You may be familiar with some of these people — Donald Boudreaux, Jonah Goldberg, Grover Norquist, Ramesh Ponnuru, Veronique de Rugy, George F. Will. They are among the 90 signers of the “Freedom Conservatism” statement of principles released on Wednesday.
Skimming quickly through the ten brief sections of the document, many people may find they agree with most or all of what is included. But, much of that agreement is likely due to the fuzzy wording in the document. This can permit two people with very different views on a matter discussed in a section of the document to conclude that the section at least approximately describes their respective views.
Take for example this section dealing with foreign policy:
9. The shining city on a hill. American foreign policy must be judged by one criterion above all: its service to the just interests of the United States. Americans are safest and freest in a peaceful world, led by the United States, in which other nations uphold individual liberty and the sovereignty of their neighbors.
An advocate of strict nonintervention abroad and an advocate for expansive intervention abroad could both offer reasons for accepting this language. The noninterventionist could narrowly define “just interests” as allowing the use of defensive force in the case of attack on America and the world being “led by the United States” as meaning via the US serving as a good example as suggested by the section title of “The shining city on a hill.” The interventionist could view “just interests” as allowing the pursuit of many diverse possible goals and the “led by the United States” language as a call for taking action to ensure those goals are realized no matter the resistance.
So, what is the point? Why put out this mealy document? Why bother signing it? It is perplexing. With time, some answers may emerge. Also, with time, some of the signers may regret having become involved.