HUDGINS: Santorum, the most Anti-Reagan Republican

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With his virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum is the final flavor-of-the-week conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

While it might be tough for voters to decide which Republican candidate best represents the principles of Ronald Reagan, it is easy to determine who is antithetical to the Gipper’s values: That opponent of liberty is Rick Santorum.

Conservative Republicans favor traditional values, seeing families and religion as essential to social order. In contrast to libertarians, they would sometimes allow government to interfere with lifestyle choices, especially concerning sexual morality. But most conservatives, like libertarians, favor individual liberty and free markets, with government strictly limited in scope and power; they rightly fear that the state is the greatest threat to the traditions they value.

Thus Barry Goldwater, the 1964 GOP presidential candidate, wrote, “The first thing … [a conservative] has learned about man is that each member of the species is a unique creature. Man’s most sacred possession is his individual soul.” The 1964 party platform stated, “Every person has the right to govern himself, to fix his own goals, and to make his own way with a minimum of governmental interference.”

When Reagan ran for president in 1980, the platform began with a section titled “Free Individuals in a Free Society.” It read, “It has long been a fundamental conviction of the Republican Party that government should foster in our society a climate of maximum individual liberty and freedom of choice. Properly informed, our people as individuals or acting through instruments of popular consultation can make the right decisions affecting personal or general welfare.”

Mr. Santorum fundamentally disagrees: “This whole idea of personal autonomy - I don’t think that most conservatives hold that point of view,” he said. Specifically, “One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right.”

Concerning libertarians - though he tends to confuse them with liberals - he says, “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want.”

Mr. Santorum will have none of it. His book “It Takes a Family” was meant to be an answer to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “It Takes a Village.” We see that his goal is not to move us away from government interference with families. Rather, it is to move the government away from protecting individual liberty.

Mr. Santorum argues that American liberals “say ‘it takes a village’ but really what their ideology is based around is the individual.” No, Rick. A village is a collective, not an individual. Liberals favor majority votes in villages trumping the liberty of individuals. Libertarians favor individual choice.

Mr. Santorum continues, “We understand that the basic unit of society is the family, that the individual needs to be nurtured and supported and molded and shaped through this family structure, through the real village, which is the church, the community organizations.”

Mr. Santorum’s campaign banners read, “Faith, Family and Freedom.” The inclusion of the last term is disingenuous. He would replace the “freedom to be left alone” with the Orwellian notion of “the freedom to attend to one’s duties - duties to God, to family and to neighbors.” And if you don’t want to travel the path of self-sacrifice that he, our would-be leader, prescribes, you will be, in the words of Rousseau, “forced to be free” by the government.

In his breathtaking distortion of history - he can’t be this ignorant - Mr. Santorum rejects the notion that the Founders endorsed the pursuit of individual happiness as a right, the protection of which is the purpose of government. Does he have any clue who Thomas Jefferson was? Does he have any apprehension that “happiness,” along with “life” and “liberty,” as listed in the Declaration of Independence, are attributes of individuals, not groups?

Mr. Santorum sees the pursuit of individual self-interest as morally inexcusable and holds that the only morally acceptable goal in life is to live for others, for something “higher” than one’s self. Mr. Santorum’s beliefs are morally inexcusable and about as un-American as can be.

Mr. Santorum has more in common with Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan. He is a collectivist, only his collective is the family, not the village or, as with Marx, society as a whole.

Traditional conservatives and most libertarians acknowledge the importance of families in a free, stable society. But they understand that the moral unit, the living, breathing entity who thinks, chooses and acts and has goals and aspirations, is the individual. They thus agree that in society with others, individuals must seek values such as career and family based on mutual consent, respecting the rights of others.

Mr. Santorum might mouth support for free markets and limited government, but as a committed anti-individualist, he is probably the Republican who would most endanger liberty. Those Republicans who favor what was the core value for Reagan and Goldwater had better understand what Rick Santorum is all about before they enter the voting booth.

Edward Hudgins is director of advocacy for the Atlas Society.

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