Are We Really “Conservatives?”

 
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Is this really us?

Ricochet is home to a lot of debates; typically among those of us on who identify with the Political Right. As a matter of convenience, we call ourselves “conservatives” and our opponents “liberals.” Much has been written about the derivation of these terms and how they came to be in common usage today. I don’t want to re-hash that history lesson. I’m more interested in figuring out if we here are actually conservatives or if we are … something else.

My Random House Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “conservative” as: “Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to restore traditional ones, and to limit change — or — cautiously moderate.” Certainly, there are plenty of people at Ricochet who want to restore traditional institutions. There’s nothing wrong with that per se; there have been some great and admirable times in the nation’s past. There have also been terrible times which are best remembered with a shudder and fear. As to the rest of the definition? I’m not buying it.

To take this definition and apply it to the events of, say, yesterday — when the Congress voted to repeal Obamacare — one could conclude that those actions were not “conservative,” unless you place focus on the “restoring traditional institutions” portion of the definition. We “conservatives” should cheer this action in the sense that Congress is seeking to “restore” the status quo ante that existed before progressive nannyists jammed this camel down the throats of the public. I like it. I approve. I want it to happen. But in my mind, it wouldn’t go far enough even if it had been successful. We ought to appreciate the adherence to process here that the president disdains, but don’t think that goes far enough to explain what we long for.

“Conservatism” of restorationist flavor boils down to a matter of dates. If you limit your view of what is right and good to some specific point in the halcyon past when things were “great” — you know, when we’re staring into the void — you’re nothing more than a “reactionary.” By this definition, one could just as easily claim that someone who wants to restore Woodrow Wilson’s fascist police state, arguing that it was the height of American civilization, is a conservative. In a certain sense, too, he’d be right.

We have to consider: What, precisely, are we attempting to restore? Are we attempting to return the nation to how it was in 2000, before the horrors of 9/11 and the opening of the American mind to the idea that we are involved in an existential struggle with people who are even more “conservative” than we are? No, thank you. Perhaps it’s 2007, before the scourge of Obama-ism? Fat chance. How about the 1950s (as I recall one person suggesting) when our civilizational confidence seemed to be at an all-time high, the economy was growing steadily, and life seemed to have a predictable, peaceful rhythm, with the caveat of the threat of global thermonuclear war? I’ll pass.

I’m asserting that there was no time in the past that holds up to scrutiny so well that we should seek to “restore” it such that it becomes our ideal of the future. In my estimation, the only way out is moving forward — not longing for the past — and I think have some decidedly un-Conservative ideas about how we need to do that (in the sense that “restoration” of traditional institutions is insufficient).

For starters, I’m in favor of the complete voucherization and privatization of the education system while maintaining public funding. This acknowledges that we aren’t going to return to a time when there isn’t publicly funded education, but makes it more efficient and to stop punishing people who choose to send their children to private schools by what boils down to double taxation. Competing studies quibble about the effectiveness of private/charter schools — the secret sauce for academic success seems to be family cohesion) vs. their public school brethren — but most of them miss the fundamental point: even though charter/private schools tend not to produce remarkably better results, they produce similar (or better) results at lower cost. We should do it for that reason alone if nothing else.

This is a radical, borderline revolutionary, position; there’s nothing “conservative” about it.

I’m also skeptical about our capacity (in the long run) to eliminate the welfare state. In some form or another, Section 8 housing, AFDC, WIC, SNAP, SCHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are all here to stay; there are simply too many people who are too deeply invested in them and capable of voting to prevent eliminating them entirely. What I do think we could accomplish is transforming them into something different.

Borrowing from my earlier point, why don’t we voucherize Medicaid? We could also incentivize people to save unspent voucher monies in health savings accounts, rather than what we do now, which encourages them to view the program as a bottomless well of money from which they can pull up a bucket or two as needed. Something similar could be done with most of the rest of the programs. Again, this is not necessarily a “conservative” position, but reflects the reality of where we are today and how we might better incentive our existing structures.

These are revolutionary concepts that would drive progressives — and, I’m sure, plenty of libertarians — crazy. There are a lot of ideas like this on the Right and yet, we call ourselves “conservatives.” I think we do ourselves a disservice by downplaying just how different our thoughts about government and public policy are from from those of the Left. In doing so, we allow ourselves to be tarred with the brush of “regressive” when, in reality, we might have a far better claim on being “progressive,” in the sense that we seek to improve human flourishing. It’s the Left, in this sense, who look downright reactionary in their defense of moribund and failed institutions.

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  1. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    If I had to describe my positions in a pithy phrase it’d be “Anti-Utopianism.” I’m opposed to both socialism and minarchism because both positions expect people to act in a thoughtful and selfless manner which has never been displayed at any point in history.

    • #61
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Umbra Fractus: If I had to describe my positions in a pithy phrase it’d be “Anti-Utopianism.”

    The defining characteristic of your political ideology is that you are opposed to places that do not exist?

    • #62
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Misthiocracy: So, the US’ global influence from about 1975 to 2000 was right about where it probably should have been if pre-Great Depression trends had continued, but since 2000 has fallen way below what it probably should be?

    The larger story is that the rest of the world destroyed itself in the First and Second World wars. There wouldn’t be a thing wrong with the US enjoying a much-reduced share of global GDP if our basic post-Cold War operative theory had been correct. (To grossly trivialize: something like our idea of liberty is the formula for prosperity; only a very prosperous country could be an existential rival to us; from now on, everyone will want liberal democracy in some form, and thus we’ll have no more great rivals.) We didn’t see the rise of Chinese-style capitalism; we didn’t see the rise of “managed democracy.” We overestimated our ability to export the idea of liberal democracy. We underestimated the power of nationalism and the depth of the crisis of the Islamic world, and underestimated as well the lingering trauma of the Cold War.

    We were correct, however, in believing that only a world of liberal democracies could be peaceful.

    So we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and either a) figure out how to pull that one off,

    or really get serious about b) Fortress America and missile defense, which will be nothing at all like the past. We’ve never been confined to our Continent before, and it will be a much poorer and more limited life.

    But it’s one or the other. I hope we choose a), because I think our ideas are the right ones. I hold them to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … I believe that’s self-evidently true of every man alive, not just people lucky enough to be born in the Unites States. And I would be delighted if our share of GDP was shrinking because other countries worked harder, more creatively, and came up with more good ideas than we do.

    • #63
  4. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Jamie Lockett:

    Robert McReynolds: Claire the reason is that we have half of our population who hate the US while the other half is tired of seeing their children die for being sent to wars that we are going to half-arse. We are multipolar because we have, for one reason or the other, decided to abrogate our role as a super power.

    You don’t really believe that 1/2 the population that happens to disagree with your particular foreign policy hates the US do you?

    It’s not just foreign policy explicitly, but yes I do believe that the half of the country that votes slavishly Democrat hates the United States.

    • #64
  5. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: That’s not the reason. This is the reason:

    Or rather, there are many reasons. But that’s an important part of the story, and we need to be utterly honest with ourselves about that, because self-deception is no place to begin when we’re trying to figure out how to manage this. The “We decided to abrogate our role as a superpower” story is a story of being internally stabbed in the back. There’s some truth to it. But the graph above is the much bigger story, and it’s the one we have to start dealing with.

    I think it is much more than part of the story. I think it IS the story. As Lincoln once said, not a nation on earth could by force take a drink from the Ohio river. As a nation of freemen we will live forever or die by suicide. And then you look at the final chapter of Touqeville’s Democracy in America where he describes the perpetual adolescence of man being the ultimate downfall of a free society and tell me that our current society is not exactly what both of these great thinkers had in mind when they posed these statements. It’s clear that we could never be defeated as a country or a civilization if we, from generation to generation, lived by the intellectual tenets of Western Civilization: the sovereignty of the individual and liberty.

    • #65
  6. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Majestyk:

    Robert McReynolds:

    Majestyk:Compare that with Obama. The President is a true believer, and views his opponents as not merely wrong, but evil. There can be no compromise with evil, so he doesn’t.

    Then maybe it is time we start adopting the same rhetoric, no? Perhaps it is time we start to consider the idea that it is THEY who are evil and stop trying to negotiate with them.

    I don’t think that we’re there. Why would we call our opponents “evil” when we merely have disagreements with them?

