There has been a lot of rhetoric in The Union that vilifies conservatives and paints a very false picture of what conservative citizens believe. Let’s get back to basics about conservative principles.
Conservatives believe in American exceptionalism. The Founding Fathers believed in the principles of limited government. The Constitution provides restraints against the natural tendency of government to expand, avoiding the dangers of demagogues controlling the lives of citizens and persuading people to grant government vast powers in return for deceptive promises of economic gain. Individuals are more competent to determine what is in their best interests than the collective wisdom of the government.
The Constitution has served this country well over the last 200-plus years by providing a foundation for the debate of ideas and guarding against impulsive and unreflected changes to the system. Governing without guidance is a government in chaos, bending to the whims and fads of the day.
Human nature is not perfectible but a combination of good and bad. Society needs the rule of law to control the bad impulses, while allowing the maximum amount of freedom for individuals. Every man, for his individual well-being and for the good of society, is responsible for his own development.
Government does not have unlimited claim on an individual’s earnings. Individuals have a right to the possession, use and disposal of their property. Earnings are property just as much as material possessions. Property and freedom are inseparable.
To the extent the government takes from one in the form of taxes, it intrudes on the other. In addition, government is inefficient and wasteful. Though every citizen has an obligation to contribute his “fair share” to the legitimate functions of government, the free market makes money grow, and lower taxes promotes a strong economy.
Welfare should help people become independent — given to those who are truly incapable of helping themselves. The welfare state is the current form of collectivization (subordinating the individual to the state). Advancement of socialism is much easier to achieve in a democratic society through welfarism than through nationalization. Welfare states can be erected simply by buying votes with promises of “free” medical care, food, retirement, etc. Voters can be swayed with “earnest” pleas to help the needy, and these pleas are difficult for conservatives to resist without seeming callous toward the less fortunate. Beneficiaries become dependent on government, which yields ultimate power over their needs and eliminates any feeling of individual responsibility.
Due to enormous economic and political power concentrated in the hands of union leaders, political life is corrupted in the selection of public officials. Right-to-work laws are attempts to give freedom of association the added protection of civil law. Unions are better if its members give their support of their own free will. If union leaders can force workers to join, leaders have no incentive to act responsibly.
Conservatives believe federal intervention in education is unconstitutional, reserved to the states through the 10th Amendment. The function of education is not to be an agent for change but to pass on society’s knowledge and experience, enabling individuals to take care of society’s needs. In order to produce future leaders, standards should be geared to excellence not mediocrity. This can be done best at the local level. Federal aid to schools is now seen as “free” money. These “free” dollars are taxes taken from citizens of states, then returned minus the government’s commission and with compliance requirements attached. This “aid” is a form of control, but the biggest form of central/big government control is determining educational content.
George Washington was quoted, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” A “peace through strength” defense policy won the cold war and averted a nuclear war. A strong military is fundamental to peace. Weakness only invites aggression. The United States is the leader in protecting and promoting freedom throughout the world. Our leaders should never apologize for America’s greatness.
Conservatives are not against progress — meaning gradual steady improvement — not change for change’s sake or seeking the impractical idealistic goal of perfection (utopia). The United States has made its greatest progress when Conservative principals are practiced.
“The happy union of these states is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world.”
— James Madison
Linda Erdmann is the second vice president and legislative chair for the Nevada County Republican Women Federated.