Sunday, April 10, 2005

Taking Liberty

This one is very interesting. I'm starting to see how some of the dots connect between things like the free market, individual liberty, personal responsibility and how the left, where I spent most of my young adult life, seems to have moved away from me, rather than me away from it.
This article is written by William A. Galston, who, according to the by line at the bottom of the page used to work in the Clinton administration.

In declaring, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,” President Bush picked up a rhetorical battle standard of freedom first carried by Woodrow Wilson and later lofted by Cold War liberals and Ronald Reagan.

While the comparison to Wilson is a bit off-putting considering my current reading material (see the post below on "Illusion of Victory"), this is how I felt about Bush's speech. Why did it seem to me like he was speaking language similar to John Kennedy? Maybe because he was. Mr. Galston goes on to write more that seems to connect with some of the other information I've been picking up lately:
The hard truth is that it's not always possible to promote the ends of freedom with the means of freedom. To prosecute the global war on terror and to minimize the chances of an even more devastating strike on our homeland, we will often be forced to compromise with the Putins and Musharrafs of this world.

Like this? No, I do not, but it makes some sense. Treat the cancer then worry about the gall stone (or whatever). Mr. Galston goes on to talk about Bush's "ownership society" and how it's simply an expansion on the personal freedoms that have been the defining thread through American history. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a fawning appraisal of Bush. He critiques him as well. Mr. Galston simply sees that Bush, unlike most liberals and quite a large number of Republicans, gets the concept of personal liberty. Then he writes this:
After all, the idea of freedom is at the heart of our nation's creed. Edmund Burke famously observed that Americans “sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” Even today, the extraordinary value Americans place on individual liberty is what most distinguishes our culture, and the political party seen by voters as the most willing to defend and expand liberty is the one that usually wins elections. Conservatives have learned this lesson; too many liberals have forgotten it. And as long as liberals fool themselves into believing that appeals to income distribution tables can take the place of policies that promote freedom, they will lose.

I've never heard that Burke quote before, but, man, did it make sense. I know I feel that way all the time. Further, why is it that Bush is constantly compared to Hitler (apart from the fact that the left seems to have abandoned anything approaching an imagination)? They too "sniff" tyranny approaching, whether it's true or not. Then, Mr. Galston starts talking about the market, quoting Hayek and Friedman. And he brings up this quote from Friedman, that frankly, rocked me back on my heels a bit:
In his classic Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman acknowledged that every form of social organization—including the market—relies on a framework of generally accepted rules, and that “no set of rules can prevail unless most participants most of the time conform to them without external sanctions.” Not only must participants internalize rules, he continued, they must also develop certain traits of character. These requirements are especially demanding in systems of liberty: Freedom can be preserved, he concluded, “only for people who are willing to practice self-denial, for otherwise freedom degenerates into license and irresponsibility.”

Bingo! Why have I been so appalled by the CEO's behavior in some of the scandals of recent years, agreeing with the left, yet, violently revolted by the "everyone is a victim of something" approach of the left? Because, both violate that bedrock of personal responsibility. Holy cow! The lights are starting to come on.
I can go on talking about this article and quoting from it, but I won't. Read it. Let me know what you think. This one really resonates. If this guy can get Democrats to read it, understand it, and run with it, I might start voting Democratic again.
I'm not holding my breath on that one.

No comments: