Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Freedom's just another word for what we've gone and lost

Back in 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater told his party's convention,

"We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom."

That was then.  In 2008, the Republicans had their Monday themed for "Serving a Cause Greater than Self." Tuesday was "Service," Wednesday was "Reform" and Thursday was "Peace."  But, as Steve Chapman points out in the Chicago Tribune, what was missing here?  It was "only what used to be held up as the central ideal of the party."

The heirs of Goldwater couldn't spare a day for freedom.

Neither, in the Land of the Free, could the Democrats.  While the Republicans preached "Sacrifice," "Service," and "Country First!"  (come on, you saw all those placards, right?) the Donks banged on about "One Nation," "Renewing America's Promise" and "Securing America's Future."

The party proclaimed "an agenda that emphasizes the security of our nation, strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, honest government, and civil rights." Expanding and upholding individual liberty? Not so much.

So what's happened to morning in America?  What's happened to its founding ideals, unique in human history, wonders Chapman?

    What has set this country apart since its inception is not the notion of obligations but the notion of rights.
    "All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself," wrote the novelist and philosopher
Ayn Rand. "The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals."
    That idea got lost somewhere between
Thomas Jefferson and John McCain.

To be fair, it never even made it across the Pacific.  But in the nation that started out committed to honouring human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness, it's a hard fall from there to see its leading presidential candidates see who can outbid whom in extolling self-sacrifice to the collective.

The differences in fundamentals between the candidates is slim that as Burgess Laughlin said so insightfully over at Rule of Reason,

I think of the difference between McCain and Obama as the difference between "NATIONAL socialism" and "national SOCIALISM."



  1. Worth emphasising that Goldwater was well aware 'conservatism' was an enemy of freedom.

    I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate.

    I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."

    -- Barry Goldwater

  2. Err, no Ruth. He only said that he would fight any attempt to dictate their moral convictions in the name of conservatism. Hence the quotes around the word conservatism.

  3. Peter, good post. Regarding Chapman's question as to "what happened?", etc .. I believe it can be encapsulated into one factor: the deliberate redefinition of a "right".

  4. Ruth, I was inspired to look up Goldwater's acceptance speech at the '64 convention. Long time since I read him. Would that a Republican today echo a fraction of what he said.

    When did anyone last hear a Republican talk about self-reliance, self-interest, fearing collectivism, the importance of decentralising power, sanctity for private property, etc?

  5. Sus

    These days they're into group-dependance, subsuming individuals to group-interest, collectivism, the importance of centralising power, sanctity for reliance on government and church and feelings and national myths and wacky beliefs etc.

    In other words, exactly the same as NZ!


  6. When did anyone last hear a Republican talk about self-reliance, self-interest, fearing collectivism, the importance of decentralising power, sanctity for private property, etc? Ron Paul.

  7. I listened to the republican convention for a while, it was so sad I had to turn it of. As if I was hearing the NZ Labour Party. Just incredible.

  8. Touche, Anon! Fair call.

    Although I'm sure I don't have to point out that I was referring to the GOP proper ... more's the pity. ;)

  9. Hi Sus,

    Yes, conservatism has come a long way since then. And not for the better.

    Before "Conservatism" became an option for career enhancement, those of us who considered ourselves "Reagan Republicans" kept close works of two authors: Milton Friedman and P.J. O'Rourke. They really annoyed the Country Club Republicans.

    These days it certainly isn't about solutions. It's about Us vs. Them. It is about liquidating the impure.

    The robust intellectual underpinnings of the Conservative Movement began to die about twenty years ago. That's about the time guys like David Horowitz started horning in. And more recently Dinest D'Souza.


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