I believe that the federal government should safeguard those Creator-given rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and those listed in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. They include the right to life and the right to keep and bear arms.
I believe that taxes should be low because I trust the individual to spend his or her money more wisely than the government will.
I believe in few, common sense regulations that help ensure equal opportunity but do not determine outcomes.
I believe in a strong defense because protecting the country is the first obligation of the federal government.
I believe in continuing to push government to work smarter and more efficiently.
Two Views of Government
There are two different approaches to the appropriate role of government. One is more activist and the other is more limited.
We have seen bursts of growth in government, especially in the New Deal of the 1930’s and the Great Society of the 1960’s. Today, the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress are pushing a third great wave of government.
Already, government is more involved in the daily lives of individual Americans than the Founders could ever have imagined. Health care, education, income support, food, shelter, recreation – there is virtually no part of daily life that government does not touch or seemingly want to control.
Often with the best of intentions, the pressure for more government involvement is constant. Being human, we are never satisfied with our current situation. We always want to improve it, or, too often, we want others to improve it for us.
Part of human nature is to want what others have in a continual push for equality of outcome, not just equality of opportunity. (Of course, some will argue that a poor child can never have the same opportunities as a wealthy child, so we must even the playing field between them. Opportunity and outcome end up being the same thing.)
In the relentless push toward equality, disparities cannot be accepted. Everyone must be able to get the same education, the same health care, the same income.
It thus becomes an “inalienable right” to have the best health care our country can provide – or at least health care no worse than anyone else’s. Everyone must be treated the same, and government is the only organization big and powerful enough to ensure equality of outcome. Thus, under this view of the world, government must grow.
The push for equality in outcome is the force behind the Obama push for health care reform, global warming and energy regulation, new taxes, banking and financial regulation, and more. It is an attempt to flatten inequalities, and put everyone on the same level, even if it is a lower level.
But there is also something more. Advocates of activist government bring an attitude of “we know what is best for you.” Not trusting the individual to make choices, some of which may not be wise, these advocates would have the government make the choice for us and would feel sure that we will be better off.
The other view of government’s role and purpose rests in individual liberty, understanding that if each person is given opportunity, not all will use that opportunity successfully. Outcomes will be different. Yet, mandating equal outcomes limits the heights that some can achieve.
Leaving one to rise or fall based on ability, hard-work, or pure chance leads to unequal results. And we must be willing to live with that.
This view focuses on each individual receiving the Creator-given rights to which he or she is entitled rather than as part of a group or in comparison with others. It is individual focused.
As de Tocqueville realized in 1848,
Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom; socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty; socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.” (Quoted in F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 77).
And Spalding affirms:
From the Founders’ point of view, rights are inherently possessed by each and every individual and are turned into civil rights that apply equally to all persons through the constitutional process…Associating rights with interest groups gives rise to unlimited rights claims and endless legal battles and also leaves the core rights to wither as mere values, subject to shifting political opinion and court majorities. (Matthew Spalding, We Still Hold These Truths, 2009, p. 203).
Core individual rights, bestowed by our Creator, are the things to value and safeguard above all else.
The limited government view holds that not everything that should happen should be mandated by government. As flawed beings, we know that there will always be injustice and unfairness in the world. We see a problem and naturally want it solved.
We demand government, which after all we fund with our taxes, to do it. But we often do not stop to ask ourselves whether we want government to try to solve all of the problems we find. What if government’s idea of fairness is different from our own? What if, to solve a problem, government must limit my choices, control my behavior? How far should that control go?
Conservatives and Our Government
On a practical day-to-day level, this issue of whether or not it is government’s role to right a particular wrong presents one of the greatest challenges to conservatives in government. We often have a strong view of right and wrong. It is hard to walk away from a clear wrong. But we must have the discipline to do so – or at least allow government to turn its head – rather than push government into roles and situations not authorized by the Declaration and/or the Constitution.
We trust more in markets – in a million small decisions by ordinary Americans – rather than in big comprehensive government making one big decision for all of us. Knowing that individuals are flawed, we would still put our nation’s fate in the collective judgment of millions of Americans looking after themselves and their families and their neighbors.
We know that prosperity comes from the private sector, not from government.
We know that security comes from strength, not from weakness.
We want government to support essential institutions, like the family, and do things we cannot do for ourselves, like defend the country.
And what government does do, it should do well and efficiently.