Is There a Worldwide Conservative Crackup?

Weekly Standard, August 25, 1997.


Ask a conservative what he wants to conserve and he is likely to say ” freedom,” including the freedom to spend his own money; hence, his dislike of taxes. But ask the typical American (or British or French) voter the same question and the first thing that comes to his mind is “my benefits”: Social Security, unemployment compensation, food stamps, school lunches, government health insurance, care of the elderly, free (or in America, subsidized) higher education, and paid (and in France, lengthy) vacations. All these benefits are the gift of the liberal or socialist governments under which he has lived since the Depression of the 1930s and, particularly, since the end of World War II. Conservatives have little to offer the typical voter. Tax relief? He thinks only the rich have capital gains, and his modest estate is not subject to a tax. Less regulation? He is comfortable with regulation. A stronger national defense? The Cold War is over. A smaller government? But, as he sees it, the government is not on his back.

Weekly Standard