Sunday, September 30, 2007

When is an entitlement not an entitlement?

Blogger Kenneth Cole raised a great issue in his post at Republican Wondering on Friday. If I could turn it into a question, it would be: When is an entitlement not an entitlement? And I would offer an answer -- at the end of this note. Mr. Cole writes about growing up in Kansas, another deep-red state, when it was being governed by "common-sense, rational people who were very conservative with tax dollars" but who weren't blinded by a "social agenda." At about the time he left Kansas, he writes here (, a different regime took control of the Republican Party there. He explains,

Shortly before I moved away, the state Republican party took a hard-right turn. It was taken over by zealots whose first - and only - issue was banning all abortions. For a while it seemed the fiscal and the social conservatives could get along. But that didn't last.

Today I see too many extremes in the Republican party at the state level. From Virginia - where Republicans wanted to allow teachers to carry guns to Utah - where hard edge Republicans voted for a private school voucher law - it just seems everyone on our side of the aisle has lost sight of the "middle."

And they've even lost sight of common sense. Take Utah, for example. From what I've read, their private school voucher program would ENTITLE all parents to have a voucher. Eventually all kids in private school would be state-subsidized. What kind of rational thinking is that?

It's the rational that's been lost.

I agree with Mr. Cole. There seems to be no connection between today's debate on the House Bill 148 voucher referendum and the traditional fiscal conservatism that brought rational Republicans to their majority in government. The wisdom in charge today is hardly Republican at all, which is likely why moderate Republicans -- still rational Republicans -- either aren't talking about this universal voucher program or haven't joined the side of its sponsors. In fact, in thinking through Mr. Cole's perspective, something else just occurred to me. In one of my internet searches I saw a press release explaining why the state Libertarian Party was now endorsing Referendum 1, and blogger Mata Hari has referred to it too, here ( I didn't think of it before, but it makes sense now, thanks to Mr. Cole's comments. See:

There is too much emphasis on the social issues, too much emphasis that ALL Republicans should be against funding even basic operations of government. (Even Republicans expect government to maintain roads, law and order, and public schools.)

Government, it seems to me, is the art of compromise. One can't compromise when one won't budge from hardened positions.

This referendum doesn't really reflect Republican principles at all, but it certainly reflects Libertarian principles. Which offers an answer to the question that Mr. Cole's post raised for me: When is an entitlement not an entitlement?

It's not an entitlement when it uses public dollars to further an ideology to eliminate government altogether. And that's a classic Libertarian philosophy.