These are giddy days for the likes of David Brooks — The Establishment Lives! screams the headline above his New York Times column. “The country will not turn to free-market supply-siders,” he proclaims.
Conservatives may have failed to thwart the Schumer-Franks-fueled credit excesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that does not mean that the economic wisdom of Friedrich von Hayek and Ronald Reagan are any less valid in these troubled economic times.
For those who need reassurance, there is a splendid new book by conservative strategist Grover Norquist that underlines how critical it is for America to reject the European social-welfare state for a coalition that offers “a long-term political victory of unprecedented dimension.”
Norquist sees our country locked in a struggle between two forces: The “Leave Us Alone Coalition” and the “Takings Coalition.”
People who make up the former do not want government to give them something — or take from others for their benefit. The takings coalition (trial lawyers and public employees’ unions and those who choose to be dependent on federal grants) represent a philosophy that it is the role of government to redistribute income for the benefit of the politically powerful. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are prime examples.
Norquist warns that the takings coalition frequently is inflated by nominal Republicans, e.g. contractors and builders and businessmen who exchange political donations for the earmarks that fuel their economic causes. (See why those Congressional Republican earmark artists help account for these troubled times?)
The Norquist book dispels the possibility that trial lawyers (of the Mississippi Dickie Scruggs variety) can ever be allowed inside the leave us alone coalition. He also questions whether traditional country-club Republicans can fit inside the coalition also.
Norquist recognizes that the vast expansion of America’s massive non-profit sector as well as the ever-present influence of “coercive utopians” gives the takings coalition political advantages not to be discounted.
But the leave us alone coalition is not without strength that despite these times gives us with hope of a decisive majority. Writes Norquist:
“The largest demographic change in the past twenty-five years is not the number of Americans whose parents speak Spanish. It is the number of Americans who own stock — directly, in 401(k)’s, in individual retirement accounts or in mutual funds.
“When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, less than 20% of American households owned stock directly. Today 50% of households own stock and two-thirds of all voters in the past two elections were shareholders.”
The significant decline in the influence of organized labor is another real advantage for the leave us alone coalition. Here Norquist recognizes the oft-forgotten importance of state right-to-work laws as a reason for the advancement of American prosperity. Since 1980, the percentage of Americans living in right-to-work states has increased 60% — representing people voting with their feet for better lives.
As important as has been Norquist’s organizing weekly gatherings of political activists and movement leaders, first in Washington, and now around the country, his work as president of Americans for Tax Reform represents his most important contribution to the politics of our time. His no-tax-increase pledges have become an often vital weapon to use against the Washington political class.
Tax and entitlement spending reform — which he defines in full detail in the book — will be the ultimate harvest of the leave us alone coalition’s contributions to American politics. (Death to the death tax.) Reforms (from tort to health savings accounts to school choice) will not be new to readers.
But the role that mandated transparency stands out as new and deceptively important — especially since transparency can encourage savings through competitive sourcing. Executive mandates and legislative action can require Internet postings of the details of government contracts significantly revealing in education bureaucracies at the state and local level. Transparency in government contracts will produce the competition that represents one of the best hopes of controlling government spending.
Transparency also will expose those responsible for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tragedy.
Norquist’s bottom line: “If we win, America will be freer. America will be richer, more mobile, with new jobs, new industries and new technologies, and without the dead weight of government.
“The limited tasks assigned to government will be done more competently because we will no longer be asking government to do many things it is not equipped to accomplish. We’ll be able to compensate fairly the government workers that a free society needs — the strongest military in the world, serious police and courts — without crushing taxpayers.
“If we win, America will dominate the planet through example, not force. We will be the most competitive nation in the world.
“If we win, America wins.”