Monday, September 05, 2005

Rauch on Santorum:

Great piece by Jonathan Rauch entitled America's Anti-Reagan Isn't Hillary Clinton. It's Rick Santorum. My favorite passage:

"Freedom is not self-sufficient," writes Santorum. He claims the Founders' support, and quotes John Adams ("Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people") and George Washington to that effect. But, notes William A. Galston, a University of Maryland political scientist, Washington and (especially) Adams stood at one end of a spectrum of debate, and it was a debate that they ultimately lost.

Other Founders -- notably James Madison, the father of the Constitution -- were more concerned with power than with virtue. They certainly distinguished between liberty and license, and they agreed that republican government requires republican virtues. But they believed that government's foremost calling was not to inculcate virtue but to prevent tyranny. Madison thus argued for a checked, limited government that would lack the power to impose any one faction's view of virtue on all others.

Freedom, for Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others, was an end, not just a means. A government that allows individuals to pursue happiness in their own fashions, they believed, is most likely to produce a strong society and a virtuous citizenry; but the greatest benefit of freedom is freedom itself. Civic virtue ultimately serves individual freedom, rather than the other way around.

It was in this tradition that Goldwater wrote, "Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development." Note that first "and": Individual and social welfare go together -- they're not in conflict. All the government needs to do, Goldwater said, is get out of the way. "The conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?" Reagan spoke in the same tradition when he declared that government was the problem, not the solution to our problems.

Goldwater and Reagan, and Madison and Jefferson, were saying that if you restrain government, you will strengthen society and foster virtue. Santorum is saying something more like the reverse: If you shore up the family, you will strengthen the social fabric and ultimately reduce dependence on government.

Where Goldwater denounced collectivism as the enemy of the individual, Santorum denounces individualism as the enemy of family. On page 426, Santorum says this: "In the conservative vision, people are first connected to and part of families: The family, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society." Those words are not merely uncomfortable with the individual-rights tradition of modern conservatism. They are incompatible with it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Karen said...

What kind of Spam commenting is this previous post??

Boy these spammers is *crafty* SOB's

But i do hope you is still *happy* we all (real commentators) urged ya to having comments and sharing our thoughts.

:-)

Jonathan said...

Thanks. Yes I don't think "Lon" is a real reader (are you Lon?)