Moreover, both left and right recognize that no government can expect anything like total success in its efforts to steer private choices in wholesome and beneficial directions, but they differ on how to deal with people who make foolish decisions anyway. Liberals want to protect citizens and even companies from the harsh consequences of their own mistakes – providing bailouts for floundering companies, subsidies for failing, non-competitive “green” technologies, and food and rent subsidies even for those whose poor choices (substance abuse, dropping out of school, criminality) have left them idle and unproductive.
To pay for this misplaced “compassion” the left inevitably punishes those who’ve made better choices and contributed more to society. Generally, we raise taxes to discourage conduct that carries with it a social and economic cost --- like consumption of alcohol or cigarettes. Why, then, do we raise tax rates for those who succeed in generating the profits that make economic growth and new jobs possible? We treat the creation of wealth like a vice, not a virtue – as if the pursuit of economic advancement represented a greedy, guilty habit that requires regulation and discouragement.
In other words, the left may talk of imposing governmental retribution against those who make damaging choices, but instead ends up punishing precisely those whose success most notably benefits the economy and the community.
The motivation for that punishment involves the distrust of individuals to make the right choices in spending the money they themselves have earned. The left believes public discussion and decision-making will produce better results and more responsible investments than individual quirks and preferences, and prejudices. The right acknowledges that private citizens will sometimes waste their own resources on foolish or wasteful indulgences but that free individuals remain more reliable than far-away bureaucrats in spending the money they’ve earned with considerable toil.
Moreover a free market, with the widest possible discretion for each independent participant, not only serves to expand personal liberty and freedom of action, but also works more efficiently to generate the growth and prosperity that benefit everyone.
This key insight motivates the impassioned Tea Party activists, as well as nearly all conservatives who yearn for a rebuke of Obama’s efforts to expand the punishing, supervisory role of the federal government. Republicans must remain focused on the most essential conservative principles –that society will benefit more from expanded choice than expanded regulation, and that the generally predictable gains and losses of an unfettered economy will encourage productivity far more than capricious bureaucratic intervention that often rewards failure and punishes success.
If the GOP in Washington recalls and honors these propositions they won’t make many split-the-difference deals with the president and his cronies, but they will begin to regain the confidence of an angry and disillusioned electorate that longs for a return to common sense in the nation’s Capitol.