Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's a Conservative?

The other day I was asked if I was a conservative. That caused me to ask myself, "What's a conservative?"

For starters, what's not a conservative? I believe that President Obama is not a conservative. He probably would call himself a progressive. He's for more central government involvement and control than I am. He also tends to rely upon public employees and unions for support and guidance. And it seems that he wants us to become more like the failed social democratic European countries. Thus, I'm definitely not a progressive. Not even close.

Is a conservative someone who believes in providing medicare and social security to those who can take care of themselves? If so, I'm definitely not a conservative either.

Or is a conservative someone who shies away from telling it like it is? Will a conservative spend money we don't have, feeding our society's strong tendency to increase deficits and public indebtedness, and all that entails? If so, I'm not in that camp.

Do conservatives support tax incentives such as mortgage interest deductions, property tax deductions, charitable deductions and the like while we continue to rack up record setting debts which our descendants will have to repay someday? If so, that's not me either.

The Myth of Conservative Purity pretty much describes the essence of what I believe. In part, it embraces the idea of both limited government and a strong central government as contained in our Constitution, at least in contrast to the government formed by the Articles of Confederation. It also argues for a problem solving, flexible approach to dealing with the issues of the day. In a word, it embraces realistic compromise complemented by a strong dose of common sense.

And the article says many other things that are worth quoting:

"The intellectual architects of the American political and economic order were also blenders and weavers. For example, John Locke, the great 17th-century theorist of individual rights and limited government, argued in "The Second Treatise of Government" that in the event a father dies and fails to provide for the care and education of his son, the state must make provision.

And in "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, maintained that the public should offer and require an education for almost all. While it would be grossly misleading to designate Locke and Smith as founders of the modern welfare state, it would be negligent to overlook their teaching that beyond securing individual rights, governments devoted to freedom had interests in the welfare of their citizens.

Today, we are urged by tea party activists, and with excellent reason, to look to the authors of "The Federalist," the authoritative expounders of the Constitution, to recover the principles of limited government. But it is instructive to recall that in their day the makers of the American Constitution were the enlargers and strengtheners of federal power.

Hamilton, Madison and Jay defended the new Constitution not only because of the many and varied limitations it imposed on the exercise of power. They also defended it because, in contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution incorporated in the national government the power to operate without the regular intervention of state governments; assigned it ultimate authority in matters requiring uniformity, including regulation of trade and naturalization; and made it supreme over the states, including in judicial matters.

On issue after issue, fidelity to the variety of conservative principles imposes not only the obligation to blend and balance but also to give due weight to settled expectations and longstanding practices. For instance, an appreciation of these crisscrossing obligations should impel conservatives to work both to improve the public schools we have and to increase competition and parental choice among an array of options.

While developing cost-cutting and market-based reforms for health care, conservatives should frankly acknowledge, as does Rep. Paul Ryan in his bold plan, the importance of maintaining a minimum social safety net. And in the Middle East and elsewhere, conservatism encourages a vigilant search for opportunities to promote liberty while counseling that our knowledge is limited, our resources scarce and our attention span poor."

Well said.

In contrast, it's somewhat sickening to watch self-described conservatives like Mitt Romney and other Depublicans and Remocrats running away from choosing between the only two alternatives concerning our most expensive entitlement programs; (1) how to properly fund medicare, medicaid and social security with additional taxes, or (2) how to radically overhaul these currently unaffordable entitlement programs.

In other words, if something can't go on forever it won't. And these programs can't go on as is for much longer. That's for sure.

But instead the Republican hopefuls play to the so-called "conservative" base and accuse Rick Perry of being a wild man when he calls social security a Ponzi scheme. But if it's not a Ponzi scheme, what is it? Sorry about that, fellow oldsters, but the truth is the truth. And whatever it is, we aren't paying for it now.

In that wild man versus play-it-safe scenario, Perry the Pinata covers part of the Perry/Romney dialogue concerning the social security program at the recent Republican presidential debate:

"Mr. Perry reaffirmed the position he laid out in his book "Fed Up!" that Social Security is essentially a Ponzi scheme, to which Mr. Romney retorted, "our nominee has to be someone who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security."

Ok, Mitt. But how will we save it? Who will pay what? And who will receive what? And when?

The problem perceived by the Romneys of the world may be the voters' unwillingness to hear the truth. To see what the Romney campaign is saying about this, Romney Hits Perry Again on Social Security is quite revealing. The Romney supporters say that Perry's position on social security is a fatal flaw for his candidacy.

This may all be true, but I hope that's not the case. In any case, I'm not a Perry supporter, but it is refreshing to hear the truth told by our elected officials, even though it's a rarity.

Meanwhile, the above referenced "Perry the Pinata" article said this, "By deciding to embrace his previous comments on Social Security, Mr. Perry showed himself willing to gamble on authenticity and boldness. Of course, doubling-down doesn't always produce a winning hand. Moreover, Mr. Perry refused to remain above the fray, despite his status as the new front-runner."

If being an authentic and bold truth teller makes one unelectable, I guess being a conservative means being a one-eye-on-the-crowd-non-truth-teller. If that's the case, I'm absolutely not a conservative.

I wonder if there's a label for a leader who believes that we must tell the truth and choose to live within our means, while providing opportunity for one and all. If there is, that's what I'll choose to be.

And if enough voters aren't willing to follow such a truth teller, then we'll still get the government we deserve.

Thanks. Bob.

No comments:

Post a Comment