The Real World Effects of “Negative Liberty”

Delving further into Tom Allen’s Dangerous Convictions, Winning Progressive points out four specific examples of how conservatives principles have led to disastrous real world policy consequences:

  1.  Budget
  2. The Iraq War
  3. Health care
  4. Climate Change

Consider the area of tax policy – conservative principles say “tax cuts pay for themselves” despite significant real world evidence that’s not the case.

While serving on the House Budget Committee, Allen heard that argument often. Republicans argued that despite clear evidence to the contrary. And further evidence that tax cuts do not pay for themselves has emerged since the Bush era, yet in 2011 Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said:

My view, and I think most of the people in my party don’t believe that you should ever have to offset a tax cut.

The Iraq War is another key and disturbing example of how Republicans have valued principles over actual real world facts:

Allen was shocked when he learned that the National Security Council never met to discuss the decision to invade Iraq. Instead, President Bush made the decision on his own, with input from Vice President Cheney, based on intelligence reports that, in the words of the Downing Street Memo, “were being fixed around the policy.”

 We are familiar with debacle that followed.  Republicans were warned and refsued to listen.

Hagel was not alone in arguing for caution. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the president “When you hit [Iraq], it’s like crystal glass. It’s going to shatter. There will be no government. There will be civil disorder.” In Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, Special Inspector General Stuart Bowden found the State Department had concluded:

[I]nvading Iraq and replacing its totalitarian regime would require a U.S. commitment of enormous scope, carried out over a period of years, engaging everything from Iraq’s judiciary to its electrical grid.

The Bush administration rejected that view, “convinced that by limiting the military’s post-war role in Iraq, the United States could avoid the ‘culture of dependency’ that had taken root in other post-conflict interventions,” Bowden found.

Iraq was a disaster, one that could have and should have been avoided had the Republican party embraced reality.

Health care:

More dismaying, for Allen, was Republicans’ refusal to engage the detailed facts about health care policy. He cites this July 2012 Chris Wallace interview with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday. Asked how Republicans would cover the 30 million Americans without health insurance, Sen. McConnell replied “that’s not the issue.” Wallace pressed on:

WALLACE: You don’t think the 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?

MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system.

Never mind that those European nations spend less per capita and get better health care outcomes than the US. 

It’s an example of principle over people.  The Republicans will destroy the village in the same of saving it.

Finally, climate change:

 Simply, Republicans recognize that climate change, if it is real, will require government action. But “more government” means “less freedom,” always, as a matter of principle. Thus, because its only solution would be intolerable, climate change cannot be real – and scientists whose evidence supports it must be attacked as ideologues who want to “impose socialistic, globalist control over nations, businesses, and your lifestyle” – all summarized in Sen. Rubio’s blithe “government can’t control the weather.”

Defining freedom only as freedom from restraint and defining government only as a limiting force, Republicans automatically deny a valid role for government.  It flies in the face of centuries of western liberal tradition which says government, simply stated, is and can be a force for good in the world. 


  1. #1 by brewski on February 20, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    Obama stated he would LOWER tax revenues in exchange for fairness as a matter of principle alone.

    Obama tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan. He called it a war of necessity.

    Obamacare leaves 27 million people uninsured and we still pay more than twice what everyone else pays.

    Obama is destroying the village.

    Don’t you just hate facts and evidence?

  2. #2 by Richard Warnick on February 20, 2013 - 1:08 pm

    The Bush administration said that the occupation of Iraq would last 1 1/2 years, and cost from $12 billion to $48 billion a year. They believed that “the cost of the occupation, the cost for the military administration and providing for a provisional [civilian] administration, all of that would come out of Iraqi oil.” White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was dismissed in 2002 after suggesting the price of invading and occupying Iraq could reach $200 billion.

    Iraq war ends with a $4 trillion IOU “Over a 50-year period, that comes to $80 billion annually.”

    What I’d like to know, is how the right-wing keeps winning arguments when their reputation says you can count on them being wrong.

  3. #3 by brewski on February 20, 2013 - 1:35 pm

    Ask the Dems who voted for it:

    “the October 2002 resolution authorizing the invasion had the support of the majority of Democratic senators, as well as the support of the Democratic Party leadership in both the House and the Senate.”

  4. #4 by Richard Warnick on February 20, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    Profiles in courage, one and all. 🙁

    Maddow: Many in Congress never read Iraq intel briefs before authorizing war. My theory is, they didn’t have to because they already KNEW they were voting the wrong way, and didn’t need to see the proof. Karl Rove wanted the AUMF voted on right before the 2002 mid-term election for maximum political leverage, and that’s what happened.

    I don’t know whether or not to feel sorry for Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). He voted to authorize Bush’s invasion even though he knew it was wrong, then lost his seat anyway when Republicans ran ads claiming Cleland, a decorated war veteran and triple amputee, was somehow a friend of Osama bin Laden (his opponent never served in the military). They also apparently rigged the voting machines in Georgia, as Larry is sure to point out.

