Reality-Based Conservatism

David Frum preaches compromise:

Much of government is an exercise in choosing the least bad option. A movement that demands everything and punishes any politician who strikes a bargain that is better than the status quo but less than libertarian perfection – well, we’ll have our chance to see how much that movement achieves.

The Wyden-Bennett health plan that wrecked the career of Senator Bob Bennett would have been better from a conservative point of view than Obamacare.

TARP and the rescue of the banking system are better from a conservative point of view than a new Great Depression that would have involved a decade of massive government support of the private economy.

Some form of consumption or energy tax will be better from a conservative point of view than what we are on our way to getting instead: the lapse of the Bush tax cuts on saving, work and investment – and new payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare.

People are responsible not only for their actions, but for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their actions.

And this engagement with the real world, with people who disagree with you, with reality, and not ideology, is temperamentally and dispositionally conservative as well. I think some of us were blinded by the radicalism of Reagan and Thatcher. But both inherited economies far more regulated than ours, far more highly taxed than anything Obama is suggesting, and in Thatcher's case, a country where the state owned vast amounts of industry. They were responding to the conditions of their time. Thatcher didn't need to compromise much because of a divided opposition; but Reagan dealt with the Democrats and would today, by raising taxes be seen as outside "acceptable bounds of Republican thought."

Conservatism if it becomes an ideology will suffer the fate of all ideologies. But if it becomes a fixed ideology - or, even worse, an unchangeable theology (as it has in America) - it has already abolished itself.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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