By Nathan Tucker
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate, the New York Times tells us, shifts the focus of the presidential election from the economy to ideology. CNN chimes in, reporting that Ryan makes the election “a clear choice, rather than a referendum on President Obama.”
Not to be outdone, US News proclaims that, “by selecting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney sets up a big-picture presidential debate for the American public about the scope and size of government, the likes of which hasn’t been honestly held since Ronald Reagan’s candidacy.”
Reagan himself, in his famous A Time for Choosing speech on the eve of the 1964 presidential election, aptly described what a “clear choice” election looks like: “You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
That is what an election about ideology should look like—a choice between statism and liberty, between socialism and freedom. There can be no middle ground or accommodation between the two; one can only exist at the expense of the other. Either the state is the servant of the individual, or the individual is the servant of the state.
To offer the American people a clear ideological choice, Republicans should adopt five non-negotiable tenets. The first is constitutionalism/federalism—the principle that they will not attempt to regulate activity that occurs within a single state. Centralized power is the single greatest threat to individual liberty, and for that reason the Founders established a constitution of limited, enumerated grants of federal power.
To that end, Republicans should pledge, for instance, to repeal No Child Left Behind and eliminate the Department of Education. And they should vow that they will not use the interstate commerce clause to regulate non-economic activity, to regulate local economic activity such as agriculture and manufacturing, or to criminalize behavior that occurs entirely within a single state.
Secondly, Republicans should declare that, instead of raising the debt ceiling yet again, they will adopt a plan to initially reduce it to the level of the pre-Reagan years. In contrast to empty campaign promises about budgets that balance in thirty years and the need to pass a constitutional balanced budget amendment sometime in the distant future, an immovable credit limit such as the debt ceiling serves as a de facto balanced budget amendment that immediately forces Congress to live within its means.
Third, Republicans should commit themselves to the maintenance of universal justice by guaranteeing the equal protection “of all persons, all products of labor, all property, all rights, all interests.” They should stop engaging in class warfare by arguing that we need to strengthen the middle class and make the rich pay more in taxes.
Freedom is class neutral and is wholly incompatible with the sacrifice of some for the good of others. The Republican Party should pledge to enact a tax code that treats everyone the same by eliminating the current progressive tax code with all its loopholes, thereby cutting everyone’s taxes in half.
Additionally, Republicans should introduce a plan to eliminate all forms of legal plunder—the use of “the law to take from one person what belongs to them, and giving it to others to whom it does not belong.” The taxation of A to give to B is not freedom but slavery.
Fourth, Republicans should vow to create a wall of separation between the economy and the state in which the government will not seek to, directly or indirectly, intervene, manipulate, or otherwise control the economy. Such government planning only slows economic growth by subsidizing some consumers and producers at the expense of others.
Fifth and finally, Republicans should declare that regulations be made by the most local form of government feasible by using the least restrictive means available in which the benefits outweigh the costs. Additionally, Republicans should require that all bureaucratic regulations be approved by the legislature before they take effect.
In the absence of these planks, the upcoming election can hardly be called a clear choice between the “ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order” or “the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
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