Sunday, December 20, 2009

Putting on the Political Hat

An unapologetic conservative, I have for awhile been pondering what exactly that means. There are social conservatives and economic conservatives. Conservative can even describe our taste in clothing or home decor.

By definition, a conservative favors traditional views and values. There is an element of restrain and resistance to change in the conservative.

As the country becomes more polarized with the Political Left becoming more honest defenders of socialism, the Political Right is trying hard to define what it is that we stand for. In all the commentary that I have heard, I feel an essential structure is missing from the argument. We hear the defense of capitalism, traditional values and our Constitutional Democracy from the conservative media, but they often mix arguments and leave the listener confused.

This is in part because we have allowed the Left to define the battlefield. Socialism is an economic system, a political system and a philosophy of life. Conservatism is the principle by which we defend our institutions. It is distinct from them and they are distinct from one another.

We often defend Capitalism as creating equality and Democracy as a means to happiness. This is a mistake. Each of these institutions we defend is separate, though integrated, in the America we love and are desperately trying to preserve. But we must defend each institution for its unique role and understand the need for all three to be preserved simultaneously.

Capitalism should not be defended as a means to make people equal. It does no such thing and never was designed to do so. Capitalism is an economic system designed to bring the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest amount of people. It has never and will never bring that wealth in equal portions. It should not be defended as a means to happiness. Prosperity and happiness are not the same thing. Capitalism does not make us good. Our "worth" in the market is by no means our true inherent worth.

Capitalism is an economic system based on competition and innovation. It is a system which understands human nature and our desire as human beings to better our station in life through hard work and creativity. As an economic system, there is none equal in the world. In the United States under a capitalistic economy, we do not have poor as the rest of the world. We do not have bloated bellied children dying of dehydration in our deserts, yet our rich are as extravagant as the oil sheiks of the world. We do have working poor, but we also have a lower middle class, a middle class, an upper middle class and so on.

It is not our Capitalism that makes us equal. It is our Democracy based on our Constitution that does that. It is not an equality of material goods which this form of government sought to guarantee. It is an equality under the law. Our American Democracy is not designed to put a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. It is to make sure that each of us is guaranteed the freedoms that all men should be afforded. The freedom to pursue our dreams, practice our religion, raise our families, vote our conscience and our best interest. It guarantees due process, a jury of our peers and a fair trial. It is a form of government designed with protections for the minority against the majority. It makes the law makers beholden to the people, and at its very heart, protects the individual from the tyranny of a few and from the government itself.

Finally, neither our Democracy nor our capitalism makes us happy. History has shown us a multitude of examples of free and rich people who are miserable and enslaved poor who find joy. Happiness comes not from what we have, be it a TV or Freedom, but from who we are. As conservatives, we defend our Judeo Christian values as the means to true happiness. It is God's love which is our true source of joy. It is with Faith, Hope and Love that we become human beings able to know true joy. We do not insist that all peoples believe in the God of our tradition, but we must insist that it is being Good which leads to Happiness. And Good is something objective and can not be redefined with the winds of change. Our rights and freedoms as well as our limitations are first, last, and always, defined by our Creator God.

These three American pillars of Capitalism, Democracy and Judeo Christian values are certainly dependent on one another. All the laws in the world can not protect us from the greed that can certainly exist in Capitalism as recent history has shown us. A democracy can not exist if every citizen is working on the lowest level of morality, fear of laws. Furthermore, America once had laws which kept one human being enslaved to another and currently refuses to pass laws to protect the most vulnerable against the more powerful simply because one is born and the other is not.

Our economic system and our laws are only as good as we are. We defend traditional values because without them, all our laws and freedoms, all our wealth, is dust in the wind. The generosity of the American people does not now nor has it ever needed government mandate. Our values require we take care of the widows and the orphans, visit the sick and feed the hungry. We can not be forced to be generous by our Democracy nor be generous if not allowed the opportunity Capitalism allows to gain our own wealth and give it freely.

So as Conservatives what do we believe, what is it we are loathe to change?

Our Capitalism is the best system in the world to make the most people the most money.

Our Constitutional Democracy is the greatest equalizer the world has ever seen.
Our Judeo Christian values are True and Good and can not be replaced.

All three together...That is what the American Conservative defends. We are unapologetic in our conviction that what we have is a good thing. Our America SHOULD be made better. It is a work in progress, a wonderful work of art. But it should not be replaced by an economic, political and philisophical system based in the belief that it is material wealth and equality of results that makes us happy and good. Even if it came in a Brook's Brothers suit and tie, that is change we MUST resist!

My greatest hope is that in the next round of elections, the positive message of the conservative is articulated and that we have choices of politicians who believe in the inherent goodness of or institutions and values.

And that the majority of Americans come to see that our Constitutional Democracy, Capitalism and Judeo Christian values are something they can hang their hat on.

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