Saturday, January 16, 2010
Where I fail to grasp why some are denigrating Conservatism
Perhaps I need to turn the crank much slower to recognize where some people declare that conservatism is “unhinged”. It seems to me that most of the criticism is about fringe groups and the strange positions a few that call themselves conservative take that are simply wrong, just as you will find in every movement of any size.
The conservatives that I know closely hold to what I consider to be classical beliefs of conservatism, but those are rather nicely ameliorated by their understanding of today’s political scene and the state of the union.
One criticism that I have heard a number of times is that of some conservatives insisting on smaller government. What they mean, I believe, is less government intrusion into our private lives, and more government concentration on its constitutional obligations.
We do have far more agencies and such than anyone can understand, and they all vie to make their ideas of governance take hold, with ever bigger budgets and mission creep to match. This is quite often at cross purposes with one or more other government agencies, and the people are caught in between. So there is a need to examine very carefully each and every government organization in order to remove duplication of functions and decision powers, and to insist upon a valid and stable mission, while saving the taxpayer some money.
It is a sad fact that much of the legislation of the past century carries the government beyond its mandated Constitutional functions and areas of responsibility, in order to meet what some insist is a crying need or even right. This creeping evolution of our government towards socialism or totalitarianism is not what our Fathers had in mind, and it is not what our middle of the road conservatives have in mind for “right-sized” government.
There is little reason to insist that as our population grows and diversifies, the government should grow proportionately as well.
There is a right size for government that can cope with even a much larger population, especially when they employ modern tools of IT and automation.
There is also a right set of government responsibilities and duties, beyond which it is the states, the localities and the citizenry that must stand up and cope for themselves, and not turn to the federal government in every instance. This right set is first outlined in our Constitution, and that set is amplified by existing legislation and laws in force at several levels---federal, state and local—which should be examined for savings as well by their respective legislators and administrations.
Each state has its own Constitution and laws that parallels the national set, but with some significant differences. There seems to be a movement to centralize all lawmaking in the federal government, and to downplay state and local legal preferences. This is not what the Constitution specifies, but it is what liberals appear to want, because it makes it easier to impose their kind of thinking on the entire nation and every person in it through congressional legislation or from legislation from the bench. This direction most conservatives object to very strongly.
What are the guidelines that most conservatives sign up to? It is a simple set to write down, but far from simple to live by:
1. Follow Natural Law and all of the moral obligations, duties and responsibilities that are inferred from this law, both for government and for citizens.
2. Uphold the Constitution and the civil laws derived from it, from both inside and outside threats to its sanctity. Show faith in these prescriptions.
3. Uphold State and Local Laws, but resist the temptation to legislate every aspect of society, which would create massively more difficulties than it would solve.
4. Maintain Traditions, Customs, Conventions and Institutions that have been established over the 230-odd years of the nation’s existence, and not change them without just cause, and due deliberation by all concerned.
5. Cope with Change, since change is inevitable, but truly needed changes must be carefully controlled and implemented so as to minimize later unpleasant and unforeseen effects on the people, the society, and the nation.
6. Defense of the Nation, a strong defense is most necessary. It must be maintained to keep our sovereignty, and to survive and prosper in this imperfect world, populated as it is by imperfect men.
7. Maintain Law and Order, both nationally (such as for our borders), state-wise, and locally. Apply our laws evenly and fully.
8. Promote Mixed Capitalism, largely free market based, but carefully and minimally regulated by the government to ensure fair play. It is apparent that the government must not be in competition with the private sector for business and profit.
9. Fair Taxation, where every citizen makes a contribution. The definition of what is “fair” for all is not a simple challenge, but it is one that must be answered satisfactorily. Excessive taxation demotes business and promotes spending for pork projects.
10. Maintain the Right to Private Property, since it has been shown that freedom and liberty are tremendously enhanced by private ownership.
11. Fiscal Responsibility, which means careful budgeting, living within our means, control of spending, and fiscally responsible legislation to name a few aspects. This is needed more than ever to rein in the spending that is killing our economy. We must return to fiscal responsibility.
12. Promote Science, Technology and Engineering, since our modern world is massively dependent upon these efforts to maintain and better our way of life. Conversely, we must reject fantasy science and unproven assertions from pseudo-scientists bent upon their own gain, either alone or in collusion with others.
13. Assure American Cultural Goals, which must include assimilation of diverse cultures into our American society, integration by means of a common language--English--non-discrimination before the law, and proper education of all our people to assume their roles and responsibilities in the American Republic. Support to families and their values should be integral to our governance.
14. Freedom Must be Preferred over Equality, because we must not legislate for equality, only to find that we have legislated against freedom and liberty, and thus have seriously damaged or destroyed our republic.
Given the above tenets, which I believe most conservatives sign up to, just where is conservatism going astray?