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Peggy Noonan’s Wonky Yardschtick: Quigley in Play


From Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:

I see two central reasons for the tea party’s rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you’ve got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you’ve got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.

But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they’re dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It’s always grown! It’s as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.

Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: “Hey, it coulda been 29!” But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They’d like eight. Instead it’s 28.

Peggy, luv, we’ll give you a C+. You’re in the right direction, but you’re not at all clear on the target.

Keeping your yardstick analogy, at the left end is Tyranny and at the right, Liberty. Under Quigley and his fellow travelers, the Democrats moved to the far left end of the yardstick, and the Republicans to the “center.” The GOP became a “moderate” Party, a big-tent party – so long, of course, as the “extremist” “right” is kept from influence. So much for the “big tent” idea and so much for giving the voter a true choice. “Progress” under such a feeble paradigm became nothing more than growth of government budget, bureaucracy, spending, taxation and regulation.  “Progress” was no less than the cancer of servitude.  That utter failure of ideological responsibility is the primary motivational force behind the tea party movement.

…at the left end is Tyranny and at the right, Liberty.

It is no longer merely enough to stand athwart history and shout “Stop!” Buckley’s milquetoast concoction of  light libertarianism and “moderate” conservatism was grossly inadequate to the task.

Today’s conservatives are looking once again with a critical eye towards the John Birch Society, Ayn Rand’s Objectivists, Barry Goldwater’s libertarian conservatism and similar “extreme” ideas rejected by the elite conservative movement.  They are looking to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist papers; Before these to the ideological origins of the revolution in the writings of the pamphlets and to John Locke and Natural Law. They understand that every dollar spent by government is time deducted from their lives and value from their property, that every petty regulation is yet another shackle of servitude, that every entitlement is the sweet drug of addiction.

Today’s conservative recognizes the need for some government – but that social government is no substitute for self government.  The tea party is doing what Buckley’s conservatism failed to do: Rally the electorate to stand athwart ‘progress’ and shout “Back!” – back to small, Constitutionally limited government and to personal reponsibility.  We’re not sending people to Washington to “get stuff done” but rather to guard our precious liberty and to ablate the cancer of ‘progressivism.’

It’s Liberty and Tyranny, Miss Noonan.  You were right about the clock; Indeed, the hour is late.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nikita permalink
    2010/09/20 16:17

    So true. Whenever they ‘get stuff done’, we lose more of our freedom. I much prefer the idea of 535 men and women who spend their term standing guard over the Constitution and keeping a watchful eye on the chains that bind the federal government. They don’t have to DO anything to be successful at their jobs. If they feel the need to ‘get stuff done’, it should be limited to finding ways to make the chains a little tighter.

  2. 2010/09/20 16:22

    Amen & thank you, Nikita!

  3. Mrs. Kissell permalink
    2010/09/21 05:29

    Good post. Never forget: WFB is S&B at Yale, as was GHWB, GWB, Anson Stokes, Henry Sloan and Bill Coffin and JKerry.

  4. 2010/09/22 00:57

    Yea, well, I’m a member of the SoB Fraternity.

    : ]

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