Conservatism has always favored markets over the state, the individual over the collective, and charity over coercion. Conservative politicians often bastardize this philosophy, reaching compromises and conceding to intellectual adversaries. But some of the greatest periods of growth occur when these are the guiding principles of administrations and governments. While it is easy to poke fun at elected officials for selling out to the left, right-leaning icons are not immune from abandoning these values.
…new type of statist right “has no deep appreciation of free markets or liberty…
William F. Buckley, a folk hero among conservatives, made a career out of lamenting the state. However, in 1990, the host of Firing Line wrote an entire book, Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country, that expressed his wish for compulsory national service to strengthen the population’s appreciation for the country. Economist Friedrich Hayek, another conservative champion, supported a state-run health care system in a prosperous society. Former President Ronald Reagan continually posted budget deficits.
Today, author Ann Coulter and television host Tucker Carlson are some of the leaders behind 21st-century conservatism. Coulter has endorsed the idea of limited government, while Carlson has been one of the best on television railing against political correctness and foreign interventionism. But there are times when they forgo certain principles to achieve a specific aim.
Coulter and Carlson
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently sat down with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes to showcase her support for a 70% marginal tax rate. She suggested that revenues would be used to fund her ambitious spending initiatives, like a jobs guarantee, a Green New Deal, and public health care. As expected, this didn’t fly with most on the right, except Coulter.
She tweeted soon after the interview was aired:
“Ocasio-Cortez wants a 70-80% income tax on the rich. I agree! Start with the Koch Bros. — and also make it WEALTH tax.”
It was an odd tweet because the Koch brothers have financially backed a diverse array of conservative causes for years, like Right to Try and criminal justice reform. If her tweet was not sarcastic, then it is possible that she targeted the brothers because of their support for pro-immigration campaigns.
Meanwhile, Carlson has embarked on a one-man crusade against the free market, somehow averring that market capitalism is acting against Middle America and working-class households. In one of his Fox News monologues, Carlson decried “cheaper iPhones”:
“How do we want our grandchildren to live? The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far.
“The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children.”
We aren’t happy because of cheaper consumer goods? The iPhone and overall smartphone technology are among the greatest innovations in modern history. The Apple product is multiple technologies and services in one: a phone, computer, stereo, calculator, library, word processor, television, and so much more. You get all of this for a few bucks a month, or you can buy it outright for a few hundred dollars. That’s quite the deal. It also has created new opportunities in the marketplace to enable your independence, dignity, and self-control; only you can create purpose, not a gadget.
Carson’s remarks are not surprising, though, after he revealed last year that he would ban driverless trucks because it would leave men with only a high school education unemployed. That’s another can of worms altogether.
The Rise of the Neoright
A new term will soon dominate the political lexicon: the neoright.
Robert Wenzel, the publisher of Economic Policy Journal and the author of Private Property Society, penned a piece titled “The Dangerous Emergence of the Neoright in the Era of Trump.” He purports that this emerging new type of statist right “has no deep appreciation of free markets or liberty and is focused on the domestic front.”
He explained that the positions taken by the likes of Coulter and Carlson would not have been acceptable in the Reagan years, and the neoright’s expansion “will cut off even more youth from learning about free markets and liberty.”
In a separate post, he sounded the alarm about “interventionist advocacy,” traditionally found in progressive circles, infiltrating the right. This, Wenzel says, is about demanding interventions to combat the left’s intrusions.
And that is how the interventionists win.
A Conservative Makeover?
The state of U.S. politics is an interesting one.
What was accepted years ago is now taboo – and vice versa. Free trade is described as a fetish, market capitalism has come under fire, and sending operations overseas is a sin. But there is at least one positive development in the conservative movement: More people agree with libertarians about no longer invading foreign lands and overthrowing governments. If only conservatives would accept humans selling their organs at a profit, then it would be an unstoppable force, an immovable object, and a perpetual electoral winning machine!
It is understandable that politicians and the punditry class continually need to find something wrong with America. It is the only way to garner ratings. If a newscast or a TV opinion show began its program with “nothing of importance is really going on; we’re still the wealthiest country on the planet,” then people would shut off the television and read an Agatha Christie mystery instead.
It’s as Buckley said, “Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.”
One man became a billionaire because he created a product that satisfied millions of people all over the world, and that item allows us to listen to every Beethoven sonata for free. Yep, life ain’t half bad. Conservatives need to shout this to the heavens, not routinely lambaste the system that has lifted more people out of poverty than any other in human history.