must it be like to drop back in to a governor’s office?

John McCain will endorse Mitt Romney. Just what Romney needs!  Won’t Republicans see his similarities to their last losing candidate?


Romney wins Iowa by 8 votes

Rick Santorum surged into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus votes, the difference being a mere 8 votes.  Ron Paul came in third.  Here are the results, with the raw numbers and the percentages:

Mitt Romney      30,015      24.6%

Rick Santorum   30,007     24.5%

Ron Paul             26,219       21.4%

Newt Gingrich   16,251        13.3%

Rick Perry           12,604       10.3%

Michele Bachmann 6,073     5.0%

Jon Huntsman           745       0.6%

Others                          341        0.3%


via Iowa Caucus results, visits and political geography – 2012 Campaign Republican Primary Tracker – The Washington Post.

I’d like to credit my “What’s Wrong with Santorum?” post for turning the tide to him.  (The post was linked to a lot and picked up by a Christian news aggregator.)  [I don't seriously think that.  It was obvious for social conservatives to finally consider the last man standing.  And if anyone read the comments, they would see that you readers found quite a bit wrong with him.]

But still, does this make Santorum the non-Paul alternative to Mitt Romney?

Paul performed worse than expected.  He did, however, win one of the proverbial three tickets out of Iowa.

There was a big gap with the other candidates.  How the mighty Newt has fallen!  And Perry!  And Bachmann, the winner of the Iowa straw poll!  If their supporters rally to Santorum, though, the percentages add up dramatically in his favor.  Do you think that will happen?

The case against Ron Paul

Conservative blogger Michael Gerson accuses Ron Paul of trying to completely undo the legacy of the Republican party and gives a litany of reasons to oppose him:

No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarded Ronald Reagan’s presidency a “dramatic failure.” Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accused the American government of a Sept. 11 “coverup” and called for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad,” and defending former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and criticizing the “evil of forced integration.”

Each of these is a disqualifying scandal. Taken together, a kind of grandeur creeps in. The ambition of Paul and his supporters is breathtaking. They wish to erase 158 years of Republican Party history in a single political season, substituting a platform that is isolationist, libertarian, conspiratorial and tinged with racism. It won’t happen. But some conservatives seem paradoxically drawn to the radicalism of Paul’s project. They prefer their poison pill covered in glass and washed down with battery acid. It proves their ideological manhood.

via Ron Paul’s quest to undo the party of Lincoln – The Washington Post.

Those of you who support Paul, is it true that he holds these positions?  (I don’t think they are all  from his ghostwritten newsletters.)  If so, do you agree with them?