Conservatives in America are searching, and even despairing. They see a nation in decline and a Republican Party that lacks serious leadership and fortitude. But Margaret Thatcher, who died today, reminds conservatives that there is always hope, and that a single individual can achieve the impossible.
Thatcher, it must be said, did something her ally Ronald Reagan did not: she permanently changed the direction of her country.
Reagan certainly interrupted America’s decline and gave the right a beacon to sail endlessly toward. But just 20 years after he left office, the country elected the most leftist president in its history. And four years later, it elected him again.
Even after the lessons of Reagan, who reversed the nation’s economic decline and made clear he was doing it with free market principles, the country added a vast new entitlement, Obamacare, that will make the government an inextricable presence in the daily lives of every American – not just those who have suffered some misfortune, including the misfortune of getting old.
And it’s the springboard for much more pervasive government intrusion. If the government can dictate your health care, it can dictate anything. Obamacare changes the whole game, and Obama knows it.
Meanwhile, even after Reagan defeated the Soviet Union by confronting it, appeasement and disengagement is back in style, as the United States reruns the tragedy of Vietnam by withdrawing too quickly and too completely from Afghanistan and Iraq while trying to negotiate with Iranian mullahs who, like HItler before them, are just trying to buy time for their evil ends.
But in Britain, as a Labor Party official once acknowledged, all are Thatcherites. She suspended what was believed even by her own Tory Party a hopeless drift to the left. She broke the unions that were destroying the country and, following the tenets of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, put Britain on a free market path from which it has never really turned back. A Labor Party that had been busy instilling socialism in the 1970s today accepts many of Thatcher’s values.
But not in the United States. The Democrats originally decided, under Bill Clinton, to mimic the Republicans. But Obama, through the force of his own personality and the purity of his left wing intentions, erased all that and, as improbable as it seemed, marched the Democrats right back toward socialism.
It is the great question of our time. Can capitalism save itself from itself?
Capitalism, combined with democracy, is just so successful that it breeds its own destruction by creating so much wealth. Wealth creates a desire for comfort. And so, with all the money lying around, the government starts handing out gifts – yes, gifts. And gifts once given are far harder to take away than had had they not been offered in the first place, and so they continue to be supported even after the government is out of money.
And that is where we find ourselves. Just today, the Wall Street Journal reported that 5.4 percent of the civilian workforce is on disability, compared to 1.7 percent in 1970. Since the recession began, the number of people on disability has risen from 7.1 million to 8.9 million. Did all these people suddenly get sick?
Reversing course will take someone who believes strongly enough in conservative principles, and who has the strength of character, to weather all attacks in the pursuit of what’s right. Who won’t stand down when assailed by political correctness, when confronted by the inevitable accusations that they love only the rich, hate minorities, are cold-hearted to the poor, and want to start wars with every nation on earth.
It will take someone like this: