The 2012 Election: Freedom, Justice, Fairness, and Opportunity
Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson confer before the 1963 March on Washington. Credit: Library of Congress/New York World-Telegram.
Now that the Republican ticket is set with Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential choice, it’s time to compare the rival tickets regarding some basic values.
Let’s start with freedom. Among others, U.S. historian David Hackett Fischer has stressed what an essential value it has been to us and how differently we have interpreted it. In his Liberty and Freedom he indicated that even these two synonyms have often taken on different shades of meaning.
In his Conservatism in America, historian Clinton Rossiter once noted that “the preference for liberty over equality lies at the root of the Conservative tradition, and men who subscribe to this tradition never tire of warning against the ‘rage for equality.’” At the end of the twentieth century, conservative historian Richard Pipes echoed that sentiment in Property and Freedom, where he wrote that “the main threat to freedom today comes not from tyranny but equality — equality defined as identity of reward.” He also stated that programs such as affirmative action and school busing impinged upon freedom and that “the entire concept of the welfare state … is incompatible with individual liberty.”
When today’s conservatives speak of freedom they usually mean from big government and from “high” taxes. In a 2009 speech Paul Ryan, who has more recently proposed even more favorable tax policies for the rich than now exist, warned of the danger of turning “over our government to health bureaucrats, industrial policy bureaucrats, education bureaucrats, housing bureaucrats, energy bureaucrats, and family control bureaucrats — a road [Friedrich von] Hayek perfectly described as ‘the road to serfdom.’”
Ryan has often quoted Hayek and acknowledged his debt to him (see here for more on Hayek and Republicans). In books such as Road to Serfdom (1944), The Constitution of Liberty (1960), and the 3-volume Law, Legislation, and Liberty (1973-79), the Austrian-born economist criticized any attempt by governments to redistribute wealth, for example to aid the poor. Hayek
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