Peter Berkowitz of the Wall Street Journal offers ideas for conservatives in the United States (hat tip). It offers nine points for a possible future platform of the United States Republican Party. A discussion and commentary follows.
Berkowitz is right in that the three main factions of the GOP, social conservatives, libertarians, and hawkish national security types cannot form a majority without each other. However, the coalition is somewhat disparate (like the Democrats are too) and sometimes have mutually conflicting goals; for example, most of what social consies want, such as controlling people’s sex lives and forced parenthood, would mean increased intrusion in people’s lives and a bigger government; this is at plain cross-purposes with the goals of libertarianism. Hence, they would likely need some independents as well in order to win an election and must be aiming to be as big a tent as possible.
Berkowitz’s nine points are:
- An economic program, health-care reform, energy policy and protection for the environment grounded in market-based solutions.This must be done if the market does it well. For example, the market does a good job of distributing goods and services. For example, a carbon tax would reduce the use of carbon, helping the environment and reducing dependence on foreign oil. But if there are significant externalities, the market does a bad job. For example, it is unlikely that someone would know if the copper used in their new cell phone came from a polluting open pit mine, or from a different mine with a cleanup plan in place. Government, by internalizing the externalities of pollution, helps protect the environment. Similarly, market-based health care is a lottery because it is in the interests of insurance companies to find excuses to deny coverage, and no one actively chooses whether to break their leg or chooses their child to get type I diabetes.
- A foreign policy that recognizes America’s vital national security interest in advancing liberty abroad but realistically calibrates undertakings to the nation’s limited knowledge and restricted resources. There are never enough soldiers to do everything. If the United States military wants to do one thing, it would likely have to give up on something else. This is known as an opportunity cost. The democratic peace theory holds that democracies rarely fight each other. To the extent to which a government is responsible to its citizens, this is true. However, countries also act primarily due to their (perceived) best interests. More democracies will probably mean fewer enemies, but they must be strong and stable. Unstable, chaos-ridden failed states are among the best breeding grounds for insecurity and terrorists. Reducing dependence on foreign oil is part of this, as the situation in the Middle East will be more democratic and free if countries’ governments are more than the glorified redistribution schemes known as rentier states.
- A commitment to homeland security that is as passionate about security as it is about law, and which is prepared to responsibly fashion the inevitable, painful trade-offs. Part of this is winning the propaganda war abroad. However, terrorism will always exist. The best way to reduce it is through intelligence gathering and reducing incentives and causes that draw people to terrorism. To a point, security also reduces terrorism.
- A focus on reducing the number of abortions and increasing the number of adoptions. Contraception reduces the number of abortions. It is also cheaper than the government paying for adoptions or welfare due to poverty. Since social consies are often opposed to the best action that reduces the abortion rate, they are really pro-birth, not pro-life. And the money to pay for adoptions must come from somewhere; where is it coming from?
- Efforts to keep the question of same-sex marriage out of the federal courts and subject to consideration by each state’s democratic process. While there might be genuine constitutional jurisdictional issues regarding same-sex marriage in the federal courts, I generally interpret jurisdiction stripping as a tacit admission that a law violates the constitution. After all, if a law truly is constitutional, why would anyone fear the courts striking it down?
- Measures to combat illegal immigration that are emphatically pro-border security and pro-immigrant. Like it or not, desperate people will do anything to get into the United States. Why? Because it offers a better life than where they come from. In addition, illegal immigrants often work the sub-minimum wage jobs that citizens don’t, which is a “magnet for illegal immigration”. Oftentimes, big business implicitly supports a path to citizen ship for such workers because it reduces labour costs. A better deterrent to illegal immigration would perhaps to make it better for them to stay in their own country by making improving opportunities there. Reducing quality of life here won’t work because that makes enemies.
- A case for school choice as an option that enhances individual freedom while giving low-income, inner-city parents opportunities to place their children in classrooms where they can obtain a decent education.Minimum curriculum standards are necessary. Things such as creationism, false American history, and forced secular inequality of women should not be taught. Minimum standards are necessary because a better informed and educated populace chooses a better government, makes better decisions, is more rational, and business benefits from such a population.
- A demand that public universities abolish speech codes and vigorously protect liberty of thought and discussion on campus. While this is general a good idea, disruptive speech should not be permitted. And if a university is a private place, it has the right to decide what rules it will make. If a private place is allowed to restrict things so that it results in a situation you like, then it’s also allowed to restrict things to result in a situation you don’t like. It goes both ways.
- The appointment of judges who understand that their function is to interpret the Constitution and not make policy, and, therefore, where the Constitution is most vague, recognize the strongest obligation to defer to the results of the democratic process. Authoritarian types often hate the Ninth Amendment to the United States constitution, because they like to infringe upon unenumerated rights; the amendment basically prevents, in some extent, fundamental rights being restricted to only ones that are expressly mentioned. Courts should limit the rights of government, not the rights of people.