The Republican platform combines the moral traditionalism of the earlier Reaganite constituency with the bold policy departures of the newer Reagan idea -- supply-side economics. Both are a response to the excesses of the American superstate -- the vast accumulation, at the top of our society, of too much governmental machinery; too much control over the incomes of households and firms and the daily commerce of the marketplace; too much usurpation of the institutions of family, neighborhood and local government; too vast an outpouring of state-manufactured rights, entitlements and remedies, and too much political activism and advantage among society's elites at the expense of diminished choice for the citizen of ordinary rank.
Unfortunately, the nation's editors and reporters see in the platform only retreat to a narrow conservatism -- a cacophony of cranky, "single issue" causes. But that perception is myopic. Underlying the noisy contention over a few particulars is a radical bid to throw out the premises of liberal government that have brought American society to the brink of economic collapse and social disarray.
We are trying to reverse the excessive politicization of our national life. The tendency to resolve almost everything in the high court or in national legislative and administrative forums has extracted a heavy and unhealthy cost. It has unduly magnified the power of the governing and communications elites. It has burdened our system with unnecessary zero-sum struggles over everything from motor fuel to jobs, investment capital and elementary school rooms. And it has generated a deep frustration and demoralization in the settings where common Americans live, work, struggle and hope.
The platform's statements in defense of private religious schools, in opposition to busing, hiring quotas and the unlimited "right" to abortion, and the non-endorsement of ERA have been widely misunderstood. They spring from a common, principled rejection of the contemporary tyranny of judicial activism, the creation of "rights" out of thin air and the heavy-handed imposition of federal judicial and administrative remedies. These excesses have shattered common notions of fairness and have imperiled the independence of local institutions.
The notion that "social progress," as defined by the elites of bench, bar and progressive sensibility, can be imposed from the top is a destructive illusion. The busing disaster is its bitter legacy, and the proliferation of private schools its inexorable result. It is one reason so many question the Equal Rights Amendment, fearing that its common-sense essence of non-discrimination in employment, credit and education will be contorted by lawsuits and by regulations to incorporate the ideas of its most incorrigible new class proponents.
Likewise, the acrimonious struggle over abortion did not originate in the provinces, but in the arrogance of the Supreme Court. The decision to pluck an absolute "right" out of a Constitution that contained no such thing short-circuited the one process available for tempered resolution of today's most intractable issue of morality: adjustment by the states of their laws to reflect the changing attitudes and differing values among the nation's population.
To be sure, the practical arguments that ERA can be kept on the straight and narrow and that after seven years it is too late to reverse the Supreme Court's abortion dictum appeals to many Republicans, including this writer. But repudiation of the incessant social engineering pursued by the nation's liberals appeals even more strongly.
In a similar vein, the Kemp-Roth plan represents not a narrow recommendation about IRS tables, but a new premise about national economic policy and the ingredients of economic growth, social mobility and non-inflationary prosperity.
Keynesian policy has collapsed because its premise was wrong. Today's policies assume that the basic ingredients of growth -- productivity, investment, technological innovation, risk-taking and entrepreneurial efficiencies -- can be managed by manipulating the dials of the government's fiscal and monetary machinery. But the last decade is living proof that they cannot be.
By contrast, the Kemp-Roth idea shifts the focus to producer incentives and opportunity, to the miracles of marketplace efficiencies, competence and innovation, and to the fallen flag of a stable monetary standard.
We insist that inflation does not have to be fought with the Carter policies of economic contraction, unemployment and austerity because it is not caused by the greed of consumers, wage-earners, big companies -- nor even the weather, OPEC or federal deficits. It is a monetary disorder that must be addressed by altering the mandate of the nation's central bank. Its open-ended license to pursue various goals by means of manipulating aggregate demand, interest rates and business cycle fluctuations must be revoked in favor of a more limited franchise to produce money of stable value.
Again, the sources of real economic expansion lie in releasing the idled energies and untapped ideas of workers and entrepreneurs throughout the vast interior of our $2.5 trillion economy. This is the purpose of the platform's call for steady reduction of tax rates on all producers and for systematic elimination of unnecessary impediments to commerce wherever they appear.
A supply-side program that looks to the people for the ingredients of growth will preclude resorting to that futility the White House is now pleased to call "reindustrialization" policy. The latter is but a polite euphemism for resurrecting a modern variant of the King's Salt Monopoly -- a regime in which the few bargain over bail-outs and protections, while the many are burdened by higher taxes, tariffs and prices and the economy is deadened by wasteful deployments of labor and capital and the insatiable demands of the politically privileged.
Our energy policy recommendations similarly reject the statist assumptions now in vogue in government. There is no need for today's congressional struggles over preferred energy brands -- coal, nuclear, conservation, synfuels, solar -- or for DOE's vast array of promotional subsidies, consumption taxes, efficiency standards, fuel-use orders, bureaucratic cheerleading and the rest.
Society and consumers will be best served not by the maximum quantity of any particular lobby's energy brand, but by the least expensive mixture of fuels, technologies and improved efficiencies wrested out of the daily exchanges and decisions of the marketplace. The one thing we do need -- an aggressive strategic storage and stockpiling program to ensure us against interruption of supply -- this administration has utterly defaulted upon. The Republican platform makes oil import security -- and overall national security -- its highest rather than lowest priority.
Much the same thrust is seen in the platform's call for the de-nationalization of the categorical social welfare and public assistance programs. The aim is not simply administrative efficiency or less bureaucracy, but the yielding back of power to those local communities and agencies that are the foundation of our society.
The real problem with grants is not the purposes they are meant to serve or even the economic resources they tap, but rather the power they confer upon Washington's elites and lobbies to impose unwelcome, uniform agendas on local communities. Discrimination against minorities or the handicapped, for instance, can be rooted out far more evenhandedly by strict enforcement of the law than by quotas for minority contractors or 500-page bureaucratic tomes on the removal of architectural barriers.
If the Republican platform is uncongenial to the policy and media establishments, it will be more than welcomed by certain constituencies of the electorate that have been skeptical of our intentions in the past. For the first time, it addresses positively and unequivocally wage-earners' concern about economic security. It pleges to rescue the Social Security system from impending insolvency, to maintain unemployment compensation and other necessary social safety nets, and affirms the centrality of free collective bargaining. Yesterday's planks challenging national labor law and unionism have been finally interred.
Similarly, the proposed enterprise zones program, which would drastically reduce tax and regulatory burdens in order to attract capital, entrepreneurs and jobs to fragile inner-city economies, offers a new idea and more plausible promise to minorities. Our past penchant for diluted renditions of Democratic offers of public sector boodle has been replaced by a broader vision of growth and vitality, and a commitment to ensure that when the train leaves the station no one is left behind.
Since the days of the GE circuit, Ronald Reagan has warned that America would one day run out of economic steam, private energy and confidence and a stable foundation of strong families and healthy local communities if the liberal superstar continued to expand. These prophecies have materialized in today's national decline. The Republican platform provides him a charter to lead us back to economic prosperity, social stability and international strength -- a progressive vision for the nation and no cause for heartburn among those self-styled "progressives" who prefer these goals to the vested interests and tattered ideologies of a superstate that has failed.