Though it has yet to reflect in our economic condition, things are, politically, better than they were twelve months ago. For the first time in generations, there is a growing sector of average Americans who believe, both practically and ethically, in the merits of political and economic freedom. The challenge now will be carrying the enthusiasm they have cultivated since 2010 forward, through the brutish struggles in Washington’s backrooms and the uncertainty of Iowa’s ballot boxes, toward the elections of 2012 and, with hope, an era of ever-greater victories for the principles upon which our nation was founded. As always, winning our future means understanding our past. It is with that consideration that we look back on the events of the last year as we say goodbye to 2011.
A year of trouble and turmoil, 2011 has been as much affected by conflicts abroad as it has by the struggle between the changing tides of American ideologies and the onerous traditions of politics past. Scarcely had the year begun when it was upended by a sudden explosion of conflicts in the Middle East, beginning with the public suicide of a young man in protest of the Tunisian government which transpired to an international wave of political uprisings now known as the Arab Spring. That movement would incite conflicts in nations from North Africa to Syria and bring about the fall of such corrupt dictators as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Ghaddafi. Though the movement wages on in the bloodied streets of Syria, where rebels come to blows daily with a brutal and oppressive regime, its ultimate results and effects on American interests are as yet undecided. Much will depend on the current and future political struggles within those now shaken nations, and history could as easily come to see these events as a vacuum from which emerged a newly energized and vindicated rise of Islamic Totalitarianism as it could the pure and heroic struggle for freedom that the Western media so actively portrayed it to be.
One consideration in particular must be made in regard to that circumstance, however: the nature of those revolutions, the violence in Egypt against Coptic Christians, the presence of Al Qaeda factions among the ranks of Libyan rebels, and the recent political victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt portend a dark future for those nations. If popular revolutions can be divided among those most akin to the American Revolution and the French Revolution, that which has transpired in the Middle East this year is definitively the latter. They are not movements based primarily on principles of individual rights. Were they, groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood would have been ousted along with Mubarak. Instead, they are less a push for freedom than they are a push against an oppressor, complicated by the fact that this is a part of the world which has never been exposed to true political freedom or come to accept the philosophical principles which are prerequisite to its realization. Tragically, the American media proved in its coverage of these events its dire inability to make that distinction.
In this publication’s view, the Leftist elements of the media were motivated by a desire to vindicate their long-expressed views on America’s Middle East policy since the beginning of the Iraq war. Doubtless, there are a myriad of arguments against our having gone to war in Iraq — most reputably that which states that Iraq was not the greatest or most immediate threat to American security, that the very costly armed welfare mission into which that conflict devolved was in no way carried out in the best interests of American soldiers or citizens, that our efforts would have been better served elsewhere. However, this is not the logic or sentiment which is most fervently held by these advocates. Since the beginning of that war, there has been a considerable segment of the Left which has argued against it on the grounds that the principle of self-determination grants nations the right to practice any form of oppression and denial of individual rights they please, so long as they hold majority support; that political freedom is a Western product that we happen to have chosen, but that any other nation’s choice of tyranny is equally valid because they chose it. Fast-forwarding to this year’s Arab Spring, these same advocates are some of the movement’s most ardent supporters, on the grounds that it shows that, left to their own devices, the peoples of such nations will eventually throw off their own shackles and choose freedom without Western support or guidance. Were this the case, the nations of the Middle East which have undergone revolutions this year deserve our commendations. However, we remain dubious that this is the case. Those who believe that freedom and prosperity are the predestined results of these revolutions will, we fear, be demonstrably proven wrong by whatever variant of oppressive control emerges in these very fragile regions in the coming years. What future instability or, worse, stability under dangerous conditions will mean for America’s interests in the region remain to be seen, but it is a problem that should be carefully observed to maintain our security and best interests.
