The Conservative Movement has been hijacked on numerous occasions. The most significant recent hijacking has been George W. Bush and his presidency, which rose to power claiming conservative core values but ran on something quite different.
Conservatism first needs a definition. American Conservatism, unlike every other form of conservatism throughout the world, is really liberty-focused, or rather rights-focused. At the core of American Conservatism is the acknowledgement of “certain unalienable rights”, God-given and irrevocable. The question of “Why government?” and “How much government?” is answered simply “Enough to protect individual rights, but no more.”
Conservatism thus focuses on moral authority, right and wrong, “should” and “should not”. The moral compass that Conservatism uses is the same used by the Bible. We do not appeal to people’s individual morality but assert that there is a universal morality that we are all subject to, whether we acknowledge it or not. Thus, religion plays a huge role in Conservatism, because at the very center is the fundamental question of what is right and wrong.
The religion that Conservatism relies on is simply this: Christianity, namely, the sort of Christianity that Christians everywhere broadly agree to. Since there is confusion, as many people in America no longer consider themselves Christian, and those who do do not claim to understand it, let me spell out the key doctrines.
- God created man and gave him clear commandments, a moral code that defines which behavior is acceptable and which is not.
- Man is incompetent and ignores and disobeys God and thus deserves the full punishment of God, because God cannot be arbitrary and must be just.
- However, Christ has intervened, taking upon himself God’s punishment, thus providing us a time where we can change from our old behavior and become reborn through Christ.
- This process takes time and effort and forgiveness and repentance and respect for each other, which is all Christ really asks us to do: Love one another and forgive one another.
- In short, the “new rule” is that we are to respect one another and focus on our own internal struggle between good and evil, and call upon Christ to save us from ourselves, both individually and collectively, because he is powerful to save. And through this process, we gradually become more like Christ, completely obedient to the commandments of God.
Christianity, like any religion, is a broad topic, one that requires attention and study. One cannot master it in this lifetime. We can only taste parts of it, and catch glimpses of the full scope and glory of it. Because of our mortal, flawed condition, we cannot expect to arrive at perfect truth in this life.
If you are the sort that finds any discussion of religion distasteful, I beg you to look inward and ask yourself why. Are you the sort of person who merely finds different religions distasteful? Do you not understand that you have closely held beliefs that can be considered a religion in its own right? Or do you think you are merely intellectually and philosophically and morally superior to others? It doesn’t matter. The very same spirit that makes my religion distasteful to you inhabits all of us. If you cannot control that emotion, that distaste for “other”, then how do you expect to build a society full of people like you?
After all, Christianity boils down to this: mutual respect. I respect your right to choose your own set of beliefs, and all I ask, ultimately, is for you to do the same. If you can manage that, then you have mastered the fundamentals of Christianity, and are well on your way to understanding all of it.
It is unfortunate that I can only touch on the surface of this deep and poignant topic. In my personal life, I have decided that the vast majority of my time should be spent preaching my religion and revealing how deep and poignant it is, and perhaps convincing not a few people to adopt it for themselves, as I find my greatest happiness lies in the practice of it.
Moving on, however, we must now address the question of government. What sort of government should we have, and what sort of government should we not have? In defining something, we can either show what it is or what it is not. By showing what it is, we leave open vast areas of possibilities of what it could also be. But by showing what it is not, we close those areas off and set a fence around it. So my efforts will principally focus on what it is not.
First, a good government does not violate any human rights. That is, it cannot do what any private citizen could not do. For instance, I have no right to break into my neighbor’s house and rummage through his private papers, so the government has no right to do that either. I have no right to steal from my neighbor, so the government has no right to do that also.
I cannot argue that by stealing from my neighbor or spying on him that I am somehow making his life better or securing better rights for him. No, this makes no sense and is never justifiable. Only in the most extreme circumstances and where the most basic human rights are at stake can I begin to justify these things, IE, I hear screaming from my neighbor’s house and I want to protect the life that is threatened. So, too, our government must limit itself to acting like a private citizen in all cases.
This is completely contrary to what almost all non-Conservatives believe government to be. On the one hand, many people believe government has powers that the people do not, and do not understand why this is a problem. The reason it is a problem is because these powers are the power to injure and limit our rights, and when the government has unlimited powers, the people have no rights at all, but are no better than slaves or serfs to it On the other hand, many people believe government should not have the power the people themselves have, and should limit itself even beyond the limit I described above. This is nonsense, since the government is made up of people. It is trivial to show to this group of people that as long as government is made of people, it can do what people can do. This argument destroys any proposal for exceptionally weak governments, such as anarchy.
