Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

How right-wing are the Republicans?

I was planning to do a post about why the Dems are always such cowards when it comes to impeachment (Iran Contra, anyone?), but I think Steve may have that covered, or at least be going to post up something similar. So instead, I think I’m going to bitch about the Republicans a little more.

Now there are things about traditional conservatism that rather appeal to me: small government, devolved power, personal responsibility, minimal intrusion of the state – what’s not to like? I actually have no personal beef with free trade or fiscal accountability either. Steve’s made the point that any serious progressive doesn’t have a lot of choice in the huge market for policy that we call democracy; I think you could make exactly the same case for principled conservatism. Rather than run the whole list of Republican deviations from any sort of principled right-wing position (I’m not sure Google has the server space), I think three quick examples should suffice to show what I mean.

1) The massive surveillance programme. Traditional right-wingers are meant to believe something like the following “Whatever the evils of markets, the evils of government are worse” - I think Arthur Seldon said more or less exactly that, though somewhat more eloquently. Freidrich Hayek, another hero of the right, thought pretty much the same thing. Now that’s a valid position. I don’t whole-heartedly agree with it (though I think it has more truth to it than a lot of leftists like to consider), but I can understand why some people might, and it’s certainly one of the few coherent justifications that I’ve heard for the sort of market fundamentalism that right-wingers claim as their own. What I’m damn sure about is that any government who does take that position has no business tapping its citizens’ phone calls. If having the state run a health system is an unacceptable communist risk, why isn't it too much of a risk to have it snoop into people’s private lives? In the UK, we have the cold comfort that our surveillance escalation is being pushed by New Labour, who don’t profess as much scepticism about the role of the government. What’s the Republicans’ excuse?

2) On a related point, the massive expansion of the military and the way the Republicans use this to subsidise their pet industries. Even if the Republicans keep from being the party of intrusive government, surely they could manage to keep to their supposed plan of being the party of small government? Surely Eisenhower’s warning about the expansion of the military-industrial complex should have had some resonance on his party? In short, no. Whether it’s Halliburton getting paid to ferry empty trucks around Iraq, Accenture (formerly Arthur Andersen) being paid to consult on how to conduct the bidding for the immigration contracts it's given, subsidies of defence contractors like Boeing and Lockheed, or plain old procurement policies, the idea that the Republicans want to keep the state out of the market is a fiction. They just back different government spending programmes and thus have different corporate backers to the Democrats. This leads me nicely onto…

3) …the deficit. What happened to fiscal conservatism? Right-wing politicians have a long and glorious history of flirting with financial crisis, but, at least on the spending issue, they’re meant to be the ones who can keep a half-decent account book. As with so much current Republican policy, you can see this starting with Reagan and accelerating with the second Bush government. It’s particularly ludicrous from a party that always chastises its opponents for a policy of “tax and spend”. If the alternative is spending and not taxing, the Democrat option seems to me to be the more conservative of the two.


Anonymous DrummerDave said...

I tend to think in lines with David Sirota when he says that 'free trade' isn't really free. I mean, there's nothing free about the massive trade deficit that undermines not only our labor movement but the actual fiscal strength of our economy.

But really, the list of offensives is so large that it makes my head hurt thinking about it. Time to drink, methinks.

14 November, 2006 23:44  
Blogger Uncle Petie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 November, 2006 01:23  

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