Since the defeat of Republicans in the November 7th Mid-term elections, there seems to be a noticable trend among some to shy away from being called a Conservative. Let it be said here that this is bad; being called a Conservative should be taken as a compliment. There is no reason to think that being called such is bad because we offer ideas based in Liberty where the other side offers ideas based in fear and ultimately collectivism. We must remind the People that they are instinctively Conservative when it comes to their hopes and dreams. They all hope for a prosperous, safe and better future for their children, and it is up to those of us who call themselves Conservative to educate the People on why Conservativism is the better ideology for creating the conditions necessary for those things that are hoped for. But in order to do this we must define Conservativism and we must define the opposition, Liberalism.
Some fifty to sixty years ago, Russell Kirk, in his briliant and thoroughly reasearched book The Conservative Mind
, went through the process of defining the intellectual basis for Conservatism. He gave the ideology an intillectual face and made it rational to claim to be a Conservative in public. He, along with William F. Buckley Jr., did more than any other intillectual in the 20th Century to bring Conservatism from the shadows of social thought to the forefront of global affairs. These two men were the intillectual catalyst for Ronald Reagan and later Newt Gingrinch. Though it is impossible to say that Conservatism has been relegated to the back of the bus after November, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the political party that provides the vessel in which Conservatism travels has either lost or forgotten what it is that makes us Conservative. Conservatism has a distinc characteristic which seperates it from Liberalism, and that is the belief in American Exceptionalism. When you look at the three major items that form the battleground in the United States, you will see that American Exceptionalism is where the two ideologies differ. In social resposibility, the role of government and foriegn policy, the difference between the two is based on why the United States is sitting atop the rest of the world players.
Social responsibility involves numerous facets, but above all there are three major aspects that we will look at here: 1) education, 2) charity and 3) religion. Conservatives look at social responsibility and ask one simple question, "What can the individual do to make society better?" Conservatives say so long as education does it's job, and those who can provide charity for those who are less fortunate, then much of what makes up the social problems of the Country will be much less than they are. Conservatives also believe that the only way to achieve the first two is to have a general public whose morals are rooted to Christianity.
Education is looked at as a means to avoid destitution in society. People who are well educated are less likely to be people who cannot provide for themselves and their family. Conservatives look at education in this manner, and thus we view it as an instrument of personal improvement. Education's sole purpose to provide people with the mental foundation to achieve the type of profession that will provide for the individual's needs. But we also look at this as something that is a personal responsibility. If some one goes through their early adulthood with the lone ambition of having a good night life and they don't take seriously the opportunities that a good education provides, then they are destined for what economic level that entails. There can be no simpathy for any one who has the capability to succeed and does not. If the lower middle class is all that this can garner then it is no one's fault but the individual who did not take full advantage of his earlier years. This is the Conservative view of education, a responsibility and not a right.
Liberals on the otherhand look at it as though it is a right bestowed by God--or whatever because Liberals don't believe in God--to the individual. However, if one does not achieve the highest level of education it must be the force of some invisible boogey man. To the Liberal, if an individual has been relegated to the lower middle class or worse and has not gained college education, then it must be the fault of some outside phenomenon that kept that person form entering college. There is no responsibility placed on the individual to make the right decisions in early adulthood.
When it comes to charity, the Conservative says that the individuals who can should give to groups and organizations that provide for the misfortunate. Conservatives believe that the American People are a generous people and will do whatever they can to help their fellow countrymen. However, we draw the line at government forced charity. We do not believe that it is the government's job to take from one individual and give it to another. Charity is viewed as a means to keep class strife to a minimum, and therefore, a respect nurtured throughout all classes will serve to make a better society. Liberals think that government is the best charity organization and should therefore be empowered to redistribute wealth via tax policy. In doing so, they create antagonism between the classes because the provider of the charity is a large, faceless government and not another person who can empathize with the recipient. Liberals also foster class antagonism due to the ever widening qualifications for becoming a recipient of the government programs, thus you have one portion of society feeding off of the other and never taking in to account the other side and visa versa.