    Surely you recall that in 2002-2003 anyone who questioned President Bush’s policies, WMD doubters or those who suggested it wasn’t a good idea to start another war were instantly denounced as traitors by Karl Rove and company. Bush was incessantly referred to as “OUR Commander-in-Chief” when in reality he was only the commander-in-chief of the military.

    Today, in 2013, America is still at war but Republicans find it perfectly acceptable to brand President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense as a “friend of Hamas.” IOKIYAR.

  5. #5 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 3:38 am

    Democrats knowingly voted for something which was wrong? You need to take this up with Cliff and Glenden because according to them the Democrats are all good and moral and the Republicans are the only problem.

    • #6 by Cliff Lyon on February 21, 2013 - 7:59 am

      The weakness displayed by many Democrats was generally motivated by the circumstances Richard mentioned: “Surely you recall that in 2002-2003 anyone who questioned President Bush’s policies, WMD doubters or those who suggested it wasn’t a good idea to start another war were instantly denounced as traitors by Karl Rove and company.”

      …which further supports my thesis that Republicans represented then and continue to represent the greatest world threat in modern times second only to climate change.

  6. #7 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 8:55 am

    Oooooooooo. Karl Rove was going to call me names so I was forced into doing something that was wrong. The boogeyman made me do it.

    Is that your defense?

  7. #8 by Richard Warnick on February 21, 2013 - 9:29 am

    Karl Rove has ended plenty of political careers. Only recently has his style of scorched-earth campaigning reached the point of diminishing returns.

    No swiftboaters at Senator John Kerry’s confirmation hearing. Their day is done.

  8. #9 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    So what you are telling me is that it is more important to protect the “political careers” of some than to do the right thing for this country and for humanity.

    You have just encapsulated everything which is wrong with this country.

  9. #10 by Richard Warnick on February 21, 2013 - 1:37 pm

    The point is that Rove did more than simply insult public figures. He tried to destroy their careers, and often succeeded. The fact that they were right and he was wrong never came into it.

    Look, I never allowed people to intimidate me by calling me a traitor for criticizing the Bush administration. But my career and reputation (such as it was) was never threatened. I don’t like it that Dems and others (I used to like John McCain) backed down, but it’s understandable.

  10. #11 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 1:45 pm

    Their careers? THEIR CAREERS??!! Aren’t they supposed to be going to Washington to serve us and not to build their careers and get the pension plan and health plan? Isn’t that the idea?

    You have just encapsulated everything which is wrong with this country.

  11. #12 by Richard Warnick on February 21, 2013 - 2:39 pm


    Where did you get that soapbox? Did you muster that level of indignation against the USA PATRIOT Act? The illegal invasion of Iraq? The Military Commissions Act? The FISA Amendments? The NDAA?

  12. #13 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 3:04 pm

    You are justifying the illegal invasion of another country and the killing of tens of thousands of people with your only leg being that the elected public servants needed to protect their careers?

    You have just encapsulated everything which is wrong with this country.

  13. #14 by Richard Warnick on February 21, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    No, not at all. Are you new on this blog?

  14. #15 by brewski on February 21, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    Please read your own posts where you defended the Democrats who voted for the war on the grounds that they needed to protect their political careers.

  15. #16 by Richard Warnick on February 21, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    What posts? In comments above I criticized Dems for voting for the 2002 Iraq AUMF (not for the invasion, there was never a vote on that).

    I said I disapproved, but could understand why they voted the wrong way. And I pointed out that Senator Max Cleland supported Bush and Republicans still denounced him as a traitor simply because he was a Democrat.

    Why can’t you read? I never sought to justify the invasion of Iraq. I opposed it in 2002, and now, and at every other time in between. You’re just typing gibberish.

  16. #17 by Larry Bergan on February 21, 2013 - 6:33 pm

    Karl Rove was embraced tightly by the Bush crime family because, early on, he was willing to do the dirty work while they put on the pretense of being good, folksy types.

    To really know what Karl Rove is capable of, and allowed to get away with, it’s important to understand what he was able to do to Governor Don Siegelman by using packed courts and bad law – or no law!

    The Supreme Court is obviously packed. Why would anyone believe the lower courts and the entire justice system couldn’t be packed?

    Maybe the Democrats realize this and just didn’t have the guts that Don Siegelman had to call the voting machines into question.

    Although the “Sixty Minutes” story about Siegelman was very good journalism, they never touched on the election theft.

    Siegelman was free for a couple of years, but is now back in prison for trying to help children get educated while breaking NO law – Karl Rove says he did. Did you see any interviews during the time this innocent Democrat was free by our great media watchdogs.

    Of course not!

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