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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Destroying Both

March 6, 2009

Around the world America is known as the place where anyone can be successful. The French Cowboy can tell you that in Europe even children learn the respective native equivalent of the expression ‘from rags to riches’ to be more than a general term about a poor person coming to great fortune, but a description of what you can achieve in the USA. This is not because adults teach the younger generations so expressly, but because the story of the Land of Opportunities is a story of hope to anyone who is in dire straits. It says that no matter how bad your situation may look, if you don’t resign, if you work hard, wealth and prosperity are there for you to claim and only the sky is the limit. It is the kind of story that human nature loves to hear. And so it gets told one way or another, there is no way to stifle it.

Of course, other things about America are said in a more expressive way. As Europeans we learn that poverty is rampant in the USA, and so are crime and corruption. We hear that Americans have no health insurance. We hear that they are all overweight because of their love for hamburgers and doughnuts. We also hear that Americans are stupid because their schools are bad and that only millionaires can go to the big-name universities which in return are so tough that no mere mortal can seriously consider to ever go there. And about that rags-to-riches fairy tale: believing it is like betting your life on a lottery ticket. In short, this is the image of America as Democrats tend to see it.

The “war on poverty” is the only war Democrats want to wage – albeit it is most likely also the only war that cannot be won. Crime has to be stopped through out-lawing handguns – in the hope that criminals will abide by this law and not shoot weaponless-by-law citizens. Corruption is to be found mostly among Republican politicians and evil companies like Big Oil and Halliburton – anyone who believes that Democrats are corrupt just as well must be a CO2-emitting racist. Americans need to be forced to pay for government-provided health insurance – copying a prohibitively expensive system that doesn’t deliver good results from Europe somehow seems to be worth giving up a piece of freedom of contracting. To save Americans from overweight, certain eating habits have to be outlawed – especially the cost-saving ones. Democrats’ answer to failing schools is to continue pampering the teachers unions – in their view, competition is too immoral to be allowed to take place in education. Ivy League universities have to admit more undeserving students – because there is a possibility that they have not been treated fairly in the past – and there should be a taxpayer guarantee for every American to be able pay for college. Finally, the free market is like a game of roulette with winners and losers picked at (racist) random and therefore government should step in and punish greedy fat cats to make it clear to everyone that no one has a right to be rich without the consent an assorted group of citizens of the world.

“But what do the Republicans have to say about all this?”, you ask, “Is their only defence of obvious grievances denial?” This, mon ami, is what many believe and it is not because Republicans are content with deplorable conditions but because they don’t think that government activity is always the right cure. Republicans believe in three things: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those, as you may notice, needs the help of government beyond a minimal state. But Republicans are also conservatives, that means that they believe that these three things are connected with the founding father’s values and that those should not be discarded. Therefore, they actively resist threats against those values.

Because Republicans believe that people flourish best when free to make their own decisions, they call for state intervention only in the areas in which collective coordination is more efficient than aggregated individual choices. (Remember that for Republicans the term ‘efficient’ here includes social values.) Since generations have busied themselves to find such areas and to amend them there are few of this kind left. This makes Republicans’ message so much harder to deliver than the Democrats’. Democrats tell voters that if they get elected they will do things (redistribute wealth, set up administrations, outlaw newly identified evils…). Republicans tell voters that they want to get elected in order to stay more or less passive (reduce taxes and let the market do the rest, attempt to reduce entitlements of politically well connected groups without getting ousted from power, prevent the trampling of the founding fathers’ values…). (Libertarians have it even harder: they would have to get elected on the basis of their wish to dismantel by large proportions government as it is now, in other words, end programmes that serve people whose very votes are needed to win elections.)

