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Party Platforms and Core Principles

There are issues that some conservatives ardently embrace which, in their minds, make them “real conservatives,” distinguishing them from “faux conservatives,” to whom they have applied a myriad of pejorative labels and acronyms. In an ideal world, and at one time, those issues were workable and constituted a core component to the fabric of the American political structure. But in today’s environment, they are anachronistic and a return to them politically impossible, and implementation impractical. Consequently, those who incorrigibly and tenaciously hold to them may be more accurately defined as fatuous, rather than “far right.”

Some of these issues have been revisited in state Republican conventions around the country, most recently in Idaho’s last week. Some have been proposed or restated as planks in their respective state party platforms. But the salient question is, should they be?

Party platforms should be a terse couple of pages articulating the core principles of the party, not an idyllic “wish list” of fringe issues that are either anachronistic or impossible, and that restrict, rather than expand, the electoral appeal of the party. When fringe issues muddy the waters, only the inane will buy into inane planks, while mainstream voters question if they even belong with a group of such zealots detached from reality.

Repeal 17th Amendment“Exhibit A” amongst these dubious issues is the proposed repeal of the 17th Amendment, which provided for direct election of Senators rather than by state legislators. This has nothing to do with “how conservative” or how “constitutional” one is. But it certainly is indicative of how specious ones ideology can be.

The 17th Amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and in near record time, by the requisite 36 states, because of corruption at the state level. That was in 1912. Ratified in 1913. Now, the crucial question is whether cronyism and corruption was more likely to occur then, versus now. It seems based on the continued deterioration of morality in the political realm, that cronyism, corruption, and the influence of money in politics is much more likely to occur now than it was then. Especially with the emergence of PACs (Political Action Committees) which have much less accountability to the people and even to the candidates, the ability to buy off a few state legislators is much greater than the cost to fund and shape the outcome of a direct election by millions of citizens.

Institutionalizing that corruption by repeal of the 17th Amendment is hardly a “constitutional” concept, and is arguably contrary to the core principles embedded in our founding documents. When cronyism, pecuniary influence in politics, and corruption at the state level is eradicated, then the 17th Amendment will be ripe for repeal. Until then, doing so will only prove that we’re insane, by trying the same thing again and again, expecting different results.

gold-standard-2-638Exhibit B is no less questionable – the return to the gold standard. What led to the demise of the gold standard has relevance to today’s challenge to the dollar as the global reserve currency. During the late sixties, government spending grew significantly with the costs of the escalation of the Vietnam conflict and funding of LBJ’s Great Society programs. These were funded mostly by deficit spending, essentially charging the costs with a promise to pay for them in the future. This was extremely risky while the dollar was tied to the value of gold, for overspending and printing of dollars meant an excess of dollars in global circulation which could then be exchanged back to gold, depleting U.S. gold reserves.

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This limited the extent to which Washington could deficit-spend, and caused inflationary pressures on the economy. With Washington lacking the fiscal discipline to control the spending, President Richard Nixon issued Executive Order 11615, which “closed the gold window,” making the dollar just another fiat currency with a free-floating value for global exchange.

While it was devastating to our monetary and fiscal policy (from a deficit spending and national debt standpoint) for Nixon to abandon it, it’s a genie that could never be put back in the bottle. To do so would either create massive hyperinflation (devaluation) of our current fiat currency, massive swings (politically rather than market driven) in the price of the metal, or create such a high conversion rate as to be nearly meaningless.

U.S. Monetary HistoryIn all of my studies, and discussions with economists on the issue, I have yet to find a viable process to link the dollar back to the price of gold, reestablishing the gold standard. I honestly don’t think it could be done without devastating, and to a large extent, unintended consequences.