    There are certainly individual instances where corruption or criminality calls into question (or wipes out) the assumption of some politicians’ benign intent, but that cuts in both directions.

    I’m not interested in following an Obama who just happens to be of the Right. Inevitably, such people are of a populist bent at best, or demagogues at worst. This is why so many people are horrified at the rise of Trump. He seems to many of us just like Obama and the few times that he says something we agree with aren’t worth tolerating the other, glaring deficiencies he possesses.

    I don’t want to emulate the Left’s tactics. The ends do not justify the means.

    Well it sounds like I am in the minority on this, but they are evil. Anyone who would proudly proclaim an ideology responsible for enslaving other humans and murdering in the millions others is evil.

    • #66
  7. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Jamie Lockett:

    BrentB67:

    Jamie Lockett:

    BrentB67:

    Jamie Lockett:I think it depends on what we’re trying to measure yes? Given that the government is essentially a consumer in our economy, it produces nothing of real value, a combination of the GDP-deflator and ECI would seem appropriate.

    Interesting, because neither of those are BLS statistics.

    We agree that liberty is inversely proportional to the size of government. We differ in our willingness to hide its size and liberty crushing overreach in real vs. nominal dollars.

    Do you do all economic analysis in nominal dollars? That seems…fraught.

    Not all, but consistency matters. When there are literally hundreds of inflation measures the opportunity to selectively employ which one favors a position is much more fraught, in my opinion, than ignoring them altogether.

    I’m not hiding it in anything that was less than charitable.

    How about as a percentage of GDP? Easy and simple.

    That hides the problem and we surrender too much liberty.

    There isn’t anything in the Constitution that requires expenditures to track GDP growth however measured.

    We have created a bureaucracy and institutionalized welfare that we hide by comparing it to GDP.

    Every dollar the government takes immediately via taxes or in the future via debt is $1 less of individual liberty in the United States. I think that is true regardless of GDP however measured.

    • #67
  8. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I think you make two mistakes in assumptions in here Majestik.  First: that conservatives are trying to conserve positions or replicate a particular time.  Conservatives are conserving values, not policies or moments in time.

    Second and I think more significant, you define through implication conservatism through the current political lens, and that definition blurs the distinction between what conservatism has been since Burke and with Libertarianism.  The current political entity of Conservatism – and I’ll label that Conservatism with a capital “c” – marries traditional conservatism with Libertarianism.  It’s a forced political marriage.  Libertarianism is as unconservative as Liberalism.  In fact Liberatarianism has much more in common with Liberalism than conservatism.

    For the record, I consider myself a traditional conservative, and have been purging my Libertarian leanings (except on free market economics) ever since Rudy Guillani turned NYC around through a heavy handed conservatism.

    • #68
  9. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Robert McReynolds:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Robert McReynolds: Claire the reason is that we have half of our population who hate the US while the other half is tired of seeing their children die for being sent to wars that we are going to half-arse. We are multipolar because we have, for one reason or the other, decided to abrogate our role as a super power.

    You don’t really believe that 1/2 the population that happens to disagree with your particular foreign policy hates the US do you?

    It’s not just foreign policy explicitly, but yes I do believe that the half of the country that votes slavishly Democrat hates the United States.

    What an awful world view and thing to think about your fellow citizens. I pity you.

    • #69
  10. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    BrentB67:

    Jamie Lockett:

    BrentB67:

    Jamie Lockett:

    BrentB67:

    Jamie Lockett:I think it depends on what we’re trying to measure yes? Given that the government is essentially a consumer in our economy, it produces nothing of real value, a combination of the GDP-deflator and ECI would seem appropriate.

    Interesting, because neither of those are BLS statistics.

    We agree that liberty is inversely proportional to the size of government. We differ in our willingness to hide its size and liberty crushing overreach in real vs. nominal dollars.

    Do you do all economic analysis in nominal dollars? That seems…fraught.

    Not all, but consistency matters. When there are literally hundreds of inflation measures the opportunity to selectively employ which one favors a position is much more fraught, in my opinion, than ignoring them altogether.

    I’m not hiding it in anything that was less than charitable.

    How about as a percentage of GDP? Easy and simple.

