Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Culture: The Nanny State

Andrew Sullivan writes in Time Magazine about the descent of the Bush administration into what he describes as "Big Government moralism."

Once upon a time, Republicans believed in leaving it to the private and voluntary sectors to do the important work of building citizenship and values. Remember the "thousand points of light?" These days those lightbulbs need government subsidies. One of the key beliefs of this President is that federal money should be funneled to religious groups that blend proselytizing with important social work. His faith-based initiative largely withered on the vine, but he has done what he can. In last year's State of the Union message, he proposed almost half a billion dollars to pay for mentors for disadvantaged high school students or the children of prisoners. This year he proposed an extensive government program to coach newly released ex-cons into better lives. Ever wonder who these government-backed mentors are? And what exactly they're preaching? Maybe you should, because you're paying for them.
But can it really be said that Republicans have ever consistently stood for limited government? Ayn Rand made the following observations in her essay "Conservatism: An Obituary":

It is generally understood that those who support the "conservatives," expect them to uphold the system which has been camouflaged by the loose term of "the American way of life." The moral treason of the "conservative" leaders lies in the fact that they are hiding behind that camouflage: they do not have the courage to admit that the American way of life was capitalism, that that was the politico-economic system born and established in the United States, the system which, in one brief century, achieved a level of freedom, of progress, of prosperity, of human happiness, unmatched in all the other systems and centuries combined--and that that is the system which they are now allowing to perish by silent default.

If the "conservatives" do not stand for capitalism, they stand for and are nothing; they have no goal, no direction, no political principles, no social ideals, no intellectual values, no leadership to offer anyone.

Yet capitalism is what the "conservatives" dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism. Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. The conflict between capitalism and altruism has been undercutting America from her start and, today, has reached its climax.
That was in 1966. The conservatives since then have hardly changed. As Sullivan observes:
There has always been a tension in conservatism between those who favor more liberty and those who want more morality. But what's indisputable is that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is a move toward the latter--the use of the government to impose and subsidize certain morals over others. He is fusing Big Government liberalism with religious-right moralism. It's the nanny state with more cash. Your cash, that is. And their morals.

The trouble is there are few voices that are willing to address the real problem. Many on the right question Bush's spending, but few, if any will challenge Bush on his religious faith. When a mistaken moral premise remains unchallenged, nothing positive can come from it.

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