The Nanny-Stater Challenge: Not Just for Democrats Anymore

Jon Sanders

1/16/2008 4:12:16 PM - Jon Sanders

 

(Note: Follow the links to view the opening exchange; my offer and Jerry Agar's reply.)

Dear Jerry,

Welcome to the fray! I appreciate your discounting the Sowell's Basic Economics, which you already have. I must say, however, that I already have Reagan, In His Own Hand – a wonderful book indeed and a glimpse into how deeply ran the Gipper's conservative roots.

Ronald Reagan was no ballyhooed Politician for "Change" who merely tried on conservative philosophy because it was what polls said the voters wanted; he was a philosophic conservative and freedom fighter. In other words, when Reagan said in his First Inaugural Address, "Government isn't the solution to our problem; government is the problem," he believed it to his deepest core. In contrast, when President Clinton said "The era of big government is over" in his 1996 State of the Union address, that was just election-year stuff.

Heavens, but we need another Reagan.

Our readers brought up a good point about this exchange, however, in noting that we were criticizing nanny-stater Democrats running for president while ignoring the nanny-stater Republicans doing the same. Those critics missed the key basis for the bet: these are our nanny-staters; none of the ones in the GOP are from our home states. Still, the spirit behind their criticism is worth heeding. And that is, both parties' leading candidates hold beliefs about the uses of government and the value of individual liberty that threaten the fundamental freedoms upon which this nation was founded and still thrives.

To be sure, those fundamental freedoms are based on the same philosophy Reagan espoused. The Founders conceived rights as something self-evident in every person, bestowed by the Creator – things which must not be intruded upon but protected by government. Nanny-staters view rights as privileges bestowed by government, and not always to every person, but to certain groups as the political winds blow. Reagan and the Founders knew that government creates more problems that it solves and envisioned freeing people from as much government as they could. Nanny-staters look to government for solutions and think they "free" people by having government take more and more decisions away from them.

The GOP's leading presidential contenders (per Real Clear Politics, they are John McCain and Mike Huckabee) both have strong nanny inclinations. No advocate for free speech is unaware of what the execrable McCain/Feingold bill did to political speech. McCain has opposed tax cuts and thrown his lot in with the puritanical global-warming zealots seeking to use the power of government to force wrenching changes in American businesses and families according to the alarmists' assumptions. He has also opposed gun rights throughout his career, although for this campaign he is posing as a friend of the Second Amendment. One could go on; suffice it to say that to McCain sees government as the first and best place for solutions.

As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee oversaw massive increases in Arkansans' tax burdens and the size of their state government. He pushed for greater state or federal intervention (or both) in wages, economic development projects, prices, consumption, trade, etc. He has, however, pushed for a flat tax and opposed McCain/Feingold. He not only favors using government to fight global warming, but he justifies it as "a biblical duty." Huckabee also sees government as the solution and has had no qualms citing biblical principles to justify it.

Michigan primary winner Mitt Romney's history on economic freedom issues is a mixed bag, but his recent defense of religious freedom was sterling, and to a degree greater than Huckabee and McCain, he has shown inclination to individual freedom from government interference. Rudy Giuliani has favored McCain/Feingold, protectionism, corporate welfare and rent control, but as mayor of New York City he cut taxes significantly, held government growth below inflation and population growth, and favored school choice and privatization. Of all of them, Fred Thompson has the strongest record of favoring limited government and economic freedom, but he also lags all of them, and he supported McCain/Feingold.

And then there is Ron Paul, who is no doubt the most committed to the limited-government philosophy. He has a devoted following, but he has never had a Sistah Souljah moment with the 9/11 conspiracy kooks who drive off potential supporters and, I fear, damage by association the case for freedom. My hope is that the Ron Paul phenomenon will push the GOP back toward more limited-government positions.

My point, Jerry, is maybe we need to use this bet to promote liberty in general, not just works of liberty associated with our respective states. I think we should still keep it to Barack Obama vs. John Edwards, but change the stakes.

If you agree, then I'd like to wager Henry Grady Weaver's The Mainspring of Human Progress and Aleksander I. Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago on my nanny-stater beating yours.

Mainspring shows the world-changing power of humanity living in freedom, not just in the United States but throughout history, and Gulag shows the humanity-crushing horrors of a government given absolute control over every human decision. One illuminates the potentials of free societies, while the other shows the logical end of the nanny-stater's journey away from freedom.

What do you think?