The New Right

John Lewis, Capitalism Magazine, Feb. 4

The evidence of the past two decades is unimpeachable: the political right in America no longer stands for individual rights, limited government and capitalism. The “rightists” now advocate expanding the welfare state, increasing government intrusion into our intimate private affairs, and sacrificing American lives to foreign paupers. They call it “advancing the cause of freedom.”

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When the socialist assault began, the right became the opposition, facing a tide of motivated leftists who claimed that science and history were on their side. But what arguments, and what moral principles, did those on the right have for their own programs? Only vague statements of American ideals and virtues, held as floating ideas rather than with secure understanding. Consequently, “normalcy” in the 1920’s was accompanied by huge increases in foreign aid, and ever larger infringements on domestic, especially economic, affairs.

They called on “Rugged Individualism” as an ideal—but could not say why this was morally right. They said “the business of America is business,” but had no answer when told this was rule by robber barons. They proclaimed that “what is good for GM is good for America,” but could not defend GM’s profits. They spoke up for “capitalism” but wilted when told that it did not make everyone equal. They often maintained that America should pursue its own interests, but could not say why those interests did not include American soldiers dying for foreigners overseas.

Implicitly, they admitted that individualism unredeemed by sacrificial handouts is selfish, and everyone knew that there was no moral goodness in that.

So the right grew shameful of its own principles. In order to be moral they said “me too” to the demands of the left, bickering over methods and degrees. The welfare state grew exponentially under both parties, since the right could not oppose it on principle, and often tried to pre-empt the proposals of the left. All the momentum was on the side of increasing redistribution and foreign sacrifices. Opposition was fleeting, and coalesced only vaguely when the Republicans were forced into opposition.

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