Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.”
Imagine if the aforementioned were true– what would we call an entire generation who can’t seem to choose between their head or their heart; fiscal conservatism or increased social spending; smaller government or government-provided healthcare?
This is a reality among 25 percent of the United States population and we call them Millennials.
A recent report by Reason-Rupe surveyed 2,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 and found that Millennials are a hybrid of big government skeptics and supporters.
On one hand, Millennials are generally in favor of reduced taxes, regulation, and spending. According to the survey, 64 percent of Millennials believe cutting government spending by 5 percent would benefit the economy; 59 percent said cutting taxes would do the same; and 55 percent believe a reduction in regulations would help.
However, Millennials’ attitude toward increased spending and government action virtually flip-flopped when asked about housing, healthcare and other resources that have long been debated as being human rights or economic goods.
Although 59 percent of Millennials said cutting taxes would benefit the economy, 58 percent would approve higher taxes if it meant the government could spend more on assisting the poor. Additionally, 54 percent believe government should guarantee everyone a college education; 68 percent believe government should ensure everyone makes a living wage; and 69 percent said it is the government’s responsibility to provide access to healthcare for every citizen.
The juxtaposition between social and economic viewpoints depicted by the survey results further illustrate a complex challenge Republicans face moving forward — how do you separate an individual’s heart from his head?
The short answer is libertarianism, which speaks to both albeit differently than the liberal approach. Republicans could certainly benefit from tackling social issues in a fashion similar to libertarians who acknowledge certain choices are an individual’s decision that should neither be funded nor punished for through government. In other words, believe what you wish, but take responsibility – and accept potential consequences – for the decision you make as a result.
In a column for Rare, the Daily Caller’s Jim Antle offered the reintroduction of “fusionism” – a political and philosophical cooperation between social conservatives and traditional libertarians developed by former National Review editor Frank Meyer – as a sensible starting point.
“To Meyer, cooperation between libertarians and religious conservative wasn’t just good politics. It was sound philosophy. Meyer observed, ‘truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it; and free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon brings about conditions that pave the way for surrender to tyranny,’” Antle wrote.
By uniformly advocating limited government, Republicans can integrate an underlying message of both acceptance and personal responsibility — step one in expanding their appeal to Millennials.
Step two? With Millennials currently favoring general reductions in spending and regulation, Republicans must seize this opportunity to zero in on a simple, unwavering message that less regulation and lower taxes are conducive to economic growth, jobs, and opportunity at every socioeconomic level.
Relying on economic theories and empirical research to sway a generation in favor of fiscal conservatism is a failed approach. Instead, Republicans should use palpable examples to narrate their economic policy.
Take North Dakota and California for instance. North Dakota – a red state with a Republican governor – currently tops the nation in economic growth. Its pro-business climate, low tax burden and oil boom have generated new high-paying jobs and population growth and led to a stunningly low unemployment rate compared to the national average.
David Kreutzer, an economist at The Heritage Foundation, acknowledges that although income growth in North Dakota has not been entirely evenly spread, “programs to help the poor are a lot easier to afford when government runs a surplus generated by a booming economy (as in North Dakota) than when government runs record deficits (like our federal government).”
On the contrary, California – a solid blue state – earned a ranking as the worst state for business by Chief Executive magazine from 2004-2012. According to the Center for State Tax Policy, California’s 13.3 percent top income tax rate ranks highest among states levying an individual income tax, and its regulatory environment hinders entrepreneurship, innovation and growth– it’s no wonder the state has been in the news lately for all of the companies bidding it farewell.
With the 2014 midterm elections around the corner and a pool of viable candidates for 2016, the time is now or never for Republicans to develop a more inclusive message that attracts Millennials in both elections.
Prior to becoming President, Ronald Reagan once said that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
I fear, that if ever there were a generation capable of relinquishing our freedom, it would be mine.
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