Two Augusts In Elkhart

Obama was there in 2008; and yesterday in 2009. Worth watching both. One word about Matt Welch's gripe against my support for the cash-for-clunkers program. He accuses me first of being an "ideological shape-shifter." But my own understanding of conservatism properly understood is that it is un-ideological, and actually anti-ideological. It has a predisposition to favor individual liberty and limited government and prudent foreign policy, but it is capable of adjusting pragmatically to new times and new problems. Unlike libertarians, conservatives - even those of us on the libertarian edge of conservatism - do believe government has a role beyond minimal protection. I believe in environmental protection, for example, and have done my entire life. I believe in free secondary education and government supported higher education.

I've changed on a few issues; while I remain opposed to Roe, I've shifted toward accepting abortions in the first trimester; I've also shifted against my once unchastened belief in the utility of American military power to advance democracy (I was, however, against intervention in Somalia and Rwanda); and I've begun to worry that the last few decades have opened up too big an inequality gap in America for political stability in the long run.

These are shifts, yes. But they are good faith attempts to learn from mistakes and history and adjust to new circumstances.

Now to Matt's subject at hand: cash for clunkers. It has flaws. But my support for it rested on the one issue Matt doesn't mention: short-term stimulus. I can see a role for government in a steep and spiraling depression to spend money to prevent the thing getting worse. And the more immediate and targeted the program the better. The C4C program has indeed provided a boost to the auto industry, and has led to modest gains in fuel efficiency. These things do benefit everyone. Not much; but a little. And when government does something right, in an atypical circumstance, I see no ideological or visceral reason to oppose it.