View 708 Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The Iowa Caucuses are done, and about 100,000 Midwesterners out of the 300 million inhabitants of this Republic have spoken, although not with a clear voice. They have reduced the Republican candidate field from seven to five, and for a few minutes last night it looked as if it might be four: Rick Perry was certainly having misgivings when he saw his rather dismal results (10%, 5th place to Gingrich’s 4th), but this morning he made it clear that he is still in the race.
The clear winner was Santorum, who made a decidedly Presidential speech at midnight while the final numerical results were still uncertain. It turns out that the actual numerical winner, by under ten votes, was Mitt Romney, but Santorum’s ascension to the post of “Not Romney” stood out, and of course put the bullseye on his back. The attacks on Santorum as a “Big Government Conservative” have now begun.
I certainly heard nothing in Santorum’s speech that remotely reflected a preference for Big Government; indeed I heard him say that the first thing to do is examine every single federal program and determine whether this is worth borrowing money from China to continue at this time, and if it is not, eliminating it. Since that is precisely what I would do were I suddenly given the authority, and it is certainly not the act of someone who prefers government for government’s sake, I fail to see how it means “Big Government Conservative.”
What do we mean by Big Government Conservative anyway? It is, after all, a contradiction in terms. It might fairly have been applied to some of the hare brained schemes – mostly compromises and reaching across the aisle to Democrats – from the post-Gingrich days of Republican majorities; to the Americans With Disabilities Act; to No Child Left Behind; indeed to any number of compromise schemes; but on examination it is difficult to find anything Conservative about those schemes.
In the United States, Conservative means a dedication to the original Constitution of 1787; States Rights; transparency and subsidiarity as discussed by Jane Jacobs but those terms have often been usurped; and the general notion that a free people don’t need a nanny state. It also implies conceding a certain degree of local power in social matters. It does not mean anarchy and weak government. No conservative I know favors weak government. We do favor limited government and restriction of the scope of government, but that is nowhere near the same thing. Weak government and anarchy are a curse, and a temptation to tyranny. Good government is a blessing.
Conservatives differ from libertarians in degrees. Unlike most libertarians I would concede to local governments powers that I would not grant to national government, and were it in my power, I would forbid to states. I would concede local governments powers that I would strongly argue against their using anywhere I lived, and which would probably cause me to flee their jurisdiction; which is to say, I believe in the notion that governments derive their just powers from consent of the governed, and the more localized the powers, the more likely it is that those who live under that government consent to it – even if they are consenting to something I don’t care for or consider absurd. My favorite example is the Blue Bellybutton cult, which decrees that all those who go out in public on a Wednesday evening must display their loyalty by exposing their blue-painted belly button. I find that ridiculous, but if there were a town where the local inhabitants elected and installed the cult, I would either stop going out in public on a Wednesday or move to the next township. I admit that is probably an extreme example, and like most hypothetical situations might not accurately reflect what I would really do under the circumstances; still, it illustrates my point. I am prepared to have my books Banned in Boston although I would prefer they were not; I am not prepared to have the Congress ban my books throughout the United States.
On the other hand, there are actions that only government can take. In the past there were institutions that looked ahead for later generations. Monarchies, landed aristocracies, the Church and various holy orders began projects whose fruition their founders did not expect to see. Today the only institutions that can afford to invest for long term payoffs of benefit to all but unlikely of profit are governments. I have discussed this at length in the past. I do not withdraw that opinion.
Conservatives are not anarchists.
Another consequence of the Iowa Caucuses is unfortunate: as of now Mr. Gingrich, stung by the ugly anti-Gingrich ads paid for by the Romney PACS, seems to have revised his goal: from running for President, he has now become an instrument of vengeance against Romney. This is worse than unfortunate, and I wish he’d stop that. It will do neither him nor the Republic much good. Newt’s change of objectives may be responsible for Parry’s reconsidering his run: if Newt will pound on Romney, there is room for another Not-Romney, even though Parry got fewer Iowa votes than Newt.
Newt can certainly damage Romney, and indeed Romney’s acceptance of McCain’s endorsement moves Romney further into the clutches of the Establishment Republicans and the originators of the notion of “Big Government Conservative” schemes. That has to be good for Santorum, who surely sees that Ron Paul wasn’t that distant a third in this election. Santorum is now the leading Not-Romney. And the beat goes on.
I remain of the opinion I have had for weeks, and which Newt publicly espoused until last night: the election is vital, and the nation deserves better than Obama; and all of the viable Republican candidates are to be preferred to the current President. We can’t take four more years of this.
It’s a long time until November.
I learned late last night that my long time friend and correspondent Harry Erwin has died. I don’t know details, and it was certainly unexpected. Harry wrote the weekly “Letter from England” that I published in Chaos Manor Mail for years, and many readers looked forward to it; Harry had a knack for finding a ready summary of both trends and the bizarre in reported incidents. I am going to miss that.
He was a scientist, He thought clearly about education and education improvements and impediments. He enjoyed life, and took frequent trips. I had never met him, but I was looking forward to some opportunity for that to take place. We had corresponded for a long time about many things, mostly in agreement but when we were not it was worth paying attention to why. He enjoyed rational discussion.
He was a practicing Christian and churchman. I will very much miss him.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.