Connecticut-based money manager Clifford Asness has a new essay posted on his StumblingOnTruth.com Web site. Some highlights:
as most Republicans would now admit, we share a lot of blame for this calamity, at least in the sense of having it happen on our watch. While in power we let government expand, not contract, as is our mandate. We let the easy pabulum of "compassionate conservatism" blind us to the fact that even though compassion is a virtue of the first order, along with benevolence, honesty, and others, these are private not public virtues, and importantly they are not virtues, if not voluntary. When the State claims to practice any of these virtues it is always being generous with someone else's resources, and usually most so to the constituents of whoever is currently in charge, and almost always with eyes firmly on the political advantage it will bring...we believe in small government and freedom, while they believe in big government and the accompanying tyrannies small and large. We believe in our way because it offers the best life for the most people, and, importantly, because liberty is the morally right answer. But, frankly, as odd as this may sound, their false argument is easier to make than our true one. Their argument is "look at all the free stuff government can give you, and look at all those evil corporations and Republicans who want to stop it."...We must win by explaining, no matter how long it may take and hard it may be, that free people acting in a free market is what this country stands for, is the only ethical way to live, and happens to be the greatest anti-poverty and civil rights program on earth. This is harder than saying "here's some free stuff, now vote for us forever or you'll lose it."
I believe the battle between large vs. small government and how it pertains to the economy and the dependency-state is the defining issue of our times...
Mr. Asness's message seems directed at those who already tend to agree with him. To undecideds or independents, who, after all, are the ones who need to be brought over, his language -- "We must focus on how we truly differ from them....We are the true good guys" -- may come off as excessively polarizing. The "Republicans are partly to blame" argument is one I made earlier here.