Fareed Zakaria: Today's Conservative Movement Like 'the Old Marxists,' Too Much Rooted In Abstract Ideas

CNN's Fareed Zakaria regurgitated his conservative-bashing Time magazine piece on his Sunday show Fareed Zakaria GPS. He opened up his program with the same barrage against conservatives that he launched in Time on Thursday, namely that today's conservatism is woefully divorced from reality like the Marxists of the 19th century.

Zakaria writes that "conservatives now resemble the old Marxists who refuse to look at actual experience." Instead, he argues, they are hopelessly enamored with "policies that are simply recitations of some free market theory taken out of some book based on no actually-existing national economy."

 

This closed-minded Republican "refusal" to model health care, education, and infrastructure after the best from around the globe irks Zakaria, who himself is a foreign-affairs expert and apparently desires that we open ourselves up to ideas from around the globe. He knocks today's leading conservatives as "wooly-headed" for not studying up on foreign economies and health care systems to procure ideas for innovation.

Ironically, Zakaria claims that "market-friendly, conservative reforms" are needed, but only ones that are "rooted in reality." This is from a man who in 2008 took time on-air to explain why he was voting for Obama, and has had face-to-face conversations with the president recently on foreign affairs.

And yet Zakaria fails to credit, or at least critique, the role of President Reagan's economic policies in the two decades of growth, as he demands evidence for the theory that "massive tax cuts are the single best path to revive the U.S. economy". He argues that the United States has some of the lowest tax rates of any industrial powerhouse and is still trying to jumpstart its economy.

Zakaria points to China for direction as the "world's fastest-growing economy." He touts that they have "managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades."

To read Zakaria's article in Time magazine, click here.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 19 at , is as follows:

FAREED ZAKARIA: Now, here's my take. I've been watching the Republicans on the campaign trail and what strikes me so far is that conservatives in America have gone through a strange transformation. It used to be that conservatism was a hard-headed set of ideas rooted in reality. Unlike the abstract theories of Marxism and socialism, it started not from an imagined society, but from the world as it actually exists. This is the way things work, conservatives would patiently explain to wooly-headed liberal professors. Whatever you may want it to look like, this is what it really looks like.

But consider the debates over the economy these days. The Republican prescription is cut taxes, slash government spending, then things will always bounce back. Now, I would like to see lower tax rates in the context of simplification and reform, but what is the actual evidence that massive tax cuts are the single best path to revive the U.S. economy? Taxes as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest levels since 1950. The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxations is not based on facts, either past or present, but is simply a theoretical assertion. The rich countries after all that are in the best shape right now, with strong growth and low unemployment, are ones like Germany and Denmark and Canada, none characterized by low taxes.

Many Republican businessmen have told me that the Obama administration is the most hostile to business in 50 years. Really? More than that of Richard Nixon, for example, who presided over tax rates that reached 70 percent, regulations that spanned whole industries like airlines and telecommunication, and who actually instituted price and wage controls? In fact, right now, any discussion of any government involvement in the economy, even to build vital infrastructure, is impossible because it is a cardinal tenet of the new conservatism that such involvement is always and forever bad.

That's the theory. Meanwhile, in practice across the globe, the world's fastest growing economy, China, has managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades. From Singapore to South Korea to Germany, evidence abounds that some strategic actions by governments can act as catalysts for free market growth.

But conservatives now resemble the old Marxists who refuse to look at actual experience. I know it works in practice, the old saw goes, but does it work in theory? Republicans often praise businessmen. Well, one of the first steps any business now takes when confronting a problem is to ask how are other companies around the world handling this? Is there a best practice we can learn from? But in any area, from infrastructure to health care to education, that is heresy on the right.

It's a shame. I think we need smart, market-friendly conservative reforms that streamline government, cut costs in health care, empower individuals, but they need to be rooted in reality, drawn from best practices around the world and based on practical measures of what seems to work. What we have instead are policies that are simply recitations of some free market theory taken out of some book based on no actually existing national economy. It turns out that conservatives have become the wooly-headed professors after all. For more on this, you can read my column in this week's "Time" magazine or at Time.com.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center