Holding on to the conservative label can be tough, especially if you have your own ideas that counter the mainstream, according to Paul Krugman.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist wrote in a blog post Saturday that people who identify as conservative, but take stances opposing the conservative mainstream -- acknowledging the connection between humans and global warming, opposing austerity and favoring tax increases, for example -- often find themselves disowned by the conservative movement.
“There remains essentially no room for independent thinking within the conservative movement,” Krugman wrote. “Being a good liberal doesn’t require that you believe, or pretend to believe, lots of things that almost certainly aren’t true; being a good conservative does,” he went on to say.
Krugman has written before that there are some issues in which there is little room for debate because the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of one side, and yet conservatives continue to argue in favor of the opposite. In one example, he responded to critics of his stance against government belt-tightening, who argue that he’s cherry-picking facts to make his case, by writing “maybe I actually am right,” in an April blog post.
And more people may be starting to take up Krugman's anti-austerity stance. The evidence against austerity is in fact so overwhelming that a few conservatives have voiced their opposition. But as Krugman and New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait note, the most outspoken critics like conservative Bloomberg columnist Josh Barro have had to pay the price, becoming disavowed by the movement as a whole.
What the conservative critics of the reformists within their ranks may be surprised to learn though, is that some of their very idols went against the dogma they’re espousing today. Former British Prime Minister and conservative icon Margaret Thatcher actually raised taxes, violating a major tenet of the current conservative movement. In fact, taxes as a share of the economy increased during her tenure.
In addition, former President Ronald Reagan, a GOP hero, enacted the largest tax increase in four decades, according to Joseph J. Thorndike, the director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analyst. Reagan was able to obscure the increases though by giving them a different name: “revenue enhancements,” which came from closing loopholes in the tax code.