Republicans Are the Health of the State

by | Feb 7, 2008 | Stress Blog | 7 comments

Here’s an op-ed I wrote:

Some conservatives might conclude that Governor Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of presidential candidate John McCain only proves that true conservatism has left the Republican Party. McCain has indeed diverged from supposed conservative values in many areas. And so has our governor.

McCain criticized President Bush’s tax cuts. Schwarzenegger has delivered some of the largest bond increases in California history.

McCain has attacked Bush on global warming and even forced the first significant Senate vote on climate change. Schwarzenegger has also confronted the administration on the issue, suing the EPA to allow Sacramento to impose its own, higher standards on carbon emissions.

McCain has mediocre ratings from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. Schwarzenegger has supported the Brady Bill, the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban,” mandatory safety locks, and other such anti-gun measures.

Just as many conservatives questioned Schwarzenegger’s Republican credentials, so they have been quite critical of McCain. Conservative diva Ann Coulter recently proclaimed on Fox News that she would campaign for Hillary Clinton if the GOP gives its nod to McCain–“because she’s more conservative than he is,” Coulter told fellow conservative Sean Hannity.

Meanwhile, McCain has been endorsed by Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, a champion of big government across the board.

Is all this a sign that Republicans do not stand for the principles that they used to?

Not exactly. Republican politicians have always sided with big government, despite their rhetoric. President Bush gave us No Child Left Behind, enormous prescription drug entitlements, immense corporate regulation, and staggering spikes in domestic spending. His father raised taxes and signed the Americans With Disabilities Act. No less a Republican hero than Ronald Reagan raised Social Security taxes, increased tariffs, busted the budget and–in his earlier years as Californian governor–expanded social programs, passed the largest tax increase in state history, and signed landmark gun control legislation. Almost every Republican president in the last century oversaw significant expansions of government size and power.

So why have many conservative intellectuals and commentators tolerated all this social spending, gun control, meddling in education, violations of civil liberties and high taxes and debt? One reason: War.

Ann Coulter says Hillary Clinton, no foe of big government, is better than McCain because she would wage war more aggressively. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger and pro-war Democrat Lieberman hail McCain because of his military credentials and willingness to wage war. For the last six years, fiscal conservatives have held their nose and supported Bush, who has increased the federal budget by about 50 percent, all because of the war on terror and war in Iraq. Back in the 1980s, conservatives didn’t mind that Reagan actually increased spending much faster than President Jimmy Carter, since the money was ostensibly going to “national defense.” And today, most conservatives neglect the one Republican presidential candidate, libertarian Ron Paul, who has actually been talking about cutting taxes, regulations, and spending; eliminating the IRS, and protecting the Second Amendment. They oppose him because he has always condemned the Iraq war and supports bringing the troops home from Iraq and around the world, as well as repealing the PATRIOT Act and restoring the Bill of Rights.

Most conservatives are addicted to nationalist militarism, war, and empire and are willing to abandon their free market, smaller-government principles in favor of continuing and accelerating U.S. intervention abroad. Randolph Bourne trenchantly observed that “war is the health of the state.” No wonder the state keeps getting bigger under hawkish Republicans. When pressed, they prefer big government and war to small government and peace.

The lesson here is that if you want less government, you must first find a movement and a party that does not put a love of war above all other issues. Libertarians, unlike conservatives, recognize that the problems with big government at home also apply to big government abroad and that a free country with a constitutionally limited government is incompatible with perpetual war and global empire.