One of the foundational criticisms of conservatives by the left is that they are lowbrow. Leftists condescendingly recite the evidence for their own intellectual superiority, such as the fact that they read more and watch less TV than conservatives. (They also use that as an excuse/badge of honor for the abject failure of liberal talk radio in a medium dominated by conservatives – I think leftists only listen to NPR). But more than anything, they claim that constitutionalism is inherently anti-intellectual, and so it therefore, obviously, attracts less intelligent adherents.
But you would never know any of this by considering the simplistic, knee-jerk policy prescriptions of the left on so many of the great issues of the day that require walking and chewing gum simultaneously. They say they are deep thinkers, yet engage in economic and social policies that require only shallow one-step thinking and willful ignorance of history, while constitutionally-based policies so often require multiple stages of thought and reliance on what history has proven.
A prime example of this has reared its head again in recent days, with controversy surrounding sportscaster Bob Costas – he’s not a political philosopher but he now plays one on TV. Costas’s re-statement of a gun-grabbing rant by a know-nothing sports columnist, tastelessly delivered at halftime of a nationally-televised NFL game the day after the murder/suicide by Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs (“If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today”) has once again put gun policy in the spotlight.
Whenever a high-profile murder or mass murder occurs, the left simply calls for more gun control laws to fix future instances of the problem. Constitutionalists favoring a strict interpretation of the second amendment look at the fact that more gun control applies not just to criminals but to the vast majority of guns owners who are law abiding, thus weakening their ability to protect themselves, and that criminals by definition do not respect or obey the law, therefore they will not abide by stricter laws, while law-abiding gun owners will, and therefore more gun control actually creates a less safe society.
The left has made a single calculation to reach its policy position. The other side has made six. Which sounds more intellectually-based to you?
Then there is tax policy, which is at the center of debate over the looming fiscal cliff. As we consider how to fix the current shortfall in government revenues caused by runaway spending, the left’s immediate reaction is to simply try and raise taxes on the easiest targets, ignoring the root of the problem, the cascading consequences of higher taxes and the fact that it doesn’t even begin to solve our massive budget deficits. One calculation. Constitutionalists, on the other hand, will make the argument that higher taxes burden job creators with higher costs and less profit, which means they create less jobs, which results in more private sector unemployment, less tax revenues flowing to the government, lower economic growth and higher deficits. Six calculations.
There is no better example of this single step tax policy than the president himself. After all, for all of his famed intellect and Harvard Law credibility, the only specific promise Barack Obama made in his re-election campaign was raising taxes on the rich. Could only an anti-intellectual party select Obama as its standard-bearer?
Then consider the issue of healthcare. Obama and his leftist cohorts see some 15% of Americans without health insurance, and say the solution is to simply force the 85% who are insured to pay for the uninsured (though in this case you must give them credit for complexity – they have concocted a 2300 page monstrosity that nobody fully understands). Constitutionalists have thought far more deeply about this, and know that government-run healthcare will ultimately lower quality, raise costs, ration care, and squeeze healthcare providers to the breaking point. Thus, they favor the same mechanism for healthcare reform that works in every other area of the private economy – the free market, with ideas like expanded health savings accounts, tort reform, small business cooperatives, and the elimination of barriers to purchasing insurance across state lines.
Then there is the broader issue of helping the needy. The left’s answer is to create more and more government programs to hand stuff out. Constitutionalists understand that handing something to one person means taking it from another, who then has less money to spend and invest, which leads to less economic activity as well as less incentive and opportunity for the needy to become independent and lead productive and fulfilling lives. Thus, constitutionalists favor less government and more private charity, understanding that the willing hearts of donors are far superior to the compulsory charity of taxpayers enforced by the government. Again, a one-step thought process for the left, many more for the opposite point of view.
There are many other examples of one-step thinking on the left: If enough people are having trouble making ends meet, they want to simply raise the minimum wage, never mind whether it will cost jobs. If enough people remain unemployed beyond their eligibility period, they move to simply extend unemployment benefits, ignoring the perverse incentives and other fallout inherent in that policy Problems with illegal immigration? Just have the president unilaterally declare some 800,000 previously illegal aliens as legal. Environmental issues related to coal can be solved by simply drowning the industry in crippling regulations, which will lead to the death of coal and the millions of jobs and energy production that it creates. OK, that policy actually involves two steps.
And then, of course, there is climate change. In the 1970’s, environmental extremists/alarmists discovered a cooling trend, so of course warned us of the certain doom of the coming ice age. That same crowd now detects a warming trend, so catastrophic global warming, requiring economy-crushing regulation to contain, is obviously a threat to our very existence. Sure, we’re going to give you a pass on the ice-age thing, and take your word on global warming, uh, excuse me, climate change. Or what we used to call…..weather.
In all of this, the single-step left can be counted on for one thing: the one step they take on any given policy will be centered around more government control, in spite of the demonstrable, spectacular and repeated failures of their political philosophy. After all, taking into account proven and unintended consequences requires more than one step.
The fact is, it is not the constitutionalists, but the leftists, who have become simple-minded and intellectually bankrupt. They have not had a good or successful idea since, well, since, uh…..let me get back to you on that. This will require some thought.