Advice from the "Moderate" Republican Left
Young Conservatives Debate, And Fret, About The Future - Marc Ambinder

Introduction is a place to discuss the future of the Republican party, conservatism, libertarianism (a.k.a. classical liberalism), traditionalism, and the other important values that the party has furthered in the past, such as competent, effective government.

As a culturally traditional, pragmatic libertarian, I want a government that does less but does it well. "Energetic" government, as Hamilton used to say. I think that the major legitimate purpose of government is collective self-defense: against foreign attackers, violent criminals, and even infectious diseases and natural disasters. (And in law school, in first-year torts and second-year criminal law, you learn that there are already well-developed common-law standards for how and when it's OK to act in "substituted self-defense", i.e., defending someone else. You can only do things the person you're defending would be allowed to do in the situation.)  

Another vital purpose, but not the fundamental justification, of government is to maintain the legal system, to maintain the common law and amend it by statute or case law as circumstances change, so that people interacting with one another will have a stable, comprehensible understanding of their rights and duties; to provide for the enforcement of contracts and remedies for the injuries people sometimes inflict on each other. But there are other roles that government has assumed, and some of them cannot be abandoned overnight without civil society setting up something to take their place.

The response to Hurricane Katrina, the failure to plan for what we used to think was the aftermath of the Iraq war, and other missteps, made me wonder whether the Bush Administration or indeed any Republican administration could govern effectively and lead the country. Maybe the Clinton administration had been even more incompetent, but at least they knew how to look like they cared about what was most important to the American people, and they had the media to help them give that impression.

All this makes me wonder whether people like me should try to make the Libertarians or some other middle-way party (like Israel’s Kadima party or the Modern Whig Party) viable, go back to trying to be a centrist Democrat, or stay Republican, and if so, what kind of fundamental changes to seek in that party.

I understand the practical challenges and dismal history of attempts to launch a third party or replace the second party in a two-party system.  Replacing the Federalists with the National Republicans and Whigs involved an eight-year “Era of Good Feeling”, an uncontested presidential election in 1820, one between four factions of Democrats in 1824, and the Democrats winning the popular vote every time from 1800 to 1836. Replacing the Whigs with the Republicans only happened because both major parties fractured over the slavery question, and the Democrats lost because they fractured more evenly than the former Whigs.

I hope this blog will include many and diverse voices. I look forward to seeing your comments.

- John Crouch (November, 2008)


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