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What does it mean to be a conservative? March 31, 2010

Posted by rjpeel in Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Republican, Truth.
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As I’ve pondered this question, I’ve come to realize that even among conservatives, this question has many different answers–and unfortunately, there are some nut jobs among the conservatives, just as there are among the liberals.

I don’t have any intention or desire to belabor all of the different ideas present in conservatism, so I just want to quickly describe what it means to me.

As I mentioned in my first post, I believe in limited government. I believe that a government that is too big, that has the power to take care of it’s citizen’s every need (and maybe even some or many wants) also has the power to take these things away. The more power the government has, the more ability they have to threaten and harm the people.

When individuals retain most rights and responsibilities for themselves, then there will inevitably be differences in social and economic situations–differences that can be very large. Individuals or groups may also feel more empowered to commit wrongs against their peers (employers inflicting unsafe or unfair working conditions, for example). However, there is always the opportunity to appeal to the government for redress. But when the government IS the employer, who do you appeal to when they are being unfair or causing harm? Do you really think that the people who rise to positions of power in the government are somehow more immune to selfishness than those who rise to power in business?

I believe in personal accountability. I believe that a person does not have a right to expect a handout. They should do everything in their power to make their own life. Each and every person is handed a very different deck of cards when they come into this world, but it is up to them what they do with that. It is each person’s responsibility to make something of themselves. Too many people in our civilization believe that the government or charities or someone else should give them what they need and want. No one has the right to be rich (or even middle class or even poor). Each should not expect more wealth than the best they can manage given the means available for them to work it out for themselves.

I believe in charity. I believe that charity is the recognition that each and every one of us is dependant on outside forces for the chances and opportunities that are given to us in our lives. I believe that although we each must look to ourselves for our own maintenance, we must always strive to find those in need and help them–sometimes even when they dont’ deserve it. I believe that government has no business getting involved in charity and that redistribution of wealth is thievery when that redistribution is initiated by the one taking the money in order to give it to those less fortunate. Each person must make the choice to give to those less fortunate. And though we will always see some who hold to more wealth than they need while others starve, we must never steal from one to give to another–it is wrong to steal, no matter what is done with it afterward.

A government that can steal from the rich to give to the poor also has the power, and will without fail eventually use it, to take from the poor to give to those in power–ask the Ukrainians about it sometime. Actually, just study some history. Those governments with the most progressive platforms throughout history have abused the poor (and created more poverty) than almost any other.

I believe that a person’s chances at happiness do not rely upon their level of wealth. Each person’s best chance at happiness lies in doing the best with what they have and fostering a continuing hope for the future. The early settlers of the American Frontier had no air conditioning, no cars, no plumbing, no bling, no movie theaters, no iPods, no television, no computers–the list goes on and on. Yet their happiness was just as achievable as ours. Why do we need more? Don’t get me wrong, if you can afford it, by all means, buy it–but don’t feel like you can steal from someone else (even if he’s rich and even if he’s a jerk) to get it.

The poor man only hurts himself by envying what the rich man has–until he tries to take it for himself, then he hurts us all. If you want what he has, then earn it. You might say, but he didn’t earn it, it was given to him, or it was stolen, or whatever. It doesn’t matter, it’s HIS. Man up, woman up (that doesn’t really sound right, does it?). Work hard for what you have and feel the pride and honor that comes with honest acquisition.

I think that these basic principles (limited government, personal accountability, and individual charity) are probably the basic core of what makes me a conservative. In addition to this, like many, but not all conservatives, I believe that these are all virtues that are extolled in the religion I belong to. I believe that God put us here for a reason, and that there is such a thing as right and wrong–independent of what I feel or want. I believe that these principles aren’t just good because I think they’re good, truth and right exist and it’s each of our jobs to find everything true and right and then, once we’ve found it, to defend it.

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A Change March 26, 2010

Posted by rjpeel in Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Politics, Republican, Truth.
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The starting of my blog (No Dog in the Race) sometime back started a journey of understanding for me. It caused me to start thinking of things in a different light. I began to question things. Being a conservative, one of my first questions was, Why do Liberals embrace Liberalism?–because my understanding of Liberalism really made it seem strange and actually ridiculous to embrace these philosophies.

However, pondering this question soon led me to another question. Given that I have friends that I respect who are Liberals, people who I believe to be intelligent, well meaning people, I had to accept that this philosophy held some draw and positive meaning for them. I wondered, then, did they see Liberalism differently than I saw it?

This led very quickly to yet another question: Do these people see Conservatism differently than I do? Seeing what the Liberals on TV say about Conservatives, and even the rather ignorant comments of some of my intelligent and well meaning friends, I began to think that this might actually be the case.

I have not yet mustered the courage for a frank discussion with one of these friends on this topic (for the purpose of learning, not preaching), but I think I must at some point. Since the time that I first began to ask myself these questions, though, I have made a decision to look more closely at my own beliefs–and to ask myself what a conservative really is.

After all of this, I have concluded that the philosophy of sociality and government that I espouse is most certainly conservative, but I now realize that the label Conservative can be accurately applied to individuals whose belief systems I would find to be repugnant as well. Also, if one looks further back into history the terms Liberal and Conservative become even more malleable.

However, there are some core principles that most emphatically make me a Conservative and not a Liberal. Among these beliefs are some obvious ones.

I believe in limited government. A study of history should convince any rational human being that there are people out there with power who have an insane dedication to taking power, freedom, and happiness from others. History teaches us that there are those outside and inside our society that want to destroy our freedom and subject us. There are many ways that our free, democratic republic can be replaced with another form of government. There are other countries who would invade and do this if they thought they could. But there are people in our own country that would do the same, people who think we should all live a certain way–whether we like it or not. This second kind of change can come through a revolution like our country has seen once before, or it can come more slowly by slowly building tyranny while disguising it as something else.

There are people on both sides of the aisle that would like to be in control of our country, for their own purposes. If the federal government is too small and impotent, then people of power can step in and abuse the people of this country. Our history has seen such times as these. Also, if our government is too big and is able to control too much of our lives, then one simply needs to find a way to control that government and you control the nation. And I am forced to conclude that a government that is made large because it is given the power to give the American people everything they need, it will also have the power to take away everything we need as well.

Our country’s constitution, properly applied, creates a government that has the power necessary to protect us from power-hungry citizens, but also creates a government that must remain small enough so that it never transforms from being our protector into being our oppressor.

This principle, in and of itself, makes me a conservative. There are others, but I don’t have time to belabor them now.

However, I see way too much of both Conservatives and Liberals drinking their “side’s” Kool-Aid. As Conservatives and Liberals we must agree to put party affiliation aside in the search for truth. If the Liberals have good ideas, we should acknowledge them and adopt them. If the Conservatives have good ideas, we should do the same. There are principles given the appellation Conservative that I, as a Conservative, would denounce. I must, therefore, accept that the denouncing of a principle does not invalidate a philosophy–on either side.

Our loyalty to the truth must always, no exceptions allowed, prevail over our loyalty to any political philosophy, group, or party we belong to. If Conservatives, Liberals, and Independents can embrace this, then no one and nothing will ever take our freedom. If not, then eventually, someone will.