The solution lies in limitations on spending, debt, and deficit spending, perhaps through Article V Amendment process, since Washington has afforded no evidence that they can limit their appetite for the power (and cronyism) that comes from spending. Those are “conservative” issues. But re-linking the greenback to a limited precious metal is a pipe dream, and consequently, not an issue of ideological orientation, (i.e. “I’m more conservative than you because I support returning to the gold standard”). And I can ascertain no conceivable advantage to the party committing to something that is not only illogical, but likely impossible.

To many, these proposed planks in the Republican platform seem illogical, anachronistic, and divisive rather than broadening and inclusive. It would be preferable to have never abandoned the gold standard, and it would be ideal if graft had not corrupted American politics and created the need for the 17th Amendment.

The differences of opinion on unwinding these realities are genuine, but they have nothing to do with “how conservative” one is. Logically, it’s not the “far right” that’s responsible for these impractical planks, but simply ardent ideologues, regrettably validating the thesis that no party has a monopoly on historical ignorance or detachment from reality.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About Richard Larsen

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected]

16 comments

  1. What this ultimately comes down to is the fact that the Constitution requires money to be tied to gold or other precious metals. I am a Constitutionalist. I don’t believe in picking apart which parts of Constitution I do and don’t like. The problem we see with our government today is entirely because our country has drifted too far away from the Constitution. A return to the Gold Standard is part of a return to Constitutional Government. http://americasuncommonsense.com/blog/2011/01/04/monetary-policy-and-the-constitution/

  2. Rick, this article does a great job explaining how the genie could be put back in the bottle. https://fee.org/articles/how-to-return-to-the-gold-standard/

  3. I don’t for a minute want to diminish the importance of monetary issues as a part of any platform. It’s just so jumbled up in the jambalaya I can’t distinguish it from the other splinters.

    More importantly, WHAT IS A REPUBLICAN, anyway? How do I know ‘I am one?” Shouldn’t I be able to ‘define’ it in words other than “I’m not one of ‘them'”?? just askin’……The point being that sans a clear definitive plank to stand on, no one sees a platform. There are more definitions of ‘conservative’ than there are protestant churches, and all deem themselves the ‘only true’ group.

    My background includes college and moderately successful business owner and if I cannot understand ‘what’ the GOP stands for, I know I am not alone…..Yet I am quite clear on what the modern day Democrat is…..This isnt’ what I’d call a party builder; Perhaps a simple 10 point plain language outline would be a good place to start…..straight planks build a stronger platform

    • Beautifully stated, Jan! I wholeheartedly concur!

      • Jan, you’ve raised a point that has aggravated me for quite some time now. You asked; what is a Republican anyway?

        Richard, the primary points of your article, understood and notwithstanding, you also raise the question, in so many words, what is a conservative (in that, “I’m more conservative than you because of my inane beliefs….”)

        The terms conservative and liberal are about as meaningful as a glass of watered down milk. Neither have any real substance because neither are consistently tied to any principles. Their simplest definitions are their only TRUE definitions; conservatives reject change and liberals seek change… PERIOD. They only gain some modicum of meaning beyond that when tied to a specific time and place. Liberals founded this Nation and Conservatives enforced Communism in the Soviet Union!

        We have been inoculated with these meaningless terms by the Socialist Progressive incumbency for generations as a part of the intentional social demoralization process that is finally taking our nation down. I literally mean; the term “conservative” has the singular purpose of KEEPING US STUPID – and divided.

        If I tell you that I’m a conservative you have some idea that I cling to the “old ways” as it were. But what would you think if I told you that I am an AMERICANIST?

        All of the sudden you might find it necessary to find out what that term means. And you could actually do that because Americanism IS a set of principles. Liberals – actually Socialists – might not know exactly what it means either but their values – their principles that define Socialism – summarily reject any form of Nationalism and they would therefore be repulsed by the very NAME (which is why they are, so, okay with the word conservative. It’s such a nice fluffy word…).

        While I may agree or disagree with your points about what is inane with in the conservative realm I find it more disagreeable to focus on such nebulous terms because they rob us of understanding, of wisdom , of unity… and consequently the Truth.

