Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

President of Michigan?

That’s how this unfriendly article characterizes Romney’s victory. Romney’s response presumably would be that Michigan is America in a microcosm.

If that’s true, then his prescriptions for Michigan’s health--which require heavy doses of government assistance and intervention--would seem to suggest that he wouldn’t "govern as a conservative." This is business Republicanism at its best: lift onerous regulations and provide lots of cash. Make the investments in basic research so that business doesn’t have to. When it’s convenient for your allies or welcome to your audience, pick winners rather than letting the market do so.

There’s a reason why in his Detroit Economic Club speech Romney didn’t mention the European model in his discussion of competing global models. (He mentioned the U.S., China, Russia-Iran-Venezuela, and jihadism.) It’s because his U.S. model looks pretty European to me.

Update: In his Michigan victory speech, Romney eschews the European model--"big government, big brother, big taxes"--but, aside from the big taxes, isn’t that what he’s proposing for Michigan (and hence for the nation)?

I have to say also that beyond the graceless preemption of McCain’s concession, there’s the equally graceless mentions of Reagan and Bush pere without the mention of the son. Wouldn’t invoking St. Ron have been sufficient, without the obvious slight at 43?

Update #2: Byron York reflects, somewhat more kindly than I have, on Romney’s Michigan strategy, noting (in disagreement with Romney) the sui generis character of Michigan’s plight. Also, if the Romney as outsider narrative is going to work in this field--who’s the insider? McCain??--won’t Romney have to bite the hand that’s been feeding him?

Discussions - 13 Comments

I had not realised that Mr.Knippenberg was such a free market fundamentalist.

Seriously, none of these candidates have any crediblity as small government types, except Ron Paul. They are all business Republicans, McCain very much included.

John: The least business Republican is Huckabee. Joe: It is odd that Romney, who did so well among W likers, deliberately slighted him by mentioning his underwhelming father. McCain preempted the end of Huck's speech, and Romney preempted almost all of McCain's. Classy guys.

Yeah, no love between McCain and Romney. But it's pretty striking that Michigan didn't give a boost to *any* small-government conservative. That's unfortunate, but I think almost inevitable. Whatever noise we small-government types make (especially in blog-world, where libertarians are probably over-represented) I just don't think there's really all that much of a political market for small-government rhetoric. I don't know whether it is the increasing portion of the population that is retired (and at least partially now dependent on government largesse) or the shifting tax system that excludes large swathes of income-earners from paying federal income taxes or the insipid passivity of citizens who have become political consumers, but from where I sit, things look bleak for limited government.

I'm of course not a free market fundamentalist, but I do have a preferential option for less government rather than more, where possible. And if I have to choose among big government conservatives--Michael is right, they're all big government conservatives (excepting Ron Paul, who has other problems)--I'm not sure that Romney's pandering is going to win my heart.

John: The least business Republican is Huckabee

No, the least small-government conservative may be Huckabee, but small government conservatism is the opposite in many respects of business conservatism, or business Republicanism. At any rate they are very far from being the same thing. Businessmen in Arkansas got along fine with Huck.

I'm surprised at how many Republicans have a blind spot about this.


But it's pretty striking that Michigan didn't give a boost to *any* small-government conservative.

Other than Paul, there is no small government conservative in the race, is there?


Mr Knippenberg, I was joking. More or less. This site has been more sympathetic than most to Huckabee, after all.

