A former socialist, Fred Smith is now president and founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank dedicated, according to its website, “to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.” As a conservative intellectual and Washington observer, Smith is critical of both Democrats and Republicans who abuse power.
Smith sees a serious threat emerging from coercive progressive utopians, who he believes are imposing their flawed policies on an unwilling public and setting Congress on the path to irrelevancy. The administrative state of unelected but powerful utopians — who believe “I care, so I can coerce” — must be countered before it is too late, he argues. President Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign embodies such an agenda, according to Smith.
Smith sat down with The Daily Caller’s Ginni Thomas last week to discuss how elites in the media and the intellectual realm manipulate public opinion, how Congress is ceding away its legislative power, the increasing politicization of our culture and the need for civility and pluralism.
Discuss the dangers of President Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign — using executive orders, rather than legislation, to govern
“Obama is in many ways, the word has to be used “arrogant” — an individual who really believes that his vision is so right, so compelling that it would be immoral of him to wait for the people to catch up.”
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Haven’t Republicans also tried to abuse executive orders?
“One of the great temptations of Washington is there’s nothing wrong with power, it’s just the wrong people are exercising power.”
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What gives you hope for how we can limit government before it is too late?
“One of the aspects of the regulatory state is that it believes that the disciplines that come about by political rule are more effective, more quick, more creative, more fair than the disciplines that emerge from competition itself.”
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Who are effective defenders of capitalism now, and what’s wrong with the business community?
“I’d like to think that we at CEI are defending capitalism. I’d like to think that many parts of the conservative movement are, but not as aggressive as they should.”
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How do special interests and the elite manipulate the nation?
“The intellectual class is the ones who craft the narrative, the stories that tell us about complicated things like Dodd–Frank, like global warming, like trade with China. Those are very complicated issues … but real people have real lives.”
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Tell us your personal political journey from left to right
“About three years [after starting to work for the Environmental Protection Agency], I realized that the EPA had taken on the task of monitoring the flow of every gram of material, every erg of energy that flowed through our economy, and thought they could do it.”
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Discuss the harm of Washington picking winners and losers
“As politics has grown, more and more special interests — because they’re the only ones who have time and energy to influence the decision-makers in Washington — have come to play a disproportionate role in how our society moves forward.”
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Who is working to undermine this culture, specifically?
“Our political world is a bigger family, and we often extend that tolerance to that larger family, and so we write off the other side.”
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