Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Want Conservatism? Here It Is.

I cannot remember the last time I heard an elected politician speak this clearly, this succinctly, and this forcefully about what it means to view America through conservative eyes.  This editorial from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is outstanding, outstanding stuff, and (in my humble opinion) precisely what we need to hear a LOT of in the run-up to the election next year:

Congressman Paul Ryan recently coined a smart phrase to describe the core concept of economic freedom: "The right to rise."

Think about it. We talk about the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assembly. The right to rise doesn't seem like something we should have to protect.

But we do. We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this. Freedom of speech, for example, means that we put up with a lot of verbal and visual garbage in order to make sure that individuals have the right to say what needs to be said, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. We forgive the sacrifices of free speech because we value its blessings.

But when it comes to economic freedom, we are less forgiving of the cycles of growth and loss, of trial and error, and of failure and success that are part of the realities of the marketplace and life itself.

Increasingly, we have let our elected officials abridge our own economic freedoms through the annual passage of thousands of laws and their associated regulations. We see human tragedy and we demand a regulation to prevent it. We see a criminal fraud and we demand more laws. We see an industry dying and we demand it be saved. Each time, we demand "Do something . . . anything."

As Florida's governor for eight years, I was asked to "do something" almost every day. Many times I resisted through vetoes but many times I succumbed. And I wasn't alone. Mayors, county chairs, governors and presidents never think their laws will harm the free market. But cumulatively, they do, and we have now imperiled the right to rise.

Woe to the elected leader who fails to deliver a multipoint plan for economic success, driven by specific government action. "Trust in the dynamism of the market" is not a phrase in today's political lexicon.

Have we lost faith in the free-market system of entrepreneurial capitalism? Are we no longer willing to place our trust in the creative chaos unleashed by millions of people pursuing their own best economic interests?

The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.

In Washington, D.C., rules are going in the opposite direction. They are exploding in reach and complexity. They are created under a cloud of uncertainty, and years after their passage nobody really knows how they will work.

We either can go down the road we are on, a road where the individual is allowed to succeed only so much before being punished with ruinous taxation, where commerce ignores government action at its own peril, and where the state decides how a massive share of the economy's resources should be spent.

Or we can return to the road we once knew and which has served us well: a road where individuals acting freely and with little restraint are able to pursue fortune and prosperity as they see fit, a road where the government's role is not to shape the marketplace but to help prepare its citizens to prosper from it.

In short, we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.

The only thing wrong about this is that none of the current Republican presidential candidates is saying it.  Is this Jeb floating a trial balloon for a run himself?  If so, he would immediately leap to the front of the pack.  I know, I know, it's another Bush...but the Right base is pretty much yawning so far at the current crop of candidates, and George W. Bush was never quite as universally hated by the masses as the Left seemed to think (they were projecting their own feelings there).  Let's speculate a bit, just for fun.

Romney's tendency to flip-flop is rivaled only by John Kerry, his enactment of Romneycare in Massachusetts will remove the #2 issue (Obamacare repeal) from the table, and he has little record of conservatism, anyway.  Newt Gingrich has shining moments...and then Nancy-Pelosi-couch-moments; he's a brainiac who could run circles around Obama in a debate...but is still enamored with Big Government solutions to everything.  Bachmann's brusqueness puts off a lot of people -- even those who would like to support her -- and her husband's questionable practice would be problematic.  Ron Paul is great on economics but a complete wackjob on everything else.  Huntsman might as well re-register as a Democrat.  None of the others have gotten enough traction to bother with at this point.

Despite what you hear in the media -- we must always keep in mind that the mainstream media is nothing more than the propaganda wing of the Democrat party -- Obama is not liked, is not polling well, and is not a shoe-in for re-election.  In fact, his poll numbers are abysmal, the lowest for a President running for re-election since Jimmy Carter (and look how that worked out).  His policies are demonstrable failures almost without exception, and this nation is most definitely not better off now than when Obama took office.  A recent Gallup poll showed a staggering 64% of Americans believe Big Government is a greater danger to America than Big Business, just one point shy of a record high over half a century of asking the questionThe Obama administration recently admitted that they're not even bothering with white working class voters this time around because they know they won't win them over.  The plan is to generate as much class warfare as possible while hiding behind accusations of racism as a shield.

This is not evidence of a confident and successful White House.

But they know that the Republican base doesn't like any of the current candidates, and the support is split across several of them.  If that continues, Obama wins by default.  It is only if a single candidate emerges that the bulk of the Right can support that Obama will be defeated.  If this candidate happens to be boldly and honestly calling out the problems we face as being created or exacerbated by Obama, by articulating the conservative platform as outlined in the article above, and by talking up America rather than running down his/her opponents...well, I think a landslide wouldn't quite do it justice.

Jeb?  Your move.  It's yours for the taking.

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