In many Patriot columns, I have defended free market or libertarian economics.  However, this is only one of the legs of the “three-legged stool of conservatism”, as Ronald Reagan, the greatest 20th century American president put it.  The other two are a strong national defence and good moral values, i.e. pro-life and pro-marriage/family.  Take one leg away, and the stool collapses.

As I’ve argued before, Michele Bachmann is such a good candidate because she stands the most consistently for all three.  My second preference, Newt Gingrich, is also strong on all three.  See for example defenses of Newt’s economically conservative record, pro-life consistency, and his smack-down of Ron Paul on national security below:

However, Gingrich has some negatives Bachmann lacks, including love for ethanol subsidies and repeated admiration of depression-prolonging FDR—not Reagan—as the 20th century’s greatest president.

Conversely, Mitt Romney’s actual record, as opposed to his recent talk, shows that he’s very weak at least on the economic and moral legs.  But then we come to Ron Paul, who is well known as a libertarian, so is quite good on the economic leg, but atrocious on the other two—see black conservative AlfonZo Rachel explain below:

Actually, those who want libertarian results as opposed to libertarian posturing should consider that Dr Gingrich has done far more than Dr Paul.  The Club for Growth summarizes Dr Paul’s problem: the glass is always 20% empty with him, never 80% full:

“Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform.  It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of Congress develop and propose idealized solutions.  But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect.  In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.”

Why moral conservatism matters

Libertarian economic policies must be undergirded by moral conservatism. One of the founders of free-market economics, Adam Smith, was a moral philosopher before he wrote Wealth of Nations.  He was also very generous with his own money, typical of conservatives, and he gained little benefit from this in his lifetime—his generosity was discovered after his death.

In modern times, the great economist and patriot Walter Williams (who happens to be black) has pointed out how much behavior has worsened in the black community and in America generally.  He has argued in Attack on decency that much of this was due to liberals in the education system, judiciary, and entertainment industry.  They ridiculed traditional morals and customs in favor of situation ethics and moral relativism, where “if it feels right, do it”.  So “do not murder”, “do not steal”, “do not lie”, “honor your parents”, “marry before having sex and children”, and “respect for authority” are deemed to be optional extras.   Dr Williams points out the problem:

“The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. There are not enough cops, and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and the criminal justice system are the last desperate lines of defense for a civilized society. Unfortunately, too many of us see police, laws, and the criminal and civil justice systems as society’s first line of defense.”

So instead of people restraining themselves, we have more and more government to do this job for us.  This, of course, needs more funding and therefore higher taxes.  And the sort of big government needed will also be tempted to insert its sticky fingers into more and more aspects of our lives, including the market.  This undermines the “market-only” libertarianism.

This is amply proven by the failure of such proponents.  For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger gave some rousing speeches in favor of economic liberty at Republican National Conventions.  He is very well informed in these issues, is shown by his introduction to the great economist Nobel laureate Milton Friedman’s influential TV series Free to Choose.

But his term as CA Governator was a disaster, since he lacked the moral fiber to defend his economic policies against liberal opposition.

Furthermore, traditional institutions like the family and church were the best welfare agencies.   They not only helped people in need, but also helped them get out of need (see my old Patriot column The Left vs the Poor).  In contrast, as I’ve written recently in The Left’s War on Blacks, the destruction of the black family by welfare has been the major cause of black poverty.

To give Dr Paul his due, he has been a far better exemplar of family values than a libertarian achiever.  He has been married only once and for over 50 years, and there is not even the slightest whiff of moral scandal.

The importance of a strong, free market economy

Libertarians are 100% right on this one.  Indeed, they have provided excellent refutations of statism, showing that government “solutions” usually hurt those they claim to help.  So a libertarian candidate is a much better choice than a liberal, if it comes down to two.

Furthermore, despite claims of the Churchian Left, including Obama’s communist-supporting spiritual adviser Jim Wallis, capitalism promotes good moral values.  Walter Williams summed it up lucidly:

“I praise lassez-faire capitalism as being the most moral and most productive system man has ever devised. Capitalism is relatively new in human history. Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”

And such an attitude carries through to generous support of private charities.  But a socialist culture discourages that: “I already paid my taxes; why should I give even more to charity?  Let the Government help.” Even worse, it encourages an entitlement mentality, as shown by the Occupy Whatever thugs.  They demand the fruits of other people’s labors, trampling on private property, and tear apart the vital link between work and reward.

Strong national defense: inseparable from other legs

It should be obvious that all our economic achievements will be for naught if we can’t defend them.   Even a localized enemy attack like 9-11 cost us $3.3 trillion dollars.  But this will pale if Iran builds nukes and supplies them to the many terrorist groups it sponsors.  Yet in Ron Paul’s fantasy world, nukes acquired by a mad Holocaust-denying mullah who has sworn to wipe out the “Zionist Entity”, are no problem, despite their growing military strength.

From the other side, we can’t have a strong defense without a strong economy and sound moral fabric.  For the first, Reagan won the cold war because of his military build-up which the largely capitalist American economy could support; the Soviet Communist economy simply could not keep up with.  And before that, America’s economic powerhouse meant that our entry into both wars was the beginning of the end of our enemies’ struggle.

Less well known is how America’s weak economy under FDR made us unprepared for war, contributing to Pearl Harbor (NB, by incompetence, not intent).  He had spent so much on vote-buying social(ist) programs that little was left for the military.  As economic historian Burt Folsom points out:

FDR had spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the 1930s for his New Deal programs, but not much went to the military.  When the Japanese attacked, American servicemen were fighting with decrepit tanks, slow aircraft, grenades that didn’t explode, and too little of everything.

Fortunately, unlike his disciple currently occupying the White House, FDR didn’t hate his country. He was prepared to abandon his ideology when the country’s very existence was at stake, as Dr Folsom shows:

Roosevelt had attacked American businessmen relentlessly during the 1930s but quickly switched when he saw Hitler’s powerful sweep through Europe in the summer of 1940. The turnaround in U.S. productivity was marvelous and perhaps unmatched at any time in our history. The whole world was astonished as U.S. industry cranked out almost 300,000 planes, almost 100,000 tanks, and 17,400,000 rifles, carbines, and pistols. Our inventors (often with help from the British) introduced synthetic rubber, penicillin, DDT, and radar. And then came the atomic bomb.

Also, at the time, America had the moral backbone to be prepared to die for an ideal.  As Hitler realized, this backbone was lacking in WW1-weary appeasement-minded Europe.  One wonders whether this would be true of today’s youth, after 12 years of indoctrination at school by Democratic teachers and textbooks that defame our country.

Also, America was prepared to impose Constitutional governments on Germany and Japan, with rule of law and freedom of religion.  This belief in the superiority of the American Way flies in the face of the current fad of cultural relativism.  We see the problems in the Middle East now: the Ruling Class doesn’t dare to say that a Constitutional Republic is superior to Sharia despotism.  All they cared about was “Democracy”, which has just meant ten Islamonazis and one Christian voting on who should be shot.

Conclusion

Patriots should not forsake any one of the Three Legs of the Conservative Stool.  If any one of them collapses, the collapse of the others are sure to follow.