Ironically, in their advocacy of these revolutions, the Left has inherited a trademark intellectual error from the Bush administration: the belief that popular elections and a system of democracy are the source and cause of freedom. This is a grievous inversion that leads man to the conclusion that institutions and their organization can effectively supplant the role of ideas in the guidance of his actions. Though popular elections are an integral part of a free political system, they are its product, not its cause. Only a rational political philosophy of individual rights can ever be the cause of true and lasting freedom. Returning to our previous comparison, in the case of America, its revolutionaries had inherited roughly a century of Enlightenment thought in which they were well-versed and whose principles they explicitly understood. That knowledge of the Enlightenment values of reason and individualism led those men to the design of a government meant to acknowledge and secure them. France’s exposure to Enlightenment thought was quite equal to England’s, but its revolution was driven less by intellectuals and more by a mob, inspired less by a circumspect outlook upon what could be than by the violent, angry rejection of what was. In short: less talk of ideas, more guillotines. To which do the current uprisings in the Middle East better compare and what does that suggest about the political future to be expected there? It is significant that those here in America, the nation of the Enlightenment, are today so unaware of the role of philosophy in its beginnings… and its future.
Despite the rather grim prospects of revolutionaries in the Middle East to establish any long-term system of freedom and prosperity, the ideological struggles waged in America this year have proven that its intellectual foundations are alive and well here in the States. What’s more, there are signs that they could be experiencing a popular– and lasting– resurgence. The Tea Party candidates around the country were inaugurated to their congressional seats in January after having run their campaigns on the principles of a free market, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government. Joining them were welcomed conservative state officials throughout the nation in such volumes as had not been seen since before the Great Depression. Their rallying cry: to oppose the unyielding growth of government and its power over the lives of private citizens. Their victories were numerous and significant (if as much for what they prevented as what they created), though it seemed, at times, that every victory had its casualties and every two steps forward saw one step back. Democratic power in the Senate made for unproductive compromises and grand-scale debates that evinced more in theatrics than tangible results.This was never more clearly displayed than in the summer debt and budgetary crises, with the tantalizing threat of government shut-down looming over our heads. Americans bore witness to the paltry efforts of Congress to wean itself from excessive outlays, where merely promising to increase spending at a decreasing rate was portrayed as “budget cuts” and an unwillingness to abolish or defund a single government bureaucracy left the fundamental problems of America’s leviathan state firmly intact. Unsurprisingly, though shut-downs were averted and compromises reached, the political instability over so crucial an issue led to the first downgrade of America’s debt to below AAA. In ensuing months, as compensation, we were offered another grand spectacle in the form of a “Super-Committee” convened to tackle the problem of America’s mounting foreign debt. Tragically, it was stacked with the most diametrically opposite representatives from Left and Right and, predictably, politics yet again trumped the interests of American citizens’ well-being.
To many of those in Congress, these failures are mere professional hiccups. To them, it seems that the appearance of activity is more important than real solutions — as exemplified by their prioritization of expensive programs which are dear to those who donate to and vote for them over the well-being of the country. What they fail to realize is that it is far better to be a former senator in a successful nation than an active senator in one that is collapsing — a lesson that they will be made to learn in time as estimates of the unfunded portions of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security over the coming years currently hold it to be somewhere between $66 trillion and $116 trillion, more than could ever be taxed to cover. As the national debt still lingers above $15 trillion, America’s long-term economic circumstances remain dire and it becomes clear that America must make the choice between state-run, altruistic entitlement programs or its continued existence as an economic power for prosperity — make no mistake, America is such an economic cornerstone that it will likely still set the direction for the world economy; the question is what that direction will be and how far we can stand to go without catastrophe. Coupled with unemployment, the nation’s still-unsolved debt problem leaves Americans unconfident about their economic futures and unwilling to engage in those private initiatives of investment, development, and entrepreneurship which lead to true recovery. It seems that so long as this administration and its allies in Congress wage an unapologetic assault on industry and employers, that recovery will remain elusive.