There are a few important areas where we need to focus to understand how we are abusing this basic concept of government and why we allow government to get away with it. Let’s start with the topic of national defense, or in other words, war.
The power to wage war is simply the power of the people to use violence to secure their right to life and property. When our rights are threatened, we can either stand back and allow them to be violated passively (thus asserting we have no rights at all) or we must violently resist. If we do not violently resist threats to our right, or at least leave such an option on the table, then we do not truly believe we have those rights in the first place. Thus, since we are willing to use violence to secure our rights, we can collectively bring that willingness together to buy up armies and navies and wage war on those people across the world who threaten our rights.
However, once they acquiesce to our demands, we no longer have the right to wage war on them. That is, as long as we believe they are no threat, we have no right to do any violence to them.
The power to wage war is, thus, a binary power. Either we have it, or we don’t. If we have it, we should use it, aggressively, unapologetically, forcefully, and quickly. If we don’t, then we should not.
Today’s America doesn’t operate this way. We are afraid of declaring wars and we are afraid of declaring peace. We believe we can manage people who want to kill us. We believe we can have peace with people who are doing us violence. We must desist from these foolish notions, believe people mean what they say, and take action accordingly. We must take every threat, every whisper of a threat, seriously, and pursue the threat until it is no longer a threat. We must use every option we have available to quickly and efficiently dispose of that threat.
The consequences of such a system is that we will know every day whether we are at war and with whom, or whether we are at peace. If at war, we collectively pool our efforts and pursue that threat vigorously, but if at peace, we rest and relax and build our homes and communities instead. We do not let threats grow to Cold War-levels, and we do not allow terrorists to roam free. We certainly don’t allow an entire segment of a popular religion to preach violence against us.
Let’s look at another topic, how to handle poverty. There are those who believe that the poor are perfectly incapable of managing themselves. They believe there is some substantial difference between the rich and the poor, such that the poor can never become rich (and vice-versa). It is this belief that compels them to steal from the rich and distribute it to the poor, in some misguided belief that by so doing, the rich and poor will become equal.
It should be plain to anyone why stealing is wrong, and why it is important to acknowledge the right to property. While I totally agree that the rich should share their resources with the poor so that the poor is no longer poor, I do not agree that stealing their resources is right, let alone effective. A government should not distribute wealth. After all, a government cannot do that which a private citizen cannot do.
Policing is another topic. The police do not exist to protect the public. The fact that there are people who still believe this saddens me greatly. You are required to protect yourself, your home, your family, your friends and neighbors. No one else can do that for you. The police are government agents they use to punish criminals. At best, really, they are agents of the court to bring the guilty to justice. While the police are helpful and friendly and kind, and will fetch cats out of trees and such, that is not their job. They do not appear until a crime has been committed, and they are not charged with preventing crime, just punishing it. If you expect the police to do more than private citizens, you misunderstand the role of the police.
I am not advocating vigilantism. Vigilantism is when people operate outside the appointed criminal justice system. I am simply advocating you to be your own security guard or to hire someone to do it for you. When a crime has been committed, work with the police and the courts to see that justice is done. But until a crime is committed, secure yourself to minimize the chance that the crime will be done to you.
The final topic I wish to address is how Conservatism can become the dominant political movement in America. I see a rather simple approach.
To the people, we will tell them how they have rights and they need to protect those rights and stand up to government overreach. We will explain how government has wronged them by abusing their rights. We will use the courts to extract penalties from the government for the people. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, as long as judges acknowledge even the slightest degree of regard for individual rights, we will take advantage of that to secure them all.
To the rich, we will tell them how we will protect their wealth and help them secure more. The crony capitalist will find no friend in us, as we will advocate ending the close relationship of government power and economic power. However, for ever crony capitalist, there are hundreds of capitalists who wish to “eat their lunch” by building a better company. We will appeal to the underdogs and show them how conservatism will level the playing field and allow them to compete in open competition against the most powerful companies. Yes, this will make big corporations our eternal enemies, but it will make the second largest company on down all our allies. There are more of them and they have more money.
To the aristocrat, those who obtain their power by technical excellence or moral authority, we will show how Conservatism protects and propels them and their art. We want to build a system based on ability, not relationships. We respect all people’s rights, including the right to compete and the right to question tradition.
To the government bureaucrat, we really don’t have much appeal at all. When conservatives are elected, then their first order of business should be driving government bureaucrats into the private sector. As long as government is small and limited, bureaucrats shouldn’t have much power anyway. As long as they do, however, they will be our principal target. It will be “us” versus “them”, and in any society, there are always more of us.