    That hides the problem and we surrender too much liberty.

    There isn’t anything in the Constitution that requires expenditures to track GDP growth however measured.

    We have created a bureaucracy and institutionalized welfare that we hide by comparing it to GDP.

    Every dollar the government takes immediately via taxes or in the future via debt is $1 less of individual liberty in the United States. I think that is true regardless of GDP however measured.

    Yes, but the problem of looking at it in nominal dollars is that if you decide on a certain amount that is acceptable for the government to take from the populace. Lets go with $1Billion to be nice and tidy, then what happens when a single aircraft carrier costs more than the entire federal budget you find acceptable?

    You have to account for inflation if you want to look at government in purely monetary terms.

    Now there are far better ways to look at limiting government such as by scope, or constitutionally delineated powers etc. I didn’t start us on this rabbit hole of finding some sort of monentary value to limit government to – I’m just trying to find a way back out.

    • #70
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Manny: The current political entity of Conservatism – and I’ll label that Conservatism with a capital “c” – marries traditional conservatism with Libertarianism. It’s a forced political marriage. Libertarianism is as unconservative as Liberalism. In fact Liberatarianism has much more in common with Liberalism than conservatism.

    You realize that the value system and traditions that American conservatives usually seek to preserve is liberalism right?

    • #71
  12. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Jamie Lockett:

    Robert McReynolds:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Robert McReynolds: Claire the reason is that we have half of our population who hate the US while the other half is tired of seeing their children die for being sent to wars that we are going to half-arse. We are multipolar because we have, for one reason or the other, decided to abrogate our role as a super power.

    You don’t really believe that 1/2 the population that happens to disagree with your particular foreign policy hates the US do you?

    It’s not just foreign policy explicitly, but yes I do believe that the half of the country that votes slavishly Democrat hates the United States.

    What an awful world view and thing to think about your fellow citizens. I pity you.

    While I appreciate your sentiment, I must ask you what is it in the Democrat Party that leads you to believe that what they are doing to the US is out of love? Who is that would vote for someone who wants his supporters to vote out of “revenge”? And revenge for what? If you think that you average Democrat who is a true believing Leftist loves this country, then it is you sir who are in need of the pity because you are deluding yourself.

    • #72
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Majestyk: My Random House Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “conservative” as: “Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to restore traditional ones, and to limit change — or — cautiously moderate.”

    Conservatism was the school of thought founded by followers of Burke. It’s true that adopting Burkean thought (or, to update it a little, Hayekian thought), results in a disposition to retain what we do not understand (and a recognition of how little we do understand), it is simply not the case that this particular outcome represents the whole, or even the greater part of his thought.

    Burke wished to extend civil rights to Indians, and to Irishmen. He supported the American colonists until they went too far for a patriot to continue to do so. He supported a strong foreign policy, constitutional fidelity, and smaller government with a particular focus on free trade and religious liberty. Hayek, too, had reforms that he supported.

    Libertarians often are not conservative, although they can be. Like progressives, they often start with the question of how the world should be, draw it up in the abstract, and then attempt to make the world conform to this idea. Likewise, one can be an unconservative SoCon in the mold of Calvin; Natural Law/ scripture tells us everything about how to run a society. For the most part, though, conservative politicians have been reasonably true to the Burkes’ positions and insights.

    • #73
  14. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Jamie Lockett:

    Manny: The current political entity of Conservatism – and I’ll label that Conservatism with a capital “c” – marries traditional conservatism with Libertarianism. It’s a forced political marriage. Libertarianism is as unconservative as Liberalism. In fact Liberatarianism has much more in common with Liberalism than conservatism.

    You realize that the value system and traditions that American conservatives usually seek to preserve is liberalism right?

    Well they want to preserve freedom under the constitution.  There are elements to that which Liberals, Libertarians, and traditional conservatives agree, freedoms preserved in the Bill of Rights.  However, Libertarians seem to think that every freedom not mentioned in the Bill of Rights are sacred and inviolable.  But the fact is that legislation can restrict anything outside the Bill of Rights.  Take something as outdated as sodomy laws.  Sodomy laws were part of many states and perfectly constitutional.  If we were to implement sodomy laws today, Libertarians would have a hissy fit.  Under the right argument, conservatives might agree with the sodomy law.