It is unfortunate that the singular nature of the presidency, by contrast to the faceless mass of Congress, too often lends itself to judgments based more on personality than on policy and effect. It is by virtue of that fact that President Obama, though flagging to a mere 46.8% approval rating, has held some measure of esteem in the public eye despite the last few months having served him with a seemingly endless line of scandals and failures. From a 2008 voter fraud scandal in Indiana bringing doubt upon his eligibility to have been on that state’s ballot (not his doing, but nonetheless politically inconvenient), to the continued investigations of his administration’s handling of Operation Fast & Furious and the resulting calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, to the bankruptcy of subsidized clean energy company Solyndra, that company’s connection to his administration, and the administration’s efforts to prop up a failing enterprise with taxpayer dollars, President Obama has fully departed from his pronounced intention of maintaining a transparent and accountable executive branch. Though one may contend that neither Fast & Furious nor Solyndra has been tied directly to the president himself and both can be explained as merely the errant implementation of what was, on Obama’s end, good policy, the truth remains that effective bureaucracy is accountability and that both scandals are indicative of the administration’s underlying ideologies and loyalties to interest groups at the expense of the American public. In the case of the failed ATF operation, communications have emerged suggesting that the deliberate supply of weapons to criminals across the southern border was engineered for the purpose of promoting gun control legislation by creating the appearance that weapons sold to ATF agents in the US and given to Mexican cartels had, in fact, been bought directly by the cartels from the initial retailers. This would provide evidenciary support for efforts to impose more stringent gun control laws, a long-time agenda of the Left in their prejudice against the second amendment. With Solyndra, the administration has merely displayed yet again its determination to support the environmentalist agenda much to the detriment of tax payers, consumers, and the unemployed who, as hundreds of millions of dollars are doled out to connected “green” start-ups like Solyndra, must sit idly by and be told that, although innovators like those looking to construct the Keystone XL pipeline are ready and willing to hire them, the government wishes to delay the project indefinitely, as it holds the well-being of endangered “wetlands” (read: swamps) to be tantamount to their own.
Despite enraging his union support base, President Obama has been fortunate enough to inherit a new constituency: the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS). Hearkening back to the traditions of the leftist hippie movement of half a century ago, OWS focused on drawing attention to itself through mass protests consisting of sloganeering, drum circles, drug use, and debauchery. But unlike their hippie predecessors, the individuals currently defacing private property in Zuccotti Park and other public parks around the country lack even the pretense of rational values. Even the actions of the hippies, however irrational, were done on the basis of floating abstractions of values such as love, peace, and equality. Though this far from absolves the hippie movement of its own set of philosophic errors, the values of the hippie movement are mentioned here to further illuminate the total lack of values in the OWS movement. It is, at its heart, guided by a philosophy of nihilism — the rejection and destruction of any and all values.At the inauguration of Occupy Wall Street on September 17, the Occupiers declared themselves to be crusaders of the economic “99%” against the falsely perceived evils of the privileged “1%.” Though the Tea Party is frequently criticized for being racist on no other grounds except its demographic makeup, the overwhelmingly white composition of OWS receives no such condemnation. Thus, the double standard inherent within leftist ideologies as it applies to its support of OWS and rejection of the Tea Party is exemplified — the concern was never racial prejudice, but instead the targeted smearing ideological opposition. Looking beyond the superficial racial and male-dominated gender demographics, OWS is primarily a coalition of disaffected, college-educated individuals in their twenties to early thirties. This conforms to prevailing notions about such movements: because young people often lack preexisting obligations (e.g. jobs, family, etc.), they are often far more willing and able to participate in month-long protests than their philosophic and political guides. One can be sure that the academics and politicians fronting the recent “99% Act” in the federal legislature are far more likely to ride the political coattails of OWS (if indeed there are any) than to don that coat themselves and take part in the “festivities.” In fact, many of the original protesters have since been expelled by their respective municipalities or, in some cases, have resorted to relying on the homeless to maintain a constant presence throughout the winter while they return to their heated homes — true concern for the poor? Decidedly not.
Examined in the broader context of actions undertaken by OWS derivatives, it becomes clear that the Occupiers are actually concerned for nothing insofar as their philosophy is not about the attainment of values; it is about the destruction of values. Unlike the altruistsin Washington and on college campuses that would like to own OWS as a sign of the cultural dominance of their own brand of illogic, the Occupiers care little for the economic “99%” which they claim to defend. If it were otherwise, their actions would be less directed toward the forceful destruction of businesses which the 99% necessarily rely on for goods and services, not to mention employment, and more toward the reallocation of the wealth created by those businesses. Though altruism ultimately results in destruction, that is not the goal of altruists. Even Marx hoped to achieved prosperity and increased wealth for everyone in his own misguided fashion, but the nihilists within OWS reject even the simplest of these misunderstood values. Any appeals to altruism as a (false) moral authority to legitimize OWS are merely nominative, not substantive.
