The fact that we can empathize with many of the ultimate goals of Leftist policies (there are, of course, prominent exceptions) while taking issue with the counter-productive secondary consequences of those policies is one of the recurrent themes of this blog. Thinking Conservatives don't love things like war and social inequity for their own sake, and pundits who gleefully give this impression are missing the point. Traditionally, though increasingly less so, it has been Conservatives who look for the unintended consequences of a given policy, taking the unpopular long view and opening themselves up to shallow and easy smears. For instance, the only right reason to fight a war is to render a future, more costly war impossible. The only right reason to allow a job to go overseas is to maintain a labor market unfettered by ridiculous employment-hampering regulations (cp. unemployment rates in France). We all agree that war and unemployment are sad facts, but the philosophic integrity of the Right depends on its opposition to sentimental, poorly-conceived policies that actually aggravate these problems in the long run.
With these thoughts in mind, and for your viewing pleasure, I introduce the "Well-Meaning Leftist of the Week" feature. Every week I will highlight a Leftist with a half-baked plan full of good intentions and unintended consequences. (Your suggestions for Leftists to feature, past or present, are welcome). We'll start off all historical-like.
This week: Thomas Jefferson
One of the most controversial battles the legislators of young America faced was how to pay off the IOU's and securities issued to Revolutionary armies as salary. The problem was that many patriotic, hard-fighting citizens had, despairing that they would ever be reimbursed, sold their securities to speculators--some for as little as 15 cents on the dollar. As public credit stabilized, due in part to the Federal Government's confidence-inspiring assumption of the States' debts, these securities and IOU's approached their former worth. As you can imagine, Jefferson and his party were vehemently against rewarding the weaselly speculators and in favor of tracking down the original holders (however that was to be done). Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, recognized that, at this juncture in the Country's history, it was more important than ever to ensure confidence in the Government's ability to uphold the law. As Ron Chernow writes in his biography of Hamilton, "The knowledge that government could not interfere retroactively with a financial transaction was so vital...as to outweigh any short-term expediency." Hamilton recognized that it would be better for every citizen, great and small, if they could be sure the incentives put in place to encourage hard work, industry, and innovation would be honored. Jefferson, despite his usual understanding of the "paradox of liberty and law," ignored this fact, and so earns his place as the well-meaning Leftist of the week.