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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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