Conservatives Shouldn't Have Doctrines, Anti-Tax or Otherwise

Historically, conservatives were the practitioners of prudence.

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In a front-page story this morning, the Washington Post reports:

Growing Republican support for raising taxes to help reduce the deficit has prompted a GOP identity crisis, sparking a clash within the party over whether to abandon its bedrock anti-tax doctrine.


[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Critics say that giving any ground on taxes would violate party doctrine that has not been challenged since President George H.W. Bush broke his "read my lips" pledge as part of a 1990 budget deal.

I will say this: If you find yourself using phrases such as "violat[ing] party doctrine," you ought to ask yourself if you're really a conservative in the first place.

Fealty to doctrines and orthodoxies and abstract theories are for the radicals, the liberals, the philosophes.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

As conservative forefather Edmund Burke, in 1791's An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, wrote:

One sure symptom of an ill-conducted state is the propensity of the people to theories. The lines of morality are not like ideal lines of mathematics. They admit of exceptions; they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logic, but by the rule of prudence. Prudence is not only first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all.

My advice to the "supercommittee": Let prudence ring!

  • Read Alex Parker on whether the "supercommittee" is working.
  • Check out our editorial cartoons on the GOP.
  • Read the U.S. News debate on whether flat taxes are a good idea.