Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Is a Conservative?

People throw the word conservative around quite a bit these days. They do in my part of the country at least. Candidates for political office use this word “conservative” to entice their particular voter base to vote for them. They say things like they are the best candidate for that particular office because they are the most “conservative.”

But what does the word “conservative” really mean? Different people have different ideas about what it means but do they, including the people trying to get your vote, really know what it means when they call themselves a conservative and are they really as conservative as they say they are?
When I think of someone that is a true “conservative” I think of someone that is a good steward of the taxpayer’s money. I think of someone that does not spend the country’s money in such a way that they do not give any bearing to the possible repercussions of their spending decisions.

I do not believe, as opposed to many conservatives believe, that a large military buildup is a conservative idea. I do not consider the idea of spending billions upon billions of dollars to promote and enlarge our country’s area of influence in the world to be a good spending decision. Building a military up to a size that is sufficient to defend our country from foreign invasion. That is conservative thinking. Building a military that is strong enough to destroy the world ten times over. That is not conservative thinking.

I liken this type of thinking to a person that is the head of a household. A conservative idea of how to run a family would be to use the money that you earn to protect yourself and those under your supervision: your family. You based your spending decisions on things that would promote the general welfare of your own family and things that would protect them. It is not a conservative idea to base your spending decisions on annihilating another family because you “think” they might come after you and yours.

Also, when I think of a conservative, I think of someone that holds true to the values and principles that this country was built upon. Strict adherence to the United States Constitution strongly comes to mind.

Going back to military buildup, in that respect, I do not believe that having a giant global-dominating military is respecting the foundations of this great nation.

In theory, conservatives favor limited government, traditional values, lower taxes, law and order, and an economy based on free market principles. These are some of the precepts that I admire in conservatism. The idea of working hard to get ahead and not depending on the government to solve your problems is a belief that I think is conservative.

Some would be led to believe that conservatism means the promotion of ideas such as a strong foreign policy, a strong military, and support for the state of Israel. They would also be led to believe that it is the conservative’s goal to maintain, to some extent, a theocratic society, such as those involved in the Religious Right. I do not agree with these beliefs and do not necessarily think they are conservative. In regards to foreign policy and the promotion of a theocratic state, I do not believe that these ideals coincide with the tenets that the United States were built upon. I believe that President Washington’s idea of not involving ourselves in foreign alliances holds true Constitutional principles and I don’t believe that a theocratic society concurs with the ideas based on the First Amendment.

As I said before, I believe that strict adherence to the United States Constitution is a strong conservative idea. That, of course, goes along with my idea that a conservative should hold true to the values that nation was founded upon. After all, the Constitution is the document upon which the country was established. The Constitution, of course, is the ultimate “law of the land.”

William F Buckley Jr. once said, in a National Review article that “it is the job of centralized government to protect its citizens lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress…”

This corresponds with another related belief I hold about conservatism and adherence to the Constitution. I believe that if the Constitution does not specifically give the central government the authority or control over a specific area, the central government should not participate or hold any control over that specific area.

There is a big difference between conservative policies and the big government policies of the administrations of Presidents such as FDR and Lyndon Johnson. I am referring specifically in terms of their big spending entitlement programs. Programs such as the New Deal and the New Frontier were not programs that I believe were within the limits of the constitutional role of the federal government.

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not opposed to helping out the less fortunate. Feeding hungry people is a noble pursuit. Providing shelter for the homeless is a noble effort. I just don’t think that these sorts of programs are the responsibility of the federal government.

Many of the programs that are funded and overseen by the federal government can be more efficiently funded and more efficiently managed at a more local level such as the state or county governments. I believe that the federal government is too far out of touch and too far removed from the people of these smaller localities and thus, have no business interfering in affairs that could be more capably administered by a local government. It is a local government that is more in touch with the people it represents and it should be their responsibility to take care of the needs of its citizens.

This type of thinking is rationally consistent with conservative philosophy. Fiscally, it is conservative because the federal government can more efficiently spend the monies it receives on its actual duties, rather than, for example, the costly bureaucracies of government-funded social programs and the inflated establishment of the military industry. Furthermore, it is conservative thinking in that it holds true to the constitutional ideology this country was established on.

In general, true conservatism is not restricted to a particular political party. There are conservative Republicans. There are conservative Democrats. At the same time, there are some Republicans that are not at all conservative, based on my idea of conservatism. Additionally, there are some Democrats, based on my idea of conservatism, could be considered to be quite conservative.

Wrapping up, a conservative is a person that believes in spending the taxpayer’s money responsibly and believes in firm adherence to the Constitution, upholding the ideals of a limited central government and a responsibility of the government toward protecting the life, liberty and property of every American citizen.

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