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Jindal spending statement consistent with conservatism

It’s all right to be clever, but when you are trying to be clever but aren’t clever enough, you don’t realize that your effort ultimately was not clever. Such is the fate with an editorial written by the Baton Rouge Advocate concerning Gov. Bobby Jindal.

While the piece lacks some clarity and coherence, the gist seems to be that The Advocate asserts Jindal, well known as a conservative, borrows from the left to argue for a public policy goal. When Congressional legislation recently passed to create a mechanism by which the federal government could fund potentially large financial concerns, Jindal decried the fact that while this was getting funded, progress was slower on emergency funding to assist the state in recovery from the September hurricanes.

Such a view by the editorialists misunderstands the nature and purpose of government. Jindal is criticized for comparing one kind of spending to another, in essence saying one purpose with less legitimacy gets money while another with more does not. It’s not exactly clear what it’s trying to state here, but it appears The Advocate equates use of a rhetorical strategy comparing different things and using spending on one to justify another is a kind of demagoguery, and one that has been used by the left in reference to the Iraq war.

But note the inherent assumption: it grants sufficient legitimacy to all spending claims. That is, if Democrats claim more ought to be spent on wealth transfer policies, a bedrock demand of liberalism, because so much is being spent to prosecute the war, then it presumes Jindal adopts the tactics of the left because he now is criticizing the bailout, which because it would assist first businesses that is argued is a hallmark of conservatism, in order to justify transfer of wealth to Louisiana, the syllogism works only if all instances of government spending are mere matters of policy choice within a framework that legitimizes any choice.

In fact, the argument breaks down precisely because that is untrue. While expenditures on disasters are a legitimate federal government purpose (see Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the U.S. Constitution, to protect states from domestic violence), as are those for the prosecution of war (Art. I, Sec. 8), and, even though it is a stretch through the “necessary and proper clause” (same passage), spending on wealth transfer programs can also be deemed a proper function of government constitutionally speaking. But arguably it stretches way too far that government should intrude so decisively into the economy as through the bailout plan. Thus, Jindal may argue that spending is occurring for an illegitimate and unwise policy rather than another that is legitimate and he thinks wise, a conceptual difference that appears to escape The Advocate.

Further, The Advocate does not seem to understand the place of “business” in conservatism. Advancing the interests of an institution known as “business” is not a principle of conservatism. Rather, conservatism concerns itself with advancing personal liberty and reducing government power to prevent that being an obstacle to this goal – a position that The Advocate appears to disagree with if it argues that spending on any purpose seems equally legitimate, as implied in its argument.

One manner by which liberty is advanced is by government noninterference in markets which may encourage the formation of entities involved in “business” but the object conservatism addresses is the individual and his autonomy, not that of corporations. So when Jindal or anybody else argues that a bailout is not a wise use of money, his objections from a philosophical stance are this action reduces liberty by transferring property – tax dollars – out of the hands of individuals when it is unnecessary. Thus, Jindal is not railing against “Wall Street” on the basis that is it “Wall Street,” but on the basis that government assistance on this scale and to this degree of intrusiveness violates individual liberty – not the argument being made by The Advocate.

Because The Advocate editorialists seem to believe that the exercise of any government power is permissible so long as there is some “good” from it, and because they misunderstand basic conservative principles, they draw entirely the wrong conclusions from Jindal’s statement. Asking government to spend money on a legitimate purpose of government instead of on a dubious purpose that decreases individual liberty very much is reflecting conservative principles, and does not mean “Comrade Bobby” should be “welcome[d] to the left.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“Let me be crystal clear about this: If Washington thinks they can afford to bail out and spend $700 billion on Wall Street and multimillionaire bankers, certainly they can help our farmers that want to get back on their feet,” Jindal said in an appearance at the Caldwell Parish courthouse.

Come on Jeff wake up. He is promising to be a proponent of welfare to any group he is in front of. In the case of farmers he knows subsidized crop insurance is already available to cover their losses because he voted as a Congressman for that.

Just insert whatever group is important at whatever gathering he is at. "Farmers" in Caldwell Parish, working Louisiana families cited in the Advocate article, probably fishermen in Houma, dairymen in the Florida Parishes, timber men in central Louisiana.

You definition of conservative is quite broad to include our beloved Governor.