The recent comments regarding forced birth control made by Russell Pearce, while certainly unacceptable and wholly inappropriate, uncover a fascinating insight into the nature, philosophical underpinnings and outlook of modern day conservatism and the Republican Party’s future.
There is a distinct group of Republican elected officials (that I, myself, am proud to be a part of) that embraces Constitutional Conservatism with roots in the Classical Liberal tradition. Classical Liberalism originated in Lockean justifications for the role of government in a free society. This philosophy was first applied in the American Revolution by greats like Jefferson, Madison and Mason.
To Classical Liberals, the concepts of “self-evident truths” and “unalienable rights” mean that our liberties are grounded in reason and natural law. Government exists, in its entirety, to protect those liberties. Modern Constitutional Conservatism is the 21st century application of Classical Liberalism as it contextualizes the realities of a century of welfare state growth, federal domination of the individual states and increasing coordination of government and the economy.
Constitutional conservatives reject the progressive machinations of both early 20th century Republicans and mid-to-late 20th century (and current) Democrats. Our aim is to keep the scope of the welfare state as narrow as possible, protecting the civil and economic liberties of the citizens, while reforming existing public programs in order to increase efficiency, maximize utility and reduce costs.
The progressive legal ideal for social engineering hit a low in 1927, with the Buck v. Bell U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the court’s majority decision upholding forced sterilization of individuals by a state, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (in)famously wrote “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Holmes’ bold statement was a milestone in the 20th century progressive movement. Social engineering was legally legitimized as a role of the states.
The eugenics movement in the United States hailed the Buck v. Bell decision as a victory for their cause. This movement had support in both parties, as Classical Liberalism’s philosophical dominance gave way to Progressive political economics. It was not until the emergence of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan (on the political side), and Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman (on the economic side) that the political economic winds shifted back toward liberty.
Upon learning that Russell Pearce said, “You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligation,” what comes to mind to Classical Liberals, like me, is an apparent deep-seated progressive inclination. What is striking about such words coming from Pearce, is that he has normally been aligned with the Constitutional Conservative wing of the Republican Party – currently made up of legislative leaders like Andy Biggs, David Gowan, Eddie Farnsworth and Steve Montenegro. Such statements wouldn’t surprise me if they were made by those Republicans in the big government, regulatory/spending-wing of the Republican Party, but insofar as they came from Pearce, I’m astonished.
Let the record show that Pearce’s comments were profoundly progressive and, in my opinion, betrayed a problematic misunderstanding of the proper moral justification of government. Rather than defending liberty, Pearce appears to prefer his own version of planning a society. Constitutional Conservatives reject such planning, finding beauty and compassion in defending life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
Constitutional Conservatives in Arizona should look toward our House and Senate leaders in finding a new champion for our cause. Pearce was right to resign from his leadership position in Arizona’s Republican Party, and I, for one, hope he is replaced by a leader who will proudly stand for the Classical Liberal principles that are the cornerstones of our party and our free society.
– Republican Rep. Adam Kwasman of Oro Valley was a candidate for Congress in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.