    • #74
  15. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    “But the most significant debate, and the one with the most immediate repercussions, is “isolationist versus internationalist.” We have both ideologies in both parties right now.”

    Yes, we have to sort out this post cold war world, but isolationist and internationalist doesn’t really capture the essence of the necessary debate.    It’s important to project power, have power to project, (economic policy central here) a will to project it, but we also have to understand what we can and should do and what we cannot do.  You mentioned in another post (good lord you read everything)  “We meant Well” the horrifying chronicle of our efforts in Iraq to win friends and influence, shape non military realities etc.   While he’s a snarky anti military  FSO type I know well, what he describes wasn’t an accident.  It’s the nature of what we can’t do and when things don’t work out well, and they seldom do, we try to force it by writing checks, and please ourselves with photo ops.  The same reality that should tell us we can’t centrally plan our own economy, regulate away its problems, should caution us about what we cannot do in areas we don’t understand and can’t control.  This is why I think old liberal and old understanding of power projection remain relevant.

    • #75
  16. Naudious Inactive
    Naudious
    @Stoicous

    Manny:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Manny: The current political entity of Conservatism –  – marries traditional conservatism with Libertarianism. It’s a forced political marriage. Libertarianism is as unconservative as Liberalism. In fact Liberatarianism has much more in common with Liberalism than conservatism.

    You realize that the value system and traditions that American conservatives usually seek to preserve is liberalism right?

    Well they want to preserve freedom under the constitution. There are elements to that which Liberals, Libertarians, and traditional conservatives agree, freedoms preserved in the Bill of Rights. However, Libertarians seem to think that every freedom not mentioned in the Bill of Rights are sacred and inviolable. But the fact is that legislation can restrict anything outside the Bill of Rights. Take something as outdated as sodomy laws. Sodomy laws were part of many states and perfectly constitutional. If we were to implement sodomy laws today, Libertarians would have a hissy fit. Under the right argument, conservatives might agree with the sodomy law.

    The 9th Amendment says that the Bill of Rights should not be construed to be the only rights, and the 10th Amendment enumerates all powers not stated in the Constitution to the States and to the People. Incorporation Doctrine and the 14th Amendment forbid the States from violating the Bill of Rights.

    If you contend that isn’t the case, then it seems to me more like the (your type of) Conservatives are closer to the Liberals than the Libertarians; not Libertarians being closer to Liberals then Conservatives.

    • #76
  17. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Naudious:The 9th Amendment says that the Bill of Rights should not be construed to be the only rights, and the 10th Amendment enumerates all powers not stated in the Constitution to the States and to the People. Incorporation Doctrine and the 14th Amendment forbid the States from violating the Bill of Rights.

    If you contend that isn’t the case, then it seems to me more like the (your type of) Conservatives are closer to the Liberals than the Libertarians; not Libertarians being closer to Liberals then Conservatives.

    That is quite accurate, but you fail to mention that states have the right to legislate anything outside the Bill of Rights.  I believe that’s per the 10th amendment.  Here’s the exact quote of that 9th amendment:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    • #77
  18. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Manny: That is quite accurate, but you fail to mention that states have the right to legislate anything outside the Bill of Rights.

    I believe this is incorrect for two reasons.

    First, at the time of its adoption, the Bill of Rights was generally seen as having no power over the states whatsoever. That’s why Jefferson could Governor McKean in 1803 as follows:

    The federalists having failed in destroying the freedom of the press by their gag-law, seem to have attacked it in an opposite form, that is by pushing it’s licentiousness & it’s lying to such a degree of prostitution as to deprive it of all credit. And the fact is that so abandoned are the tory presses in this particular that even the least informed of the people have learnt that nothing in a newspaper is to be believed. This is a dangerous state of things, and the press ought to be restored to it’s credibility if possible. The restraints provided by the laws of the states are sufficient for this if applied. And I have therefore long thought that a few prosecutions of the most prominent offenders would have a wholesome effect in restoring the integrity of the presses. Not a general prosecution, for that would look like persecution: but a selected one. The paper I now inclose appears to me to offer as good an instance in every respect to make an example of, as can be selected. However of this you are the best judge. I inclose it lest you should not have it.

