Time magazine is running a symposium on the state of the conservative movement. There are thirteen entries, including one by Rich Lowry and another by me.
There is much of interest here, but let me mention Richard Land’s contribution. He distinguishes between “the hard conservatives of the Goldwater, Buckley variety who are more libertarian in their beliefs” and “the soft conservatives represented by former President George W. Bush,” who think government “can be used to empower people to make decisions to improve their lives.” He thinks their struggle “will continue for the foreseeable future.”
So far so good. The trouble comes, as it so often does, when you get down to cases. Land writes, “Hard conservatives oppose the social conservatives’ pro-life, pro-traditional marriage agenda. They find Ayn Rand’s ideas attractive.” You can see the problem already. One of Land’s two great examples of hard conservatism, Buckley, was both pro-life and (famously!) anti-Rand. His other example, Goldwater, was pro-life for a good chunk of his career.
“Hard conservatives,” in Land’s view, oppose “social engineering” in the tax code, while “soft conservatives” favor “tax breaks for families.” But the tax credit for children was originally proposed by the Republican revolutionaries of 1995, who were mostly “hard conservatives” if the term has any meaning. And many advocates of expanding the credit regard it as a way of reducing the social engineering government is already engaged in.
So while I’m sure there’s something to Land’s distinction, I don’t think it can bear quite the weight he puts on it.