The Problem of Conservatives and Government

John ArmstrongAmerica and Americanism, Economy/Economics, Politics

We loosely speak of conservatives and liberals when we talk about ideologies and modern politics as it relates to government. Besides the fact that these labels are often anachronistic, and even widely misused, we infrequently take care to see the downside of the views we personally promote. As in all areas we share in a kind of personal and corporate blindness to the weaknesses of the views we so