OWS is not alone in its nihilist philosophy. Since the beginning of his presidency, President Obama has exhibited support for a great number of nihilistic policies, even if he attempts to justify them on altruistic grounds. There are certainly examples of true altruism within President Obama’s policy decisions, of pure sacrifice by one entity or group of entities to the benefit of another (e.g. by individuals for the “greater good”), but it would be an evasion of the preceding three years of history to argue that his policies are without elements of nihilism. Legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act, augmentations in the nation’s record-breaking deficit, and boasting of decreasing unemployment numbers as laborers leave the workforce are definitionally nihilistic in nature. The President has often proven himself to be an enemy of wealth, not simply a proponent of socialism. While traditional socialists maintain ideals of progress and future greatness in spite of the moral detestability and economic irrationality of their policies, President Obama fails to exhibit even these values. Instead, he treats the wealth of America as a historical accident which deserves neither glorification nor aggrandizement. Despite vocal disapproval from within the OWS movement toward President Obama and some of his decisions, the Occupiers and the current President have far more in common than either are likely willing to confess.
Even in the midst of these attacks upon the productive forces of the economy by the government, there remains a glimmer of philosophic hope, if only through the untimely death of one of the world’s greatest innovators. Following a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs died at the age of 56, bringing about a public outpouring of grief, gratitude, and respect for the now-passed genius from around the globe which he helped to connect. In the relatively short span of his life, Jobs had revolutionized the personal computer industry working as an inventor, a film producer, and a businessman that stood at the helm of the $116B corporation he created – Apple, Inc. As an adopted child and a college dropout, Jobs’s life is the epitome of American success stories and of the “self-made man,” leaving a list of approximately four years of future gadgets to be produced after his death. On all accounts, Jobs deserved every penny of wealth he created in life, and most certainly deserves every ounce of respecte afforded to him in his death.
It is a fortunate fact that Americans appeared more than willing to express that respect, noting the series of makeshift memorials which appeared on sidewalks in front of Apple stores in the days following Jobs’ death. In rejection of nearly every precept taught to them since grade school about the “dangers” and “evils” of big business and the “Robber Barons” of the Second Industrial Revolution, Americans mourned a businessman. Perhaps the value Jobs produced for so many was too large to be ignored, perhaps he served as an exemplary model for what life can and ought to be, or perhaps Americans became suddenly conscious of the devices in their pockets and the fact that they would not exist were it not for him. Whatever the rationale, there exist elements of a system of thought which respects the self-interested man below the superficial ideologies so prevalent in America’s current philosophic climate. Examined in the context of the aforementioned rise of the Tea Party, this occurrence could be yet a further symptom of a positive philosophic revolution in the United States. In that sense, the unfortunate death of Steve Jobs possesses a proverbial “silver lining” — it reminded all Americans of values of creativity, productivity, personal initiative, and above all, man’s mind.It would seem that, despite expressing some genuine and eloquent condolences for Jobs’ death, the administration did not take the occasion to fully share in the valued admiration for business exhibited by many Americans. Instead, it waged a persistent legal war against corporate innovation and ingenuity through the antitrust division of its Justice Department.
The Sherman Antitrust Act, under which this war is waged, has existed since 1890 and the inauspicious presidency of Republican Benjamin Harrison. As dissent began to increase within the intellectual class against America’s largely laissez faire federal government, so too did average Americans begin to succumb to the allure of altruist-progressive policies. At the turn of the Twentieth Century and the assassination of President William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency. He soon earned his nickname the “Trust Buster” through the rapid increase of antitrust lawsuits while he was in office. For the whole of the 21st Century, the Bureau of Antitrust exhibited occasional fits in which several lawsuits were issued over a short period of years while, at other times, more placable administrations were less prone to unleash the force of the Department of Justice upon businessmen.
If one were to place the year 2011 into either of those patterns of activity, it would unfortunately fall into the more vivacious of the two. AT&T, a historically popular target of the Department of Justice, again garnered the suspicion of the federal government in August when the United States sued the telecommunications giant to prevent it from completing a $39 billion with T-Mobile. Though the suit is temporarily withdrawn on the grounds AT&T and T-Mobile must resubmit their merger application to the FCC, one can induce to the point of certainty that the lawsuit will resume at the instant merger proceedings begin again. Less than one month after the initial suit against AT&T, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust accused Google of several instances of potentially “harmful” business practiceswhich the Subcommittee asserted would lead to “higher prices and reduced innovation.” Unlike AT&T, though, the US government is not Google’s only enemy. As it wards off attacks from within the Senate, it must simultaneously defend itself from the threat of litigation from overseas. The European Union’s equivalent of the Bureau of Antitrust has also placed Google in the center of its sights and is poised to initiate a lawsuit of its own — a very real threat, noting the recent $1.2 million fine placed on Apple by the Italian government. Meanwhile, Apple faces further investigations by the European Commission into its e-book policies, and an actual lawsuit was filed through a Seattle law firm relating the same issue. Not to be outdone, the US government released that it is also taking part in investigations against electronic booksellers — undoubtedly Amazon will be sharing the defendant’s stand with Apple in the foreseeable future.
The philosophy of antitrust is, at its core, a demonization of businessmen and a glorification of Progressive Era economic theory. Despite its outward claims regarding the “best interests” and “protection” of consumers, this policy has done more to injure the standard of living of average Americans than any private businessman ever could. An abrogation of rights by its very nature, antitrust legislation is as much a practical failure as it is a moral failure. At any point in which man ignores the requirements of his existence as outlined by the laws of reality, it produces harm to himself and to others. Liberty is the only state proper for man’s existence, and liberty ought to be protected by the government.
Sadly, antitrust legislation is merely one of numerous examples in which the government rejects this principle. One of the most controversial of these policies in recent history is the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Before the ink in President Obama’s signature from several different pens was dry, numerous lawsuits were filed around the nation in hopes of nullifying the new health care overhaul and its corollary bill known as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (a political maneuver which allowed Democrats to pass the first bill without amendment in the House so as to avoid a filibuster in the Senate). While a number of these suits were dismissed, many were allowed to proceed. These include Virginia v. Sibelius, Liberty University v. Geithner, Thomas Moore Law Center v. Barack Obama, and Florida et al. v. US Department of Health and Human Services. Thus far, these suits have been met with mixed results from the jurisprudes overseeing the litigation, but one suit stands alone in its level of success in reversing the legislation in question: Florida et al. v. HHS.
Though it took nearly a year to receive even a ruling from a district court, Judge Roger Vinson released his opinion on January 31. In rejection of the defense offered by the federal government, Judge Vinson firmly stated, “The individual mandate is outside Congress’ Commerce Clause power, and it cannot be otherwise authorized by an assertion of power under the Necessary and Proper Clause. It is not Constitutional.” Furthermore, Judge Vinson ruled that because the law possessed no severance clause, and because the entire purpose and function of the bill hinged upon the individual mandate, the entire law was unconstitutional. To date, that is the strongest ruling in opposition to the new health care law, and it is one of the few examples in many years in which the Commerce Clause is limited rather than expanded. Undoubtedly, this ruling was welcome news to liberty activists around the country, particularly those who saw the previous 2010 congressional elections as a referendum on President Obama’s and the Democratic Congress’s policies.The district court was only the first of many steps. Following an appeal, the case appeared before the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, GA. This time, the twenty-six of fifty US states currently involved in this case were not as fortunate. The three-judge panel issued a divided ruling — Chief Judge Dubina and Circuit Judge Hull ruled against the individual mandate while Circuit Judge Marcus verbally lambasted his colleagues in his dissenting opinion. Judge Marcus asserted that the Commerce Clause had expanded well outside of its original context over the last 200 years (a little-disputed fact, but not a moral or legal justification) and that it is judicially archaic to disallow another expansion as enacted by the representatives of the people. The other two, however, recognized the danger in the individual mandate, declaring that if this was not unconstitutional, then there was very little which the federal government could not regulate under the Commerce Clause. Even so, they stopped short of overturning the entire law — despite the lack of a severance clause, Chief Judge Dubina ruled that the individual mandate could be removed without harming the integrity of the act itself (something contrary to the sentiments of supporters at the time of its passing). Three months after the August ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to the case — oral arguments for the case will be heard in March of 2012. If the justices on the Court vote in accordance with their ideologies, it appears that the deciding vote of the case will fall, as it often does, on Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Though recollections of domestic political events are undeniably important in any attempt to fully examine 2011, it would be impossible to fully consider the events of the year without addressing one of its most significant, if melancholy, occurrences: the conclusion of conflicts in Iraq. The relative scarcity of commentary on that war’s end is a stark contrast to the heated debates that characterized its duration. Though the media has thoroughly addressed the fact that it has ended and the events surrounding that ending, there do not seem to be the litany of editorials and public discussions that one would expect surrounding the end of such a controversial war. It has even been distinctly underplayed in the Republican presidential debates and the media’s questions toward candidates. That comparative silence speaks volumes. It is the sign of a nation painfully unsure of the nature of the action it has taken, the purpose of that action, the action’s result, and any future effects which might be visited upon us by having performed it. Only a very superficial analysis of the condition in which the United States has left Iraq could maintain that the democratic (see discussion of Egypt above) system of elections which we have imposed there can be depended upon to provide lasting freedom to its citizens or anything resembling individual rights.
Today, factions which were, only a few years ago, violent fundamentalist fringe groups without any significant power have now become violent fundamentalist political parties with all of the legitimacy that comes with that status. Bush’s refusal to deny political participation to representatives of Hezbollah and company set the tone for Obama’s military indecisiveness and placation of those who seek America’s demise. Neither administration has shown a clear and accurate concept of the enemy and, what’s more, neither major party has shown the intellectual focus to demand, for the sake of our citizens and soldiers, that a direct path toward victory be described for us. Liberals’ pre-2008 Iraq War commentary showed itself to be mere ad hominem partisanship when they failed to hold any standards toward Obama as a wartime president and conservatives allowed their defense of the war’s moral justifications to be confused with a defense of the war in the way and for the purpose that it was being fought. Let it be said: the Iraqi government under Hussein was a tyranny and an enemy to America that had no right to exist and deserved whatever befell it. However, that does not mean, in the context of the “War on Terror”, that Iraq was the most rational second act to Afghanistan — especially when one considers the now-legally-determined culpability of terrorist-backer Iran in the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein’s history of having held at bay Islamic fundamentalist groups that could have challenged his power in Iraq. Iraq was merely the next in a line of guilty-by-association Middle Eastern nations, dating back to Libya in the mid-1980s, whose conflict with the United States resulted from the U.S.’s apprehension to deal with the privately-acknowledged ultimate culprit: Iran. However, as the list of nations which the U.S. has battled in lieu of Iran grows long and the government in Tehran grows bolder by the day, that conflict may not be one that the U.S. can stand to avoid anymore.
As the Iraq War has drawn to a close, those who have recognized the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as alive and more vibrant than ever and who have, in turn, looked with much justification toward Iran as the true arch-villain of that movement have been characterized as “hawks”, warmongers, and profiteers either beholden to their own private interests or to Neoconservative ideals of war as a nation’s lifeblood. However, as Ayn Rand once noted, it is often the “hawks” who can be heard meekly cooing and the “doves”, in turn, whose violent shrieks reveal the underlying nature of their advocacies. As the situation develops, the burden of proof rests more upon the doves by the day, as Iran’s 32-year history of aggression toward the United States has been recently punctuated by a series of threats and military maneuvers designed to entice the U.S. into conflict. From planning the bombing of an American restaurant to assassinate a Saudi emissary to proposing a naval foray into the Gulf of Mexico to conducting rather flagrant military exercises and making (then withdrawing) threats of blocking off oil shipments to the West through the Strait of Hormuz, the Islamic Republic of Iran is clearly attempting to entice the United States and demonstrate (rather pettily) some measure of military strength. This publication has written extensively on the subject as of late, so we will refer you to our previous commentary, but suffice it to say that, left to its own devices, the Iranian regime seems destined to only get worse in its pattern of aggression. To evade the nature of a foreign government that, to this day, maintains memorials in honor of the “martyrs” who killed American citizens and U.S. Marines and to suggest (as one presidential candidate has) that they have a right to pursue the development of nuclear weapons is tantamount to self-immolation. Iran is a problem that requires decisive leadership and a foreign policy of self-defense and rational self-interest. Whether America is to have such leadership is to be answered in the elections of the coming year.
At home, domestic politics have been characterized by the restless wills of small government advocates, led by the Tea Party, continuously coming to blows both with the dogmatic statism of the Left, whose love of spending has proven unyielding when faced with the harsh realities of a nation in financial crisis, and the old guard of Republicanism which, having benefited immensely from the grassroots victories of the Tea Party, now shows signs of turning against it in a time of need. The divisiveness emerging on the Right has been fully engendered by a field of Republican presidential candidates who have lately proven as heated and contentious as they once were indistinguishable from one another. Through their conflicts, they have rather perfectly come to signify the ways in which a convergence of traditionally conservative, libertarian, and free market ideas over the last three years has resulted in a tempestuous ideological climate that has reinforced as many differences as it has resolved. This is not to suggest, as some have, that the adamant small government advocacy of these groups is apt to backfire and result in a swing in the opposite direction, merely that the next several years will be a formative period for the Right in which it will either reconcile the philosophical differences within its ranks or be stifled by them.
The fractures within the Republican ranks are displayed almost perfectly by the field of candidates that have competed in the primaries. From Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Americans have witnessed the spectacle of ‘90s big government Republicanism trying to cope with a political climate that now repudiates much of that era’s me-too-ism, when the greatest difference between a Republican social welfare plan and a Democratic social welfare plan was the list of sponsors who signed it. Romney’s attempts to differentiate between the health care law he signed into act as governor of Massachusetts and the Obamacare legislation he vows to repeal have fallen flat, though he has remained consistently high in the polls — if primarily for the fact that Republicans see him as able to beat Obama. Gingrich has taken a strong leadership position late in the primary, though that position has been thoroughly shaken by a barrage of scrutiny and attacks from fellow candidates and the media — some deserved, others not. Gingrich, in his platform of crusading against the judiciary, has taken the unlikely tactic of developing an issue which had only been peripheral at best and proclaiming himself its champion. However, his proclamations that he would go so far as to arrest judges he deemed to have gone rogue or acted against the will of the American people has been found distasteful by many voters.
At the other end of the spectrum, libertarians Ron Paul and Gary Johnson have shown Americans a more rational perspective on economic issues while exemplifying the faults and intellectual inconsistencies of modern libertarianism along the way — Johnson in his expression of support for Occupy Wall Street, Paul in his ignorance to valid foreign policy concerns. Paul’s views in particular are worthy of note by virtue of their commonality among libertarians at present. His insistence that Iran is not an enemy of the United States (despite its own pronouncements), his defense of their attainment of nuclear weapons, and his general perception that all conflicts arising between the West and Middle East are the result of Western aggression and not the explicitly proclaimed Islamic Totalitarian ideology of the regime in Tehran show an active process of intellectual evasion and philosophical subjectivism that portends a fundamental weakness in American foreign policy in the event of his presidency.
Between those two poles of Republicanism are to be found varying mixtures of those two camps. Rick Perry‘s strong start is but a memory now as his debate stumbles and misjudgments of Americans’ sentiments on social issues have undercut his chances, but not before he was able to make some firm and convicted oppositions to corporate taxation and draw further attention to the importance of border control to our national security. Businessman Herman Cain’s candidacy, though too brief, brought significant issues and discussions into the presidential debates that have continued to serve Americans even in his absence. Wall Street seems to have little to fear from candidate John Huntsman, who claimed that as president he would “right-size” the nations six largest financial institutions, as the former governor’s poll numbers remain quite low. Still, there are valid candidates who, though imperfect, have maintained formidable and principled platforms throughout the campaign. Rick Santorum, despite occasional philosophical errors such as stating that the family, and not the individual, should be viewed as the fundamental basis of our society, and the political missteps of supporting an expanded TSA and the continuance of No Child Left Behind, has shown consistency, knowledge, and a rational perspective on foreign policy issues. If not as president, his presence in that capacity would be a value to any future Republican administration.
Michele Bachmann provides an interesting case of a candidate who has seemingly said all the right things in keeping with the general sentiments of the Republican base today, has never had a gaffe or tempestuous moment in any debate, has never been refuted in debate on any major policy issue, and has a resume as formidable as most any other on stage, yet who has been consistently underplayed and marginalized in the media. When faced with such a lack of clear causality, though one prefers not to resort to such accusations, it must be considered whether the Republican base remains, to this day, averse to nominating a female presidential candidate. Granted: her early comments on social issues, particularly on gay marriage, are objectionable. However, that would likely only serve as a limiting factor in a general election. Within the limited scope of a Republican primary with a voting base still rife with social conservatives, it fails to explain her fall in the polls since starting out strong in the summer’s Iowa straw poll. Whatever their objections to her, she deserves the credit of having been the only candidate, when asked by a questioner how much of citizens’ incomes does the federal government deserve, to respond decisively that the government does not deserve their incomes and that it should only draw from them insomuch as is required to maintain its proper purposes. Such a statement is, tragically, an anomaly even in today’s shift toward a more conscientious advocacy of political/economic freedom.
It would be dangerously irresponsible to laud praise upon the Tea Party today without some qualification and criticism. The fact remains that while it has been strong and effective in standing against the growth of government, its focus is at times too narrow, its faith in the power of elections to solve our nation’s problems too limited. The needs of our nation go beyond politics, to its root and causes. If we are to change our course as a nation, we must first change our way of thinking about it: our conceptions of government and its proper purpose, its role in the international community, its responsibility to its citizens, and the moral foundation that guides all of these considerations. We, as a nation, need a new code of ethics. Just as surely as it is philosophy that guides those who would lead us astray through their altruism and nihilism, so it must be philosophy which guides us to prosperity through reason, the recognition and maintenance of human values, and a passionate adherence to the belief in the primacy of the individual. The Tea Party must learn to apply this in all things as it does in budget crises and debates over health care. It must oppose the encroachment of statism on the grounds that an individual man holds absolute sovereignty over his own life and the products thereof, that no collective is greater than the sum of its parts, and that he is not to be disposed of per the will of any majority which might gain from his efforts, his mind, his life. It must take an interest in education, in the content of ideas that are being promulgated in the universities. It is those ideas which will set the tone for the next generation, affecting whether, like so many before them, they come to view the government as a benevolent provider of anything man pleases at the expense of his neighbor or, as Washington so aptly put it, as “a dangerous servant and a fearful master” to be vigilantly monitored in one’s own self-defense. To fully defend the actions and policies of our Founding Fathers, they must turn to the intellectual causes and moral principles upon which those men based the government they created. And yes, as can be expected by those familiar with this publication’s frequent citations, they must look to the philosophy of Ayn Rand for a comprehensive understanding of the significance of the Founders’ actions that even they only partially understood.
Whatever the result of the coming months and how the Republican presidential field is to be narrowed, it should speak volumes as to the ideological consistency and commitment of the Right. Whether they falter and sacrifice their principles to vote for Romney on the grounds that he is supposedly the most electable (though that is to be contested; really, can you see anyone so excited about him as to go out posting signs and spreading pamphlets for President Romney?), take a somewhat safer, if imperfect route with Gingrich, or commit to an alternative among the others available will be highly indicative of how much Americans have learned from the past three years. No matter the outcome, the struggle for individual rights will continue. It is important to realize the permanence of this fight — the fact that no election, no tax break, no court decision, nor repeal of unpalatable legislation will be a nail in the coffin to American statism. As Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it”, so, we say, they must recognize that liberty is not a prize to be won and held indefinitely — a comparison of America’s beginnings to the present will prove that. Rather, it is a status to be maintained by the permanent devotion of good men who admire its virtues and dedicate themselves to preserving those principles that make it possible. It is a rare occasion that he should be quoted in this publication, but in describing that goal and in the spirit of the New Year, we will wish you well and conclude with the words of President John F. Kennedy who said,“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”