    Translation: Though I — as the executive of the Federal government — am prohibited from shutting down the presses of our enemies thanks to the Bill of Rights, you are not so restricted. Don’t go crazy, but throw a few of them in jail.

    It wasn’t until the 14th Amendment (specifically, through the incorporation clause) that these rights became applied to the states.

    [Update: I see Nauseous largely beat me to the point].

    • #78
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    We’re living in a 14th Amendment America now, though, Tom.

    • #79
  20. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Manny: “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    On the second point, my objection has to do with the word “legislation.” Unless I’m mistaken, most state constitutions operate under similar principles of enumerated powers as does the Federal constitution. That is — prior to the 14th Amendment — states couldn’t “legislate” anything they choose, as most of their governments had limited powers under their constitutions. However, their people had very wide discretion over what powers could be enumerated.

    I’ll see if I can get someone with more knowledge on the matter in here.

    • #80
  21. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    James Of England:We’re living in a 14th Amendment America now, though, Tom.

    Conceded.

    • #81
  22. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Manny: “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    Sorry to quote this a second time, but that just strikes me as getting it backward.

    Rights are inherent to people, who may grant it to government through social contract. It’s presumed to be with the people unless they explicitly decide as a community to empower a government with powers relative to that right and the bar for granting those powers is supposed to be set relatively high.

    • #82
  23. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Manny: “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    On the second point, my objection has to do with the word “legislation.” Unless I’m mistaken, most state constitutions operate under similar principles of enumerated powers as does the Federal constitution. That is — prior to the 14th Amendment — states couldn’t “legislate” anything they choose, as most of their governments had limited powers under their constitutions. However, their people had very wide discretion over what powers could be enumerated.

    I’ll see if I can get someone with more knowledge on the matter in here.

    So what rights outside the Bill of Rights are off limits to legislate against?  Give me some.

    • #83
  24. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Manny: “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    Sorry to quote this a second time, but that just strikes me as getting it backward.

    Rights are inherent to people, who may grant it to government through social contract. It’s presumed to be with the people unless they explicitly decide as a community to empower a government with powers relative to that right and the bar for granting those powers is supposed to be set relatively high.

    Well that’s what I’m saying.  Being with the people means they have the right through government legislation to limit freedoms.  For instance prohibit sodomy.  For instance prohibit same sex marriage.

    • #84
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    It’s true that state constitutions vary widely but, as with long arm statutes, most states have a police power as broad as the Federal Constitution allows. In terms of substantive powers, the work in state constitutions has always been done by the equivalents of the Amendments, not by the equivalents of the body.

    Edit: to take a random example, look at South Carolina’s constitution, a proper 1790 thing. http://www.scstatehouse.gov/scconstitution/A03.php
    It doesn’t mention enumerated powers for the state government, but it does have a substantial negative list. South Carolina’s legislature is not permitted, for instance, to change the name of a person or place. It appears possible for it to change the name of an animal.

    • #85
  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I Walton: The same reality that should tell us we can’t centrally plan our own economy, regulate away its problems, should caution us about what we cannot do in areas we don’t understand and can’t control. This is why I think old liberal and old understanding of power projection remain relevant.

    We can do a lot better when it comes to “understanding.” This is a big handicap, but a soluble one. Many of our biggest foreign policy blunders seem to devolve from lack of knowledge about what’s going on in other countries and cultures. Usually we can understand very well, but don’t choose to. Take the same example I always use, Turkey — which I use as an example because I know a lot about it, but any American would be capable of learning as much as I did about a country like Turkey, and many have.

    When the Wikileaks came out, I learned that our diplomats understood Turkey very well. Cable after cable documented what I’d been seeing . I was dumbfounded, because even though you’d never know it from our policy, it was all right there — they knew exactly what was going on. But they couldn’t draw the utterly obvious conclusions from their own observations, to wit, that what was happening was a big problem for the US.

    I suspect the reason they couldn’t was because they’d been told, “We need Turkey to play Role X in scenario Y” by someone in Washington who had a great theory about how Turkey was going to be the model Muslim country. Or perhaps because you don’t get promoted by sending home bad news. But somehow, there was a disconnect between what we knew and our policy.

