Recently, on the pages of “The Weekly Standard”, a conservative weekly magazine, Matthew Continetti made three ridiculous clains.
Firstly, he claimed that “part of the reason” why Tim Burns was defeated in PA’s 12th Congressional district was that he endorsed the Fair Tax, a tax reform proposal that would abolish the entire existing federal tax code and replace it with a simple, uniform, one-rate, low sales tax. This claim is preposterous. The Fair Tax is very popular with the American people (a RR poll indicates that a plurality of Americans approve it if it is implemented as a replacement for the current federal tax code). The real reason why Tim Burns was defeated is that he’s a political novice who was chosen by the PAGOP bosses, not by Republican voters. Had the PAGOP chosen William Russell (the 2008 GOP nominee who, during the GOP’s worst electoral season since 1976, forced John Murtha to desperately fight for his office), Russell would’ve been the district’s Representative now.
Continetti’s second ridiculous claim was that most Americans oppose any proposal to repeal the 17th Amendment (which would mean that Senators would be again be elected by state authorities, as the Founding Fathers wanted). Continetti believes that Americans would prefer the status quo, i.e. a Senate that disregards the opinions of the states it’s supposed to represent and instead continues to centralize the country and impose unfunded obligations on the states. Preposterous.
Continetti’s third, and perhaps stupidest, claim included in the article is that Americans don’t want the welfare state to be abolished. He wrote
“while most Americans disapprove of the Obama Democrats, they do not back a full-scale revolt against the government. They do not support the abolition of the welfare state. They may want to repeal Obama-care, but they do not want to repeal the 20th century.”
This is utter gibberish. Most Americans don’t oppose proposals to abolish the welfare state. Why? For many reasons, not just the fact that a welfare state is absolutely unaffordable (as European welfare states have proven), but also because it demoralizes its citizens and makes them welfare roll bums subservient to the country’s government. Most Americans don’t want such a country.
Continetti further slandered those of us who wish to see the welfare state abolished, and the size and the prerogatives of the government to be significantly reduced, as backward-looking radicals who preach an ideology of pessimism. He wrote:
“The Tea Party’s movements and currents, its successes and setbacks, have revealed the dual nature of conservative populism. There is one tendency that tries, in Wilfred M. McClay’s evocative phrase, “to restore and preserve a less regimented, less status-stratified, less school-sorted, more open-ended America.” But there is also another tendency, one that believes the government is so corrupt, the constitutional system so perverted, that only radical solutions will save America from certain doom.
The first tendency is forward-looking, optimistic, and comfortable in contemporary America. The second tendency looks to the distant past, feels not just pessimistic but apocalyptic, and always sees the powerful conspiring against the powerless. And while it is possible to distinguish between the two tendencies, they nonetheless overlap in many places. They are different parts of the same creature. One part, however, is more attractive to outsiders than the other. In our future-oriented, optimistic American polity, the first tendency has limitless appeal. The second does not.
The Tea Party, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces. One looks to the future. The other looks to the past. One wants to repair deformities in the American political structure and move on. The other is ready to scrap the whole thing and restore a lost Eden.”
This accusation is preposterous. No, most Tea Partiers don’t want to scrap the entire federal government, merely to significantly reduce its size and scope (specifically, down to the limits authorized by the Constitution). Nor are the anti-big-government Tea Partiers backward-looking people who preach a pessimistic ideology. Nor do they claim that they’re trying to “restore a lost Eden”.
The real pessimist is Matthew Continetti. He believes that Americans are utterly unable to govern themselves, provide for themselves, feed themselves, and govern their local villages, cities and states, and need a nanny government in Washington DC. He also believes that Americans yearn for a nanny government and a welfare state and oppose anyone who says they should be abolished.
He, not any Tea Partier, is the real pessimist. He perceives Americans as some inferior nation who, like the French, the British, the Germans and the Greeks are utterly unable to survive without a welfare state.
The Tea Parties, and other conservatives, are the real optimists – the people who believe that Americans, if freed from the shackles of government, can provide for themselves, govern themselves, and manage their families, cities and states wisely. We conservatives, unlike Continetti, know what Americans want, and what they want is the polar opposite of what Continetti claims they desire.
Reagan rejected the kind of pessimistic belief that Continetti professes and claims most other Americans profess. In 1980, a majority of Americans said they agree with Reagan.
Nor are the Tea Partiers the backward-looking folks. The backward-looking ones are people like Continetti, who believe that statism and the welfare state are the right solutions for the future, while a Constitutionally-limited government and a private-economy built by self-reliant Americans are relics of the 18th century. They’re wrong. The welfare state is an invention of the Progressive era, and it was greatly expanded during the New Deal era, during the 1960s, and during the 1970s. It is a model that has been tried many times (and failed each time). It has failed in every country in which it has been tried.
Nowadays, several European governments are curtailing the welfare state (albeit slowly), because they know that they need to do so. A limited government, and the abolition of the welfare state, are future-oriented solutions. The welfare state is a relic of a bygone era.