Sunday, May 10, 2009

Becker on modern conservatism.

Gary Becker diagnoses a serious conflict in the Modern Conservative Movement between the classical views of Locke, Hume and Smith that opposed big government and favored private decision-making, on the one hand, and other, more recent components such as an aggressive foreign policy to promote democracy in other countries, and government actions to further various goals such as fewer abortions or outlawing gay “marriage” (The Becker-Posner blog, May 10).

“Classical conservatives would argue that governments are no more effective at interventions internationally or on social issues than they are on economic matters” he writes. Even a large party, like the Republican Party, is usually stronger when more coherent. And the Democratic Party is now fairly well united in the belief that governments frequently do better than private decision makers in both the economic and social spheres.

The shift in the attitudes of the Republican Party toward more interventionist views on social issues, and to some extent also on military involvement to create more democratic governments in other countries, has created the crisis in conservatism.

It is time, according to Becker, for the conservative movement to return to its roots of skepticism toward governmental actions in general.

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