Truth is the beginning of wisdom…

An excerpt from a column on 9/8/2009 Marcia titled: Here’s what I REALLY think (an open letter to liberals)

Dear liberal neighbors, acquaintances, friends and family,

I’m a conservative.  A political and social conservative.  I know that some of you assume that means I’m mean-spirited, selfish, intolerant, greedy, and perhaps even evil.  But before you write me off, allow me to explain what I really think.  You might be surprised to find that, at least in some areas, we want the same things.  We just disagree on how to get them.

I believe in limited government.  While I think government has many important roles to play (most importantly providing a military to protect our country), in general I believe the less government the better.  For one thing, bureaucracy too often breeds inefficiency, mediocrity, or even worse by not rewarding performance.  Anyone who’s been to his local Department of Motor Vehicles, or his post office for that matter, can attest to that.  But even if government bureaucracies worked perfectly, why would I (or anyone, for that matter) want to be subject to any more laws and regulations than I already am?  I believe I’m better at running my life than my congressman is.

As a believer in small government, it follows that I want my taxes to be as low as possible.  I prefer to spend my own money as I choose, not because I’m greedy, but because I’ll spend it more wisely and carefully because I earned it.  Government waste is a given.  And while I do believe the government should help the neediest among us, welfare states simply do not work.  Bill Clinton knew that well enough to act on it.  I believe individuals should be encouraged to be as charitable and generous as possible.  (As a Christian, I believe it’s my responsibility to help take care of people in need.)  But I also believe individuals fare better when they take responsibility for their own lives.  Dignity comes from taking responsibility, not handouts – and dignity breeds motivation. George Will summed it up nicely when he wrote that “excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor.”  I believe in equal opportunity, but I don’t believe that equal outcomes can (or should) be mandated.

I believe in personal freedom.  The less government bureaucrats have to say about my personal life, the better.  Naturally we’re all subject to the laws of the land, but it’s another thing entirely to have my family’s healthcare run by committee, for example.  Having lived through a few years without employer-provided health insurance, I know how tough that is.  I’d still prefer that to the British system in which my brother had to wait three months for an MRI to determine what a doctor here diagnosed by my description alone: that he’d suffered a stroke at the age of 38.  Guaranteed healthcare doesn’t mean much when it’s dangerously slow and just plain lousy.

Most public school systems are sad but perfect examples of how tax-supported bureaucracies simply don’t work.  As a conservative, I believe in school choice.  Not only would individual students benefit, it would inspire healthy competition and remind administrators that they are answerable to parents.

I am also a social conservative.  I believe in traditional Judeo-Christian values, and want the freedom to continue to worship as a Christian.  I also want the right to raise my children with those values.  I don’t want my children taught that the practice of homosexuality is right any more than my liberal neighbors want their children taught that it’s wrong.  Liberals who wouldn’t want their children taught Christian precepts in school should be able to understand why conservative Christians don’t want their children taught un-Christian precepts.  In fact, if public schools focused on academics and left social and moral issues to parents, we’d all be better off.  Social change dreamed up and forced on society, including children, by a few Washington insiders is a truly frightening prospect.  Too much power in the hands of a small group of any persuasion is a dangerous thing.

In a nutshell, I’m for limited government that acts to preserve opportunity and encourage personal responsibility.  I’m for small government that allows me the freedom to believe what I choose to believe, and raise my children accordingly.  I believe it’s my duty to help people in need, and that while government has a role to play in that regard, it is among the least capable of institutions to do so with positive long-term outcomes.

Ronald Reagan captured the conservative ethos in another quote from that famous 1964 speech: “[Y]ou and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.”