George McGovern endorses … personal responsibility?

posted at 10:58 am on March 7, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

When the Democratic Party moves too far left for George McGovern, you know they’re in trouble. The former Senator and presidential aspirant writes about the dangers of economic paternalism in a free society, specifically about the impulse among both Democrats and Republicans to protect adults from the consequences of their own free choices. Expect a lot less choice in the future, McGovern warns, if the nanny-state succeeds:

Since leaving office I’ve written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.

Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don’t take away cars because we don’t like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don’t operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life.

The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.

This presents a couple of interesting themes. First, I find it fascinating that McGovern has transformed himself from a statist to a free-enterpriser simply because he left office. That isn’t a coincidence, and it explains why politicians tend to “grow in office” towards state-based solutions. After McGovern had to stop justifying his existence as a legislator, he discovered that legislators don’t need to intervene in the markets anywhere near as much as he presumed while in office.

Of course, the main thrust of his argument — that government regulation unnecessarily burdens choice — is a recurring theme for conservatives. McGovern, in fact, dares to go where Republicans apparently don’t, which is to question the entire notion of a massive bailout for people who got themselves stuck in bad loans, and the lenders that love them. He notes, properly, that no one forced people into these badly-structured loans, and certainly no one forced the lenders to offer them. It’s called taking risks, and that means sometimes those risks fail. If we regulate industries like lending and credit to such an extent that no risk exists, then neither will any reward — and the markets will disappear.

Will anyone listen to McGovern, now that he has come to his senses on economics and free markets? Doubtful. After all, the audience to which this essay is directed still suffer from the same disability McGovern had before his epiphany — they’re all legislators. They still believe in the paternalism he has now wisely rejected.


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George, you closet Libertarian you!

corona on March 7, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Democrats: Because no one should have to make a choice.

DrSteve on March 7, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Will anyone listen to McGovern, now that he has come to his senses on economics and free markets?

No, they won’t. But fantastic road-to-Damascus story!

emailnuevo on March 7, 2008 at 11:02 AM

It’s called taking risks, and that means sometimes those risks fail.

Yep. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It’s all part of playing the game.

I can’t believe I would actually say this…….McGovern for President?

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on March 7, 2008 at 11:04 AM

There is the old adage that if you aren’t a liberal when you are young, you have no heart, and if you aren’t a conservative when you are older, you have no brain. Nice to see McGovern has grown up finally and is thinking like an adult.

This may have some affect on the boomers who idolized him in the 70s. Today’s younger crowd may just view him as an old coot who jumped ship on the liberal movement.

Mallard T. Drake on March 7, 2008 at 11:04 AM

When he ran for president, he turned 100′s of thousands of FDR democrats over 30 into Republicans. Hopefully, his political offspring will do the same.

oldvannes on March 7, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Will anyone listen to McGovern, now that he has come to his senses on economics and free markets?

Look both ways when crossing the street Mr.McGovern…the dems have a bus headed your way.

ihasurnominashun on March 7, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Okay, we’ve got the dollar at an all-time low, oil prices at an all-time high, and George McGovern is speaking out against the nanny state. One more horseman and it’ll be time to head down to the cellar.

Jim-Rose on March 7, 2008 at 11:15 AM

I find it fascinating that McGovern has transformed himself from a statist to a free-enterpriser simply because he left office. That isn’t a coincidence, and it explains why politicians tend to “grow in office” towards state-based solutions.

Captain Ed

Aye, Captain.

Good reason to end career politician-hood (translation: term limits). Term limits may seem in conflict to free market solutions, but to paraphrase Lincoln;

“Free-market” is not a suicide pact.

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:15 AM

At one level, this is amazing, gratifying, fascinating, and highly significant.

At a different level, it is very, very funny.

NeighborhoodCatLady on March 7, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Dude…The modern Democrats are out-Lefting McGovern?

Dude…

amerpundit on March 7, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Those Rovian Thought-Control Rays have destroyed another fine man!

That or “The state solutions he wanted couldn’t work because they didn’t do them right. Things are different now and we know how to make them work…”

eeyore on March 7, 2008 at 11:21 AM

When the comrade leaves the party, the comrade speaks his mind.

Must be icky to spend your life quoting the party line, or losing all the perks.

Hening on March 7, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Count on this story being buried by the mainstream media!

sheesh on March 7, 2008 at 11:24 AM

That or “The state solutions he wanted couldn’t work because they didn’t do them right. Things are different now and we know how to make them work…”

eeyore on March 7, 2008 at 11:21 AM

Oh, God help us.

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:24 AM

I find it fascinating that McGovern has transformed himself from a statist to a free-enterpriser simply because he left office. That isn’t a coincidence, and it explains why politicians tend to “grow in office” towards state-based solutions. After McGovern had to stop justifying his existence as a legislator, he discovered that legislators don’t need to intervene in the markets anywhere near as much as he presumed while in office.

Begging the Captain’s pardon, but McGovern entered the world of business sometime after leaving office and, if memory serves, owns and operates a B&B or some such thing. Now a member of the entrepreneur class, he is a textbook example of an economic liberal mugged by free-market reality.

NemoParticularis on March 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

Choices…Personal Responsibility

Welcome to the Republican Party

franksalterego on March 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

Since leaving office I’ve written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.

So where’s the apology for all the damage you caused when you were a typical inside-the-beltway politician with the typical elitist attitude toward ordinary Americans?

highhopes on March 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

NemoParticularis on March 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

I think he had the sarc turned on?

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:28 AM

McCain – McGovern?

(The only Veep who will look John look young and feisty!)

profitsbeard on March 7, 2008 at 11:29 AM

pimf-

(The only Veep who will make John look young and feisty.)

profitsbeard on March 7, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Good reason to end career politician-hood (translation: term limits).

Wouldn’t term limits up the ante on shady dealings by legislators, since they have less time in office to feather their nests?

shibumiglass on March 7, 2008 at 11:31 AM

I also heard recently about McGovern’s changes as the result of entering the world of business when he and a partner did owns and operate a B&B that eventually went bankrupt! Mcgovern’s changes are due to a heavy dose of realism….something sorely lacking in the political class now.

el Vaquero on March 7, 2008 at 11:32 AM

Good reason to end career politician-hood (translation: term limits).

Agreed. Saltysam. Term limits would work because the congress critters would not spend so much time and effort to getting re-elected. If fact, getting re-elected might actually mean something.

As for McGovern, I think he is just putting this out during an election year. Even if we take him at his word this is the phony, social liberal, fiscal conservative canard.

What specific programs then Mr. McGovern would you like to see cut? In today’s era of “social justice” fiscal issues and social issues are inextricably intertwined. Therefore you cannot speak of them separately.

Angry Dumbo on March 7, 2008 at 11:35 AM

My, he looks much better old than he did young, doesn’t he?

Nice to see some sanity coming from him, though.

Bob's Kid on March 7, 2008 at 11:35 AM

certainly no one forced the lenders to offer them

I thought the gov ‘mandated’ more loans to sub-prime borrowers. Am I mistaken?

shibumiglass on March 7, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Wouldn’t term limits up the ante on shady dealings by legislators, since they have less time in office to feather their nests?

shibumiglass on March 7, 2008 at 11:31 AM

…not if we return to the practice of adding tar to that equation.

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:36 AM

…not if we return to the practice of adding tar to that equation.

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:36 AM

‘Course, we could do that now, too. Nice to know people are starting to watch Pelosi like hawks…

shibumiglass on March 7, 2008 at 11:39 AM

I don’t mind someone somersault/flip-flopping.

As long as it’s in the right direction.

franksalterego on March 7, 2008 at 11:41 AM

assuming he’s still a fruitcake on foreign policy, McGovern has morphed into a Paultard. viva la rEVOLution!

jp on March 7, 2008 at 11:43 AM

Oh I had no idea he was sill alive. Did he come to this new way of thinking so he could be newsworthy again?

HawaiiLwyr on March 7, 2008 at 11:44 AM

“Is that old Red still alive?” He belongs in that category with Gloria Steinem.

Hilts on March 7, 2008 at 11:44 AM

McGovern may just be trying to moderate the Nutroots as much as possible, so if the Dems win they’ll be able to actually Govern

jp on March 7, 2008 at 11:45 AM

Agreed. Saltysam. Term limits would work because the congress critters would not spend so much time and effort to getting re-elected. If fact, getting re-elected might actually mean something.

Angry Dumbo on March 7, 2008 at 11:35 AM

I used to be against term limits, until I learned the realities of entering a candidate into a race during primaries. This is where you witness how easy it is for the Party leadership to control the process fox to watch the henhouse.

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 11:45 AM

George McGovern, James Abourezk (the Hezbollah supporting former Senator), Jim Daschle, – what is it with South Dakota Senators?

Hilts on March 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM

Jeez, Ed. Don’t shock me so early in the morning. I think I need to lie down….

irishspy on March 7, 2008 at 11:47 AM

Yeah, and I voted for him for POTUS–partly because Nixon was mentally ill, Nixon took too long to get out of Vietnam ( so long that I got sucked into that place 1972-73 ), and Nixon made an inevitably bad economy ever worse.

…and because McGovern flew 30+ combat missions as a USAAF pilot during The Big One. He had True Grit, even if his economic plans would have made the Nixon-ruined economy even worse

Janos Hunyadi on March 7, 2008 at 11:50 AM

More proof that Liberalism is a disease, and that it can be cured by removing oneself from the source of infection (in this case, Washington DC).

landlines on March 7, 2008 at 12:08 PM

McGovern did not come to this conclusion simply because he left office. He got to where he is after running a small business (a bed and breakfast) and discovering what it was like to deal with government regulators.

There was a significant level of dishonesty with the bad loans that banks were offering. Appraisers were pressured by both realitors and lenders to appraise property above its actual value. Buying long term disaster with short term profits. Those who engaged in this dishonesty should have to answer for their actions.

When a lender offers a ‘no proof of income’ loan they are guilty of malfeasance or misfeasance. These people need to answer to their stock holders or investors.

I am pleased to see that Mr. McGovern has come to his senses on these matters.

The Rock on March 7, 2008 at 12:09 PM

Begging the Captain’s pardon, but McGovern entered the world of business sometime after leaving office and, if memory serves, owns and operates a B&B or some such thing. Now a member of the entrepreneur class, he is a textbook example of an economic liberal mugged by free-market reality.

More likely, I think, mugged by the statist brand of regulation, restriction, taxation, liability, and Catch-22-ism that he supported so long and so well.

njcommuter on March 7, 2008 at 12:10 PM

Well, well… stopped clocks are still right twice daily!

flutejpl on March 7, 2008 at 12:14 PM

There is nothing better than spending 60 hours per week making a simple living to help you see the Castrovian monster in our midst, eh George?

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 12:17 PM

I think there is truth in letting people make their own mistakes, but then again the Great Depression was the market at work. So while I do not think that we need to bail out everyone who made a bad loan or anything, I do think we need to be sure that the damage does not spread to innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with those decisions. Therefor some limited response by government might be necessary.

McGovern still thinks Bush is akin to Hitler however.

Terrye on March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Hilts on March 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM

I think that Mt. Rushmore is just much for these aholes and is having a huge adverse affect on them. Just too much patriotism, love of country, really sacrificing and doing something for the country, not TO the country, etc. I think you get my drift.

cjs1943 on March 7, 2008 at 12:32 PM

I think there is truth in letting people make their own mistakes, but then again the Great Depression was the market at work.

Terrye on March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM

How long would the Great Depression have lasted had the Fed resisted the temptation to “fix” things?

I do think we need to be sure that the damage does not spread to innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with those decisions. Therefor some limited response by government might be necessary.

When I see a “therefore” followed by a “might be”, me whiskers twitch. You want to “fix” things in a hurry? Offer no assistance, and we’ll never see it again.

If you found yourself without a boat a mile offshore, which would you do:

…swim to shore with nothing but your life and breath, or tread water and shout for help?

Terrye on March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 1:00 PM

Sorry Terrye, I messed up the format,

Again:

I do think we need to be sure that the damage does not spread to innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with those decisions. Therefor some limited response by government might be necessary.

Terrye on March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM

When I see a “therefore” followed by a “might be”, me whiskers twitch. You want to “fix” things in a hurry? Offer no assistance, and we’ll never see it again.

If you found yourself without a boat a mile offshore, which would you do:

…swim to shore with nothing but your life and breath, or tread water and shout for help?

Saltysam on March 7, 2008 at 1:02 PM

Captain,
“They” won’t listen because of their young age. The McGovern we knew was “their” prophet. As he matured and became distanced via retirement, his vision changed. “They” would say he’s suffering from old age dimentia or at least poor vision.

As things went, America ended up with a GOP socialist who, as I saw it then, sold us out to China and sold us out of victory by his honorable surrender to the VietCong, and FINALLY scrubbed his entire presidency with Agnew’s corruption and Nixon’s own dirty trick expose, not of Democrat Party hiring of prostitutes but of burglary to bring things to a head.

I remember as a young school student comparing McGovern’s coolness and appeal to the Pepsi generation vs. Nixon’s scary face during their campaign. It is very interesting to note his tune now.

maverick muse on March 7, 2008 at 1:07 PM

I recall a long time ago that McGovern’s conversion came after he left office and went into business for himself and found that all the onerous regulations and taxes he himself helped pass were hindering him.

I give him props for honesty and the gonads to change his opinion.

Mommynator on March 7, 2008 at 1:12 PM

I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society

I think this is an important point. McGovern’s call for “protecting freedom of choice” isn’t for the sake of individual liberty, but for the sake of society.

It looks, at least from this, that “freedom of choice” is, to McGovern, just another brick in the road to Utopia, just like any other liberal cause or program.

“Freedom of choice” is useful, to him, as a means to a socital end and is not the end itself. That said then, “freedom of choice” is just a tool of the masses and could, if later discovered to be useless, be discarded just like any other too.

29Victor on March 7, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Daddy, help me. That mean ol’ bank made me……..

Johan Klaus on March 7, 2008 at 1:37 PM

…I do think we need to be sure that the damage does not spread to innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with those decisions. Therefor some limited response by government might be necessary.

Terrye on March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Except, of course, that by doing so you’re requiring my tax monies go to (lenders|lendees) and bailing them out of the poor choices they’ve made that I didn’t fall into.

I didn’t buy over-valued property at the height of the market, financed by a low-interest (or interest only) adjustable rate mortgage that is now ballooning beyond my ability to pay.

The simple solution is for these lenders and lendees to convert their ARMs into fixed-rate mortgages at a size that is managable. But what the eff do I know? I’m just a dumn Aggee.

I R A Darth Aggie on March 7, 2008 at 1:46 PM

(above) too=tool.

In fact, there are a number of errors. I blame IE8. It makes typing in this textbox a little more difficult and making corrections almost impossible.

29Victor on March 7, 2008 at 1:48 PM

They still believe in the paternalism Socialist Utopia he has now wisely rejected – sort of.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 7, 2008 at 2:05 PM

Wow…it’s George McGovern. I wept many bitter tears as a teen when Richard Nixon easily won the (’72?) Presidential election against my man, George. That tells you how far I’ve come, but even so, I am comforted that McGovern was not and is not as bad as the Demos can get. Liberals used to be honorable people, my mother was an example.

Christine on March 7, 2008 at 2:06 PM

Man, that is wild coming from McGovern. I remember this guys talking points when he ran for president, talk about 180 degrees.

What’s next? Jimmy Carter calling for an invasion of Cuba?

conservnut on March 7, 2008 at 2:07 PM

McGovern hasn’t changed that much. He comes from a time when even “left wing” Democrats were simply liberals, not the socialist scum we see so often today. The so-called “McGovern” Democrats were usually well to his left. He opposed the Vietnam War, but a lot of well-meaning people did. He thought Nixon was a crook, and well …

Some of his proposals to hand out more federal money directly to the poor look positively capitalistic today, compared to the massive programs we have that spend $2, $3, and even $10 in bureaucracy to put each $1 in the hands of a citizen.

Yes, he was (and probably still is) a tax-and-spend liberal, but I bet he doesn’t have a picture of Che hanging on his wall.

doufree on March 7, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Holy Cow!! It only took 30+ years out of mainstream politics for him to come to that realization. There is hope!!

brtex on March 7, 2008 at 2:14 PM

Dear heavens…

Dare I say it?

Yes I can!

SECOND LOOK AT MCGOVERN!

thirtypundit on March 7, 2008 at 2:19 PM

I thought the gov ‘mandated’ more loans to sub-prime borrowers. Am I mistaken?

I believe you’re correct. Quoth Dr. Williams:

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, whose provisions were strengthened during the Clinton administration, is a federal law that mandates lenders to offer credit throughout their entire market and discourages them from restricting their credit services to high-income markets, a practice known as redlining. In other words, the Community Reinvestment Act encourages banks and thrifts to make loans to riskier customers.

Perpetual Student on March 7, 2008 at 2:46 PM

Terrye at 12:26

Here’s an enlightening little link just in case the government thinks it really needs to interfere in this loan “crisis.” It shows the other side that a you may have not considered…

/seekingalpha.com/article/67197-foreclosure-proof-homeowners

marybel on March 7, 2008 at 3:06 PM

Oops, something hiccuped! Try this…

http://seekingalpha.com/article/67197-foreclosure-proof-homeowners

marybel on March 7, 2008 at 3:18 PM

He is forgetting the huge democratic vote farming operation happening in the ghetos of America. Call it paternalistic, or downright criminal, but it just breeds a more fertile and growing dola diver crop that does what it is told by the democrat paymasters.

saiga on March 7, 2008 at 3:49 PM

I’m stunned that McGovern would say this…absolutely stunned.

doubleplusundead on March 7, 2008 at 3:54 PM

It’s more than simply leaving office. During the 1980′s McGovern invested $1 million in the Stratford Inn, a hotel in Stratford, Connecticut. The business failed and McGovern had to close it. I’ve been him interviewed about it and he said that, while he’s still a liberal, he thinks he learned a lot from the experience and it gave him a better insight into private sector concerns.

wbcoleman on March 7, 2008 at 4:01 PM

Democrats: Because no one should have to make a choice.

DrSteve on March 7, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Great line!. Can I appropriate it?

davidk on March 7, 2008 at 5:00 PM

This isn’t McGovern’s first ephiphany. The first time he was mugged by reality, he wrote about it in Inc. magazine (and reported in The Wall Street Journal) in 1994, when he spoke of the difficulties he experienced as a small-business owner in Connecticut.

The meat of the article is preserved here, but here’s an excerpt:

The second lesson I leared by owning the Stratford Inn is that legislators and government resultators must more carefully consider the economic and management burdens we have been imposing on US business. …

I’m for protecting the health and well-being of both workers and consumers. I’m for a clean environment and economic justice. But I’m convinced we can pursue those worthy goals and still cut down vastly on the incredible paperwork, the complicated tax forms, the number of minute regulations, and the seemingly endless reporting requirements that afflict American business. Many businesses, especially small independents such as the Stratford Inn, simply can’t pass costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable.

As Instapundit put it, this sounds far better than anything coming from Clinton or Obama.

Paul_in_NJ on March 7, 2008 at 8:42 PM

When I was a teenager, I meet McGovern four times. He really is a decent guy–no matter what I may think of his past politics. Let me admit here that I made McGovern uncomfortable by my militant gay activism at one meeting, but I was seventeen years old. Thinking his character over, I’m not surprised by this news.

I hope I’m guilty of Bush-Putin “look in his eyes” fantasy. I believe most Democrats would agree with McGovern if they weren’t blinded by political correctness.

thuja on March 7, 2008 at 9:37 PM

It just proves that you’re never too old to get it right.

CliffHanger on March 7, 2008 at 11:20 PM

I think you’re reading way too much into this. George McGovern an ecocon? No way. My guess is he just got a taste of the new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

Kafir on March 7, 2008 at 11:54 PM

It’s called taking risks, and that means sometimes those risks fail.

Yep. If Oliver Twist had been set in the late 20th century/early 21st century Oliver would never have gone to London to try and seek his fortune, he’d be idling on Fagan’s couch moaning about “Why hasn’t the Labour Party increased my welfare check?”

aengus on March 8, 2008 at 8:22 PM

I mean cheque. I’m using American spellings now? I blame the internet.

aengus on March 8, 2008 at 8:25 PM

This may have some affect on the boomers who idolized him in the 70s. Today’s younger crowd may just view him as an old coot who jumped ship on the liberal movement.

Bush-McSame have succeeded in turning many conservatives into liberals.

aengus on March 8, 2008 at 8:26 PM

So where’s the apology for all the damage you caused when you were a typical inside-the-beltway politician with the typical elitist attitude toward ordinary Americans?

highhopes on March 7, 2008 at 11:26 AM

Your screen name is no lie. You are quite optimistic! Silante!

Branch Rickey on March 8, 2008 at 9:06 PM

Terrye writes:

I think there is truth in letting people make their own mistakes, but then again the Great Depression was the market at work.

When asked what the government should have done to prevent the Great Depression, economist Von Mises answered:
“It should have done nothing, sooner.”
The Smoot-Hawley tariff created trade protection, and a similar reaction by US trading partners. This made the value added by less skilled labor less than the government required price of labor. As a result, businesses fired workers in massive numbers, leading to the downward spiral of the Great Depression.
It was not free markets: it was trade protectionism and laws protecting unions that caused the Great Depression.

Right_of_Attila on March 9, 2008 at 8:51 AM