        I’m not a conservative. If I must be labeled at the “grade school” level then I have to be defined as a liberal because I definitely want things to change – back to the standards of the Original Constitution. Tyranny – in terms of world history – is VERY Conservative because Tyranny is by an large how “Civilization” has ALWAYS been! America has been the incredible exception to history.

        What is an Americanist?

        (these words ALWAYS bring tears to my eyes because of a deep sorrow!) We hold these truths to be self evident, that all human kind are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the ownership of property (including themselves) – that to secure these rights governments are instituted upon a set of principles among men, deriving the JUST power from the CONSENT (in our case the Constitution that says WE the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union…) of the GOVERNED (us!) –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to its sole purpose of protecting these rights, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on THESE such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness and INDIVIDUAL Liberty and Responsibility.

        I’m an Americanist. I am the 57th signature!

        Derrell

        (No one can know they are right except that they look to something Greater than themselves.)

        • Darrell, thank you for your heartfelt remarks! Frankly, I think you and I are on the same page ideologically, but just see things slightly differently.

          “Conservative” has become largely meaningless mostly because of the efforts of some on the “right” to parse the meaning such that anyone who doesn’t believe precisely the same as they do, are despicable sots to whom a plethora of pejorative acronyms and appellations have been applied.

          When you look at the Pew Research group’s yearly poll on ideological alignment, consistently 68-70% of Americans self-identify as conservatives, based largely on their conviction in free markets. That’s an incredible starting point – liberty! Add to that the other two key explicit principles from our founding documents, life and the pursuit of happiness (property-per the Lockean Creed), our core principles are pretty precise. If we focused on those core principles, there is virtually no national election we couldn’t win.

          It’s when the ideologues starting dividing and subdividing “conservatives” that we shoot ourselves in the foot and set us up for self-destruction at the polls. This is illogical, divisive, and destructive to the republic.

          • Precisely, Richard. This is why I feel Americanism and the existing principles that it describes is more impervious to such parsing than the open ended term Conservative turns out to be.

            As I said, we find where we are right or wrong by looking to something greater than ourselves for the truth. I did not write the Declaration of Independence and Jefferson authored that document based upon the self-evident truth of human nature, the historical record, and the Bible. What Credentials could be more compelling?

            The term conservative is a soft term that those who oppose Americanist principles are comfortable with. But the Truth is often very uncomfortable.

            The thing about seeking the truth is that when you find it you must accept it…

    • I understand your argument Rick. This may not be an issue that defines conservatism but it’s still a vitally important issue. I’m not sure I agree with folks who say bringing back sound money would drastically increase inflation. I think sound money would actually drastically bring down inflation which would help everyone our financially. We need to rIt’s okay, I plugged my phone in cause the battery was running low. I’m sorry that I missed your call. I didn’t here it ring while I was upstairs. We must remember that it was only after we got off the gold standard that inflation drastically went up. This happened because our money no longer had value. I believe tying our money to gold would actually bring down inflation in the end. That would be the end result in my opinion. It would also save our dollar from it’s inevitable crash. If our dollar crashes due to devaluation we will have a most terrible economic depression.

      • I’m not sure how this phone call thing got inserted into my comments. That’s annoying. LOL

    • Jan Brown, you make a valid point but I respectfully disagree with small aspects of your comment. I actually love the Idaho GOP Platform. I have read it and believe it’s wonderful. We really do have a wonderful platform that paints bold color differences from the Democrats, and has NO pale pastel shades.

  4. “Oh heaven forbid that we actually have money again that has real value. It would be sooo horrible if we actually reduced spending which would bring about less printing. Heaven forbid that we actually tie our money to gold. If money actually had value that would mean that money would help poor families more than our social welfare programs. We just can’t have that! I Joe Liberal vote that we don’t return to the gold standard. We don’t want poor folks to have money that has actual value. That kind of thing goes against our left wing objectives.” -Joe Liberal

    I’m actually thankful that both the National and Idaho GOP platforms include a desired goal to return to the gold standard. We really do need to bring back sound money. Not only is that good policy but it would substantially help out the poorest among us because they could once again buy more with their dollar.