Conserviatives think that the best means to generate charitable donations to have a populous that is religious and has a genuine interest in caring for their fellow man. Charity is best collected from people who believe they are morally obligated to help. In the United States, charity is most often than not collected from a wide portion of the church going public. Those who have a moral sense to help are more likely to give, and those organiztions who collect are more likely to channel those resources to those who truly need it. Liberals have a natural distrust for religion because they view religion, and the charity that religion fosters, as a form of competition for government, which they view as the best means to help society. Liberals' views on religion are rooted in a sense that it is a superstitious institution from the past which no longer has any merit in the current day or in the future. Their believe in the perfectibility of man gives them a sense that man no longer needs to depend on faith in what they consider to be hocus-pocus. But this causes all kinds of problems for society, primarily the worship of the state and all things worldly as opposed to the worship of God and a sense of spirituality. This in turn fuels a hyper-materialism which can only lead to a self-centered society which cares for no other part of soceiy except that which directly effects their portion and their lives.
With the differences of opinion in education, charity and religion, Conservatism and Liberalism contrast drastically when it comes to the role of government. Because of their differnces with the three major facets of social responsibility, Conservatives view the government's role as a non-participating judge. Basically, the government's job is to set up rules for society to function and then get out of the way. These rules also apply to government and what they can and cannot regulate. They believe that government has a specific process to make these rules as well, and any attempt to go beyond these restrictions nullifies whatever regulations are placed on society.
Liberals, conversely, look at the role of government as a replacement for the three facets of social responsibility. Let us look in reverse. The Left has no belief in a supernatural God, as such, they must replace the role that God plays in society with something, so they turn to government. Where Conservatives view God as the granter of individual rights, the Left looks at government as the arbiter of what rights exist and which ones do not. In this line of thinking, if there is no higher Being acting as the moral compass, there is no desire to act in a charitible fashion towards those in need. The government is the charity and the donations are confiscated against the will of the People. Government is also the sole controller of education, which means the items taught are done so in a manner that engrandizes government. Why should government teach ideas that are rooted in Liberty and individualism when it depends on equalitarianism and collectivism to strengthen it? There is no incentive for government's role in education to be anything other than to serve its own needs and desires in regards to shaping society towards surrendering all responsibility to government. This is the Liberal view of government's role in society.
Foriegn policy is a different issue all together. In a picture perfect world there would be no difference between Conservatives and Liberals in dealing with foriegn affairs. However, this is not a picture perfect world and there are drastic differences betweent the two. Conservatism has gone from being seen as isolationist in the early part of the 20th century to being crusaders in the early part of the 21st century. It was Conservatism that wanted to stay out of the Second World War until the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor. But, that seems to be the last of the isolationist Right. Conservatism's 20th century piller of existance was based in anti-communism, as such, the Right advocated stopping the Soviet Union in China, Korea and later Vietnam. The Left was abetting in letting China go communist, didn't have the stomach to finish Korea and never wanted anything to do with Vietnam. (Any disputes on this will have to be answered in at another time.) This scenario shows that Conservatism is interested in providing freedom to people while at the same time going into foriegn adventures that have a direct interest to the United States and national security. The thought of being surrounded by Communist nations during the Cold War was the catalyst for going into small countries with seemingly no interest to the United States. The further Communism spread around the world, the closer the Soviet Union could place nuclear missiles in the hopes to either black-mail the US or do a first strike. Currently, in the War on Terror, we have the same situation. Conservatism seeks to liberate a region of the world that also harbours numerous people that wish us harm. The Left, on the otherhand, advocates that we go into Darfur or help with sunami victims or come home to help New Orleans get through a hurricane. There is no attempt to affect national security or advance national interests. The Left's sole purpose in the realm of foriegn policy is to make sure that the Western European Socialist elite likes us.
These are the things that seperate Conservatism from Liberalism. Granted the things touched on here could be expanded into a book, but in the brief explanation the message is clear. It is still good to be called a Conservative. There is no need to be shameful or bashfull in carrying the mantle of Conservatism. The ideology has done great work in the past, and so long as it is not abandoned, it will do great work in the future.