    The whole “We can’t understand foreign places and cultures and it’s arrogant to pretend we can” business is wrong: We can. Like everything worth doing, it’s hard work, and you can’t do it from a university library in upstate New York. But Americans aren’t so innately provincial and mentally inflexible that they’re incapable of learning about foreign languages, regimes, countries, and cultures and drawing rational conclusions about them.

    You might see what I mean better if you read this piece I wrote about the Turkey cables:

    THE WIKILEAKS CABLES ON TURKEY: 20/20 TUNNEL VISION

    • #86
  27. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Manny: “Retained by the people” means that through legislation a society can legislate per their values.

    Sorry to quote this a second time, but that just strikes me as getting it backward.

    Rights are inherent to people, who may grant it to government through social contract. It’s presumed to be with the people unless they explicitly decide as a community to empower a government with powers relative to that right and the bar for granting those powers is supposed to be set relatively high.

    Tom I think what Manny is trying to get at here is that the Bill of Rights was originally a list of ten items that forbade Congress from stripping certain rights away from the individual. So prior to the 14th Amend. world we live in today, if a state decided to ban the possession and sale of guns, I presume they could have done so and that is what Manny is trying to say. The beauty of our system is that it afforded the states that kind of respect–to allow the people there in to forge a society that they thought best. Now we have a Federal government that attempts to standardize our society by violating the rules set against it in the original document.

    • #87
  28. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Robert McReynolds:

    Tom I think what Manny is trying to get at here is that the Bill of Rights was originally a list of ten items that forbade Congress from stripping certain rights away from the individual. So prior to the 14th Amend. world we live in today, if a state decided to ban the possession and sale of guns, I presume they could have done so and that is what Manny is trying to say. The beauty of our system is that it afforded the states that kind of respect–to allow the people there in to forge a society that they thought best. Now we have a Federal government that attempts to standardize our society by violating the rules set against it in the original document.

    No, I’m not quite saying that.  The states need to honor the 2nd amendment, and so cannot ban weapons, but outside freedom of the press, religious liberty, follow due process of the law, habeas corpus, and the other Bill of Rights, their legislatures had and still have the ability to limit any other freedom (such as the freedom to marry a child) they desired, subject of course to the electorate.

    • #88
  29. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Manny: Well that’s what I’m saying. Being with the people means they have the right through government legislation to limit freedoms. For instance prohibit sodomy. For instance prohibit same sex marriage.

    I still think this is a very bad way of putting it, which is interesting because (I imagine) we both opposed Obergefell and Lawrence.

    Let’s take the latter for the moment. I don’t think the decision was wrong because Texas had “the right through government legislation to limit freedoms,” but because the Federal constitution was silent on the matter and did not, therefore, have any power to intervene.

    But just because the feds lacked that power does not mean that Texas has it, nor does it necessarily follow that it’d be correct for Texans to grant that power to their state government. State power can and should be limited by the natural rights of the people and those rights can and — I’d say — should be understood to be broader than those listed in the Federal constitution.

    • #89
  30. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Manny: Well that’s what I’m saying. Being with the people means they have the right through government legislation to limit freedoms. For instance prohibit sodomy. For instance prohibit same sex marriage.

    I still think this is a very bad way of putting it, which is interesting because (I imagine) we both opposed Obergefell and Lawrence.

    Let’s take the latter for the moment. I don’t think the decision was wrong because Texas had “the right through government legislation to limit freedoms,” but because the Federal constitution was silent on the matter and did not, therefore, have any power to intervene.

    Well, that’s the same thing Tom.  Perhaps your Libertarianism articulates it your way, and my conservatism articulates it my way.  But in effect they are the same thing.

    But just because the feds lacked that power does not mean that Texas has it, nor does it necessarily follow that it’d be correct for Texans to grant that power to their state government. State power can and should be limited by the natural rights of the people and those rights can and — I’d say — should be understood to be broader than those listed in the Federal constitution.

    If they don’t have the power to limit a non-Bill of Rights freedom, then tell me which freedoms they don’t have the right to limit.  You didn’t answer that above.

    • #90
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