    Ted Cruz gave a good explanation for what we need to do during the GOP Presidential debate. https://youtu.be/VP-kwreGQn0

    • That’s not the point, Ben. As the piece points out, there are viable positions on both sides of each of these issues, but logic and history are against them. Consequently, they cannot be used as a “canon” by which to ascertain “how conservative” one is. That is point A.

      Point B is that a platform should consist of core principles, not a veritable “wish list” of anachronistic ideas.

      Point C, while it was devastating to our monetary and fiscal policy (from a deficit spending and national debt standpoint) for Nixon to abandon the GS, it’s a genie that could never be put back in the bottle. To do so would either create massive hyperinflation (devaluation) of our current fiat currency, massive swings (politically rather than market driven) in the price of the metal, or create such a high conversion rate as to be nearly meaningless. I still have not seen anyone explain cogently how that genie can be put back in the bottle.

      • I understand your argument Rick. This may not be an issue that defines conservatism but it’s still a vitally important issue. I’m not sure I agree with folks who say bringing back sound money would drastically increase inflation. I think sound money would actually drastically bring down inflation which would help everyone our financially. We need to rIt’s okay, I plugged my phone in cause the battery was running low. I’m sorry that I missed your call. I didn’t here it ring while I was upstairs. We must remember that it was only after we got off the gold standard that inflation drastically went up. This happened because our money no longer had value. I believe tying our money to gold would actually bring down inflation in the end. That would be the end result in my opinion. It would also save our dollar from it’s inevitable crash. If our dollar crashes due to devaluation we will have a most terrible economic depression.

        • I’m not sure how this phone call thing got inserted into my comments. That’s annoying. LOL

        • Ben I happen to agree with you to the extent that if we reset one Constitutional enumeration then we must reset ALL of the Constitutional enumerations. However if we try to do this piecemeal then we are going to fail. And I think this is part of Richards point.

          Here is my list of inane “conservative” beliefs

          1) overturn the 1803 Judicial Review empowerment of the Supreme Court

          2 Do away with the 14th, 16th, 17th and 26th Amendments and any other Amendment which poses opposition or encroachment upon the intent of the first 10 Amendments.

          3) Return States Rights to a level superior to the Federal Government and reestablish the supremacy of Individual TRUE rights (as opposed to mere privileges) over States Rights. This is the original Constitutional Structure.

          4) Return money to Gold Standard

          5) Dissolve entirely the Administrative Bureaucracy and ALL of the Unconstitutional National Police Forces. The United States CANNOT just do whatever it wants! KEEP the guarantee of a Republican Form of Government to every State of this Union!

          6) Turn over ALL federal lands not required, as defined in Article I, Section 8 to the States.

          7) Reestablish the Militia as our front line National Defense and make the (illegally perpetual standing Army subjugate to that militia. (Only the US Navy, as perpetual force, is Constitutional)

          8) Exit the United Nations, expel it from our soil, and STOP FUNDING it. Dissolve all Treaties that subject us to international Tribunals. STOP the hemorrhaging of money to foreign welfare states and GET out of foreign interventionism altogether!

          9) Reestablish the County Sheriff as the top law enforcement agency in each county or parish

          10) Abolish ALL Socialist and illegal governments within our borders – Native American Tribes!! We are ALL Americans! The only viable minority is the smallest minority of all – the Individual.

          11) Close our Borders and control WHO comes into our Country. EXPEL foreign lawbreakers and border jumper with impunity!!!

          12) Reject Corporate Cronyism (Fascism) and return to Laissez Faire!!!

          These are the inane beliefs I hold at the moment… that I can think of… off the top of my head.

          And they are ALL based on the Principles of Americanism – practical or otherwise – because the only JUST purpose of ANY Government is to PROTECT OUR RIGHTS!