Huckabee’s position on the government and the economy has brought some blistering criticism on him from numerous quarters, not least of whom is Larry Kudlow (you can see an interview between Huckabee and Kudlow here and here.).
However, John Mark Reynolds–who has been eminently fair and honest in both his criticisms and praises of Huckabee–defends Huckabee on this issue:
For the first time, Huckabee put his total values package on display.
If you think libertarian=conservative, then you cannot see how he can square all his beliefs. If, like a Burke conservative, you recognize that we not going to repeal the New Deal immediately, then Huckabee makes sense.
He wants a small government, as small as he can reasonably and decently actually get. He wants one which acts, since the people want it to act, for the middle class, poor, and for traditional values.
Huckabee changed my mind tonight about “who he is.” Because he is religious (and anti-evolution) many think he is like the Boy Orator from the Platte, William Jennings Bryan.
Bryan, however, was never the successful executive that Huckabee has been.
In policies and rhetoric, Huckabee is most like the Bull Moose version of Theodore Roosevelt in his domestic policy ideas.
Roosevelt wanted a government big enough to counter-balance big business. He was a “trust buster” and conservationist. While not hating the rich, he did not trust them. He sounded a lot like the modern Huckabee.
Perhaps Huckabee should stop trying to channel Reagan (who was much more pro-business and radically free market) and start talking up T.R.*
Reynolds’ analysis calls to mind G.K. Chesterton’s passage in Orthodoxy on how Christians should understand wealth:
Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest — if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this — that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor.
Such a distrust of the rich led Chesterton to argue for distributism, which attempts to place the means of production in as many hands as possible, though not through state control. Huckabee’s position is not distributivism, but it’s (healthy) suspicion of wealth and unrestrained Catholicism is reminiscent of Chesterton. Given his use of Chesterton in his Iowa victory speech, it’s possible that the portly apologist is lurking behind Huckabee’s domestic policies.
*Reynolds’ extends his comparison to TR only to Huckabee’s domestic policy, claiming that Huckabee’s foreign policy is “just a mess” and isn’t close to TR. However, Huckabee’s foreign policy supports a stronger military, overwhelming force when needed, and military action against Iran as a last option. While Huckabee also accused the current administration of having an “arrogant bunker mentality,” I fail to see how those statements entail that Huckabee isn’t “carrying a big stick.” If anything, I read his foreign policy as being more TR-esque than any so far, in that Huckabee also wants to “speak softly,” an exhortation which the current administration has clearly ignored in the war on terror.