The Divide

“…Pro-market libertarians and pro-family social conservatives are more aware than ever that their respective values and interests do not coincide.

“In an article in the latest issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, explains the tension between the market and the family as clearly as anyone has:

The market values risk-taking and creative destruction that can be very bad for family life, and rewards the lowest common cultural denominator in ways that can undermine traditional morality. Traditional values, on the other hand, discourage the spirit of competition and self-interested ambition essential for free markets to work, and their adherents sometimes seek to enforce codes of conduct that constrain individual freedom. The libertarian and the traditionalist are not natural allies.

“Levin acknowledges that the policy fixes he proposes (including health-care portability, long-term care insurance and school choice) are “barely a start” to what needs to be done for those in what he calls “the parenting class.” Still, he identifies a central conservative problem.

“The difficulty, of course, is that a conservatism that cares only about “limited government,” “fiscal discipline” and preaching about “traditional moral values” will shy away from Levin’s practical, problem-solving approach by government that might involve — horrors! — new or different kinds of spending.

“That’s one reason the decline of the moderate Republicans hurts the party: The moderates were always looking for innovative ways to use government for practical ends. And as an electoral matter, the 2006 vote proved that if Republicans lose too many of their moderate members in areas such as New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest, they no longer have a majority. Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, said moderates had, to no avail, warned their leadership of “the consequences of pushing a legislative agenda kowtowing to the far right in our party.”

“The flight from a solution-oriented politics designed to deal with the pressures on working- and middle-class families had the final effect of driving many of the onetime Reagan Democrats, the “security moms” and disaffected men over to the Democrats, who enjoyed strong gains in the large swath of households in the $30,000 to $100,000 annual income range.

“The GOP desperately needs to disenthrall itself from old thinking. Some inventive Republican presidential candidate might study the policy playbook of a politician who liked to condemn “the brain-dead politics of both parties.” His name was Bill Clinton.” — E. J. Dionne


2 Responses to “The Divide”

  1. JohnnyB Says:

    Thought provoking, even if Levin is way too simplistic in his assessment of both libertarian and “traditionalist” principles. I think any reasonable libertarian is not lobbying for unrestrained markets, but rather wants to cut the noose around the neck of market forces, which comes in the form of corporate or other welfare programs, or suffocating regulations, both of which suck out the oxygen for small business.

    There are some points where libertarians and Christians disagree, like on blue laws forbidding the sale of alcohol on Sundays, but not to the point where they are at odds, I’d say.

  2. Logipundit Says:

    Agreed. Especially regarding small business. This is the economic point where the left and the right actually meet occasionally (e.g. my recommendation for “The Small Mart Revolution” written by someone way left of center but striking home in evil capitalist me).

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