I was glad to see Romney win, if only because it will prolong the fight on the GOP side and I think this fight is going to be good for the party in the long run. I also have concerns for the short run . . . but I'm no longer sure what would be the best course for solving those short run difficulties--or, to be more precise--I'm no longer sure that the best course in them is possible. I thought Romney improved his image with his recent spate of speeches in Michigan talking about the economic problems facing Michigan. I though he helped himself by talking about the always important American potential to overcome difficulties--and it was better than McCain's suggestion that "these jobs are gone" which, however true in a limited sense, does not exactly inspire positive action. Leaving aside the substance of Romney's proposals, his inspiration cannot be a bad thing. The problem with a Romney win is certainly exactly as Joe says--it's a victory for small-minded business Republicanism. The problem with business Republicanism is that it will, in the end (if taken to the extreme), cut its own throat as it dims freedom in favor of its own interests. If the thing that separates us from China and suggests our eventual victory in an economic showdown is our freedom (as Romney insisted)--then limitations on that freedom (even if they seem to be in the immediate interest of American business) ultimately will only convolute and hinder--it will not add to--our success. The good news is that convolution and imperfection is the natural state of universe--for both the good and for those trying to effect its opposite. Things will fall apart . . . the best laid plans . . . and so on. So business Republicanism--inconsistent as it is with perfect freedom--probably won't be taken to the extreme . . . not with Romney or with anyone else.

Yes, Julie, the can-do patriotism was the most appealing part of Romney's recent message.

But I remain unmoved by him, and have this lingering question in my mind: how's he going to pander in South Carolina and Georgia, where there are lots of people who used to work in textile mills? (Oh, and I almost forgot, Atlanta is in the process of losing its GM and Ford plants.) Is he from the government and here to help in my state and its neighbor as well?

Would you prefer that Atlanta lose it's GM and Ford plants? Romney said that he favors deregulation. When did that become something conservatives hated? When did it become a synonym for statism?

When I said "in the process of losing" I meant that they were closing down or had closed down. I don't want the government to save jobs at inefficient or antiquated plants making products for which there isn't that much demand.

I've read the Romney speech you linked to, but I seem to have missed the part where he wants "the government to save jobs at inefficient or antiquated plants making products for which there isn't that much demand". He's calling for deregulation and more R&D.

And are you any relation to the Knippenberg who used to post here about the good things in Europe and how our hyper-individualistic culture in America could learn a few things from them?

In all seriousness, there is something to his argument that sustaining an automotive industry in America is in the best interest of national security as we'll certainly want its services for our military needs and we'll probably not want those needs met by imports--particularly from hostile or compromised nations. Whether the best way to sustain the industry is through massive government intervention is a separate issue--and one on which I think I'm inclined to side against such intervention. But I'm very much in favor of getting the filthy hands of government hyper-regulators off from around the necks of this industry. To the extent that this government action helps the industry, all to the good. Of course, I am not naive and I understand that with Romney (as with most anyone else, I'd add) that bargain comes with more, including some things that are not strictly kosher.

John,

On Europe, you have me confused with Patrick Deneen, with whom I have a qualified and friendly disagreement on this subject.

On the automotive industry, Romney talks both about reducing regulations (good) and about providing government money (not-so-good). What's more, as I read him, the money isn't just for R&D.

Georgia and South Carolina have in substantial measure successfully made the transition from heavy investments in industries that couldn't compete with foreign suppliers to other forms of enterprise (including, in S.C., a BMW plant). I'm not suggesting that we simply let American automakers decline, but let's not mistake that element of what Romney is proposing for anything other than corporate welfare.

Rich Lowery at NRO.


Romney has been taking a beating for his Detroit speech, and there are things in there to make conservatives cringe (Ramesh addressed this earlier in response to Ross). But, on the whole, it's a pretty conservative speech—against unfunded mandates, especially higher CAFE standards and McCain-Lieberman-style carbon schemes; for lower and simpler taxes; against excessive regulatory burdens; against excessive lawsuits; for transforming workforce training programs into "personal accounts." The call for higher research spending has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including us. But there is a case to be made that greater (though intelligently crafted) spending on energy research is the best response to climate change, preferable to sticking our heads in the sand or imposing economically punishing constraints on ourselves.


Then fact is that the government is already involved up to its elbows in the auto industry. McCains desire to hike the CAFE standards is not exactly Hayekian either, and will probably cost us a lot more than Romney's plan.

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