by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Progressives want to accelerate the country’s century-long shift toward socialism with a long list of policies: Medicare-for-all, “free” college, government-run energy production and prescription-drug manufacturing, federal job and housing guarantees, dramatically higher tax rates and new wealth taxes, and a $15 minimum wage.
Conservatives have opposed these socialist proposals by pointing out how much they will cost. For instance, they’ve trumpeted a Mercatus Center study estimating that Medicare-for-all would roughly double the federal budget. They have explained how high tax rates would hurt economic growth. And they’ve demonstrated how a $15 wage floor would hurt small businesses and reduce job opportunities.
These arguments are all correct. But they do not address the root of why these policy proposals are wrong. By merely citing the financial or economic challenges of implementing them, conservatives cede the moral high ground and tacitly accept the Left’s premises.
To win the battle of ideas, conservatives must fight on philosophical grounds, explaining why these policies are immoral. They must make the case based on ethics rather than economics because the latter is downstream from the former. It is only a matter of time before a purely economic or logical argument loses to a moral or emotional one.
In practice this means explaining why the fundamental principle of collectivism underlying these socialist proposals is immoral: It violates the individual rights upon which societal progress and happiness are based. Collectivism is backed by compulsion, where one side wins and the other loses, rather than voluntary trade for mutual benefit.