L. Neil Smith's

Number 6, March 1996

No Wonder Buchanan Confuses the Democrats: He Is One

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         I'm not a Democrat. I don't even play one on TV.
         But the majority of America's political commentators are Democrats. That's why their attempts to explode "Republican" Pat Buchanan would be quite hilarious, if the danger of some of Mr. Buchanan's opportunistic rhetoric were not so real.
         Libertarians are fond of saying we're "pro-choice on everything."
         Mr. Buchanan, on the other hand, never seems to have met a government intervention he doesn't like, from jailing women who seek abortions, to shooting down would-be immigrants, to barring Americans from buying foreign-made towels without paying his huge new tariffs. (You do know what we call the main economic activity generated by high tariffs, don't you? "Smuggling.")
         Where these pundits go wrong is in screaming that Buchanan is "too Republican," as though that will convince GOP primary voters to switch their support to the tax-and-spend "Republican" Democrats love, the ambulatory cadaver who still seems to be watching his feet whenever the spotlight hits him, loudly counting out "One-two-three" as he tries to master this year's new dance steps, Washington's own Herman Munster, Bob Dole.
         Instead, they should ask a much simpler question:
         What is "republicanism"?
         In an 1816 letter to Joseph C. Cabell, Thomas Jefferson asked what it was that had "destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun?" The third president then answered his own question: "The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of the Venetian senate."
         Allowed to retain the vast bulk of governmental powers in his own ward and township, Mr. Jefferson assured Mr. Cabell, the individual citizen would become so jealous of his freedoms that "he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte."
         That anger now rises, as prescribed.
         As the forces of the state have relentlessly concentrated power over his life further and further from the direct control of the common man, the American voter has grown increasingly frustrated. >From time to time, he lashes out at his anonymous, bureaucratic foes, gleefully watching them scramble in terror as he throws his support to the loudest, most pugnacious troglodyte he can find, figuring that even if it doesn't really do much good, at least "That'll show 'em."
         Take the current brand of "protectionism" being hawked by Mr. Buchanan.
         Whenever government interferes to "protect" the product of some small group of inefficient farmers or manufacturers from "unfair competition," we see the centralization of power which Mr. Jefferson warned against -- power benefiting the few, at the cost of the many.
         Today, in order to "protect" a handful of wealthy peanut farmers from the "unfair competition" of cheap imported African peanuts, workers in the field of candy manufacture face the loss of their jobs, while literally millions of families pay more for peanut butter and peanut oil.
         And that's not all. To limit the rush of volunteers to its new peanut bounty, Congress found it necessary to limit peanut privileges - I'm not making this up -- to those with official "allotments" based on how many acres your daddy had in peanuts: an hereditary American peanut aristocracy.
         Finally, African peoples who might improve their living by growing and selling us their peanuts are forbidden to do so, with the result that American military forces are now dispatched from time to time to hellholes like Somalia to "feed the starving," rather than letting them grow peanuts for export and feed themselves.
         This nightmarish cycle of protectionism isn't even new.
         Although Herbert Hoover was urged to veto the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff by "almost all the nation's economists," the late UNLV economics Professor Murray Rothbard wrote that the Progressive bloc carried the day. "The Hoover Administration chose to hobble international trade, injure the American consumer, and cripple the American farmers' export markets by raising tariffs." Why? In order to please "the three leading farm organizations, and the American Federation of Labor."
         Republican constituencies?
         Among the "depressed American industries" granted protection by Smoot-Hawley were America's textile manufacturers. Today, three generations later, Mr. Buchanan counts among his major corporate donors ... America's textile manufacturers.
         But are those really the "high-paying jobs" we hope to see our grandchildren take up? What New Englander today regrets the high-tech and computer-related industries which sprung up to replace the closed-down textile mills?
         Ridiculing Mr. Buchanan for acting "too Republican" when he speaks up brashly for the right to bear arms, or against the subjugation of our foreign policy to the United Nations, or for "traditional family values," can only strengthen the resolve of his followers to defy the advice of a united and hostile punditry.
         Mr. Buchanan's bold but wrongheaded populist statism is likely to fail. But if it is to be stopped by some agency other than the re-election of William Jefferson Clinton, it will best be stopped not by arguing not that he is "too Republican," but that -- like Mr. Hoover before him -- his dark, protectionist prattle is really not very Republican, at all.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at vin@lvrj.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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