March 31st, 2013


A little manifesto

Too often, Conservatives are identified by what they’re against, rather than what they are for. This is largely the work of Liberal/Progressive rhetoric, but Conservatives often have a tin ear and do themselves no favors. Too often, issues are framed as if between “caring” Progressives and “uncaring” Conservatives.

Actually, Conservatives believe that Progressivism bears an inherent contradiction: in the very act of “helping” people, it also injures them. In the process of delivering benefits to them, it takes away their freedom to decide what benefits they really want. It is an inefficient benefactor, mismanaging its resources, and serving up take-it-or-leave-it policies that hurt as many folks as they help. People become dependent upon government in about the same way one can get dependent on opiates, with similar deleterious effects. However, even saying so much means we again wind up talking about what we’re against -- big government – rather than what we are for.

For Conservatism to succeed politically, we have to be able to show that our vision of society is a caring one. We advocate the policies we do because they are best for everybody, not just because they keep us in clover. So, here’s my attempt to describe what Conservatism – at least, my brand of Conservatism – is for.

1. We believe in the Individual. Only individuals can experience freedom. The individual is the smallest minority group.

2. We believe in the Family. The Family is the basic unit of society. We want to reserve the maximum decision-making power of families to educate their children, transmit their values, and order their lives together. We want government policies that strengthen families.

3. We believe in Civil Society. Voluntary associations such as churches, benevolent organizations, youth organizations, advocacy groups, and committees dedicated to good works allow for maximum power to be retained by the People and for maximum effectiveness and efficiency in helping those in need of assistance. We agree with Tocqueville that the genius of American society lay in its tendency for volunteers to organize themselves, rather than seek to influence the government to act.

4. We believe in Local Government. Any job undertaken by government should be done by the lowest level of government that can get the job done.

5. We believe that State and Federal governments should concentrate on those things which cannot be done by other organs of society. These governments should be kept as small as possible in general, but given the necessary resources to do those things only they can do.

6. We believe in Tradition. We are not enslaved to the past, but we derive inspiration from our past. We believe that societal change should be carefully considered and generally implemented in incremental fashion. We are forward-thinking in many ways, but our motto is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. If there are two ways to accomplish the same objective, the one that fits in better with what has gone before is probably the way to go.

7. We believe in the Free Market. Wealth is created by ordinary people pursuing their own advantage. Government should be a referee that polices the marketplace, not a player in the marketplace. Poverty is largely a transitional state, except where government intervenes -- in which case, it becomes institutionalized. We believe in the dignity of work. We want to encourage the ownership of real property and of investments by ordinary people.