“How’s that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for ya?” asked former Governor Sarah Palin at the so-called Tea Party Convention this weekend in Nashville, where the popular populist spoke for $100,000.
The advocates of fiscal responsibility gathered at the $549/ticket event cheered the McCain stumper and bail-out supporter with all the gusto that the “Values Voters” showered upon the topless model and sex-tape star who “think[s] it’s great that in America we can choose between ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘opposite marriage’.”
With the popular outrage sparked by the Bush bail-outs, I’ve become more hopeful about the future of economic freedom than I’d been in 20 years. And the tea parties and town-hall protests just buttressed my optimism.
I’m still optimistic, but the reflexive, relativistic, populism-as-the-new-elitism near-worship showered upon Gov. Palin by supposed conservatives and libertarians– people who profess to believe in economic freedom–tempers my optimism.
The problem isn’t simply that the rambling rogue was wrong about the bank bail-out, and it goes beyond her sometimes appearing flaky and non-conversant regarding matters of national policy; it’s that she displays no deep, nuanced, informed, well-considered political philosophy.
Conservatism, particularly its free-market vein, has a strong intellectual heritage. It’s that principled pedigree that provides a foundation for the arguments that can fend off demagogues’ efforts to rob Peter to pay Paul, that illuminate why it’s not good for everybody when you spread the wealth around. Unfortunately, national-level Republicans since Ronald Reagan appear to be largely ignorant of this heritage and have been clearly unable to articulate its principles. America has paid a dear price for such failures. And conservative gushing over Gov. Palin suggests that we’re likely to keep paying it.
In the Fall of 2008, as he was touting his disastrous bank bail-out, former President George Bush XLIII, apparently oblivious to the irony, described himself as “a market-oriented guy“. Nearly a year after leaving office, he said that the bail-out went against his “free-market instincts“, in a speech that made clear that he hasn’t achieved any greater philosophical depth since leaving the White House than he exhibited while he was living there.
A robust, realistic, principled political philosophy can provide guidance in the midst of crisis. The problem with Bush was that he had never developed such a principled philosophy. It is also the problem with Palin.