Monday, August 18, 2003

Rights and Reason: Recall Republicans Must Stand for Individual Rights

Scott Holleran hits it on the mark at Capitalism Magazine:

Not long ago, the GOP offered an alternative to Big Government: individual rights, which were once implicit as the Republican Party's premise. The Republican philosophy was represented by the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who opposed Medicare, favored a woman's right to an abortion, and promoted a strong defense. With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, religion replaced individual rights as the guiding Republican philosophy.

To the extent Americans have resisted theocratic notions of government, the GOP's religious right domination is mixed with pragmatism, resulting in a Republican Party whose goal is a smaller welfare state under God. The arch proponent of this blend is the GOP's standard-bearer, faith-based President Bush, who is pushing the largest expansion of Medicare since it was enacted in 1965.

Contrary to Jefferson's contention that the best government is that which governs the least, today's Republicans increase public school subsidies. While Goldwater opposed Medicare, today's Republicans expand it. Individual rights -- the right to own property, to make money and to be left alone -- have no meaningful place in the Republican Party.

Goldwater's defiant cry that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, has been abandoned. Before the party that cheered Goldwater at the 1964 San Francisco convention recalls California's governor, the GOP must restore individual rights as their essential philosophical principle. Then, Republicans will win elections -- or, in losing, they will at least have been right.

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