Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

McCotter’s Book Serves as a Call to Citizenship

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Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s new book on political philosophy doesn’t pull punches as the Republican Congressman takes issue with aspects of both parties.

Probably not the best way to win friends and influence people, but McCotter seems to relish poking a stick in the eyes of the “New Left loons and ‘checklist conservatives’ who bitch about everything that doesn’t fit their myopic ideological platforms.”

He enjoys himself so much, in fact, that his rhetorical flourishes take him a bit overboard on occasion. Did anyone really think that free trade “would solve all problems between people,” as McCotter claims. All? I don’t recall such a sweeping claim being made, even on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. McCotter is closer to the mark when he writes that free traders “placed a greater value on saving five dollars on an imported shirt from a sweatshop than on defending the inherent dignity of individuals.”

So what’s a Burkean nation-state to do? McCotter suggests what he calls a freedom paradigm that chooses “a humane, innovation-empowered economy” over “the soulless Servile State,” a phrase borrowed from French historian Hilaire Belloc. More freedom, less government, in a more American political idiom.

Amid all this philosophy, McCotter does offer some specific policy recommendations. Here is where he shares plenty of territory with the contemporary Republican Party.

He wants to fight what he calls not the War on Terror but the “War for Freedom,” against both “bin Laden’s death cult and Middle East fascism.”

McCotter also promotes resistance to the “China Fantasy lobby” and “Monte Hall Maoists” by enhancing U.S. military assets in the Pacific, defending Taiwan, tying trade to human rights, barring sovereign wealth funds from buying U.S. assets, reducing U.S. debt held by China and developing a democratic alternative to the United Nations.

At home, McCotter wants to resist moral relativism and defend American exceptionalism while building civil society and civic institutions as a counterweight to an ever-growing and increasingly intrusive government, to provide people the time and means to perform, in a felicitous phrase, “the indispensable acts of virtuous citizenship.”

McCotter does not moan that “the world is too much with us,” as William Wordsworth wrote. His book, above all else, is a call to citizenship. We are what we choose to be in McCotter’s world, and accordingly, we’d better get choosing. Like Ronald Reagan, McCotter does “not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.” 

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