To the short-sighted observer the Democrats’ message is more appealing. They are like the parent who always allows you the ice-cream cone if you just whine loud enough, while the Republicans are the parent who says that if you want the ice-cream cone you have to pay for it with the money you earned mowing neighbour’s lawn. The Democrats think a government should treat its people like children who are unable to learn, the Republicans think government should treat its people like grown-ups and that values like accepting the consequences of ones own decisions can be, but mustn’t be, unlearned. Being treated like a child has its perks (free ice cream). But the downsides are obvious, too: loss of liberty and the inconvenient truth that there is no such thing as a free lunch. To fight both notions, Democrats do their best to justify the loss of liberty and to hide the real costs of their plans, let alone the impossibility of achieving them in some cases. Par exemple, in the Democrats’ narrative, green energy is a moral imperative (‘the greatest challenge ever faced by humanity’ etc) and the enormous economic costs (which always mean that there are social costs, too) are never pointed out, nor the serious reasons to doubt a possibility greater zero to successfully prevent the planetary disaster Al Gore wants us to believe in.

This example also serves to demonstrate the advantage Republicans have over Democrats in terms of a political message. Americans can be persuaded by the idea of patriotism and the greater good. If economic freedom was all that Repulicans were about they would have a difficult time (indeed they currently have because they neglected the other parts of their philosophy). Americans know that they are the greatest nation on earth not only because they have the most successful economic system but also because they stand for freedom from tyranny, for charity and for sacrifice for others. To prove this, all you have to do is cite the two world wars. If you need further proof, ask whether there is a single nation on this planet that has been occupied by Americans for occupation’s sake. How many nations can you name that bled for the freedom of other peoples? There are Europeans alive today who remember plaid winter jackets, the kind everyone immediatly recognised as US made, canned food (you didn’t get that here) and Floridian oranges sent by American families whom they have never seen.

The Republicans’ message contains both: individual freedom and a willingness to sacrifice for others. This is a message that is successful with Americans. The Democrats know this and try to beat it. So they demonise free markets and competition in general, and instead of fighting for liberty and peace, they want you to fight the development of societies in the name of threats that are neither proven to exist nor proven to be defeatable. This holds true for perceived injustices within society as well as for global warming. To pick up the metaphor again, Democrats have an increasing tendency to be the parent who doesn’t allow you the ice-cream cone paid with your own money because it is bad for your health/the environment/neighbour’s boy doesn’t have one. The Democrat Party has realised that, if they want to beat the Republicans, they need a message of selflessness, too. So they invented their own causes. And to undermine the Republicans’ moral message they call them names that Democrats know will hurt them most, precisely because it is the contrary of what Republicans stand for.

Thus, the party that abolished slavery is now assailed with accusations of racism on a routine basis. Professor Dawn Johnsen, the new administration’s DOJ nominee, argued that restricting abortion is tantamount to forcing women “to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.” In other words – and pardonnez-moi for having quoted the product of such a sick mind – Republicans, who want to protect life, want women to be slaves. Liberal ‘scientists’ are now spreading the word that humans are the root of all environmental evil and therefore serilisation is what ‘responsible adults’ have to undergo. Hence, if you insist on the ‘life’ in the Declaration of Independence you are irresponsible. And only a few days ago, the host of a nationally televised talk show said that a gathering of Republicans looked “literally […] like Nazi Germany.” (May I call to rememberance that ‘Nazi’ is short for National Socialists?)

In all these cases liberals put name tags on Republicans that say exactly the opposite of what their party actually stands for. Their message of life is called slavery or irresponsibilty. Their message of liberty is called heartless and unfair. Their message of the pursuit of happiness is called egotism. Their moral values are called racist, misogynist, homophobic, war-mongering, you name it. Republicans allowed this to happen. If they want to get back into the game they have to stop excusing themselves as if the accusations hurled at them had any ground to stand on. More importantly, though, they have to revive their moral message. “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”, said de Tocqueville. America will cease to be great if Republicans continue to allow Democrats to define ‘good’ by ‘not Republican’, says the French Cowboy. Democrats have become the anti-Republican party more than they are aware of. In their zeal to offer an alternative they have lost the focus on what are actually good policies.

The Republicans have to dust off their core message about life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and moral values which include both individual responsibility and the willingness to sacrifice for a genuine greater good. If the Republicans don’t succeed in fighting off Democrats’ false narrative about what they stand for, Democrats will shape the Land of Opportunities, ‘the shining city upon a hill’ into a second France – and you don’t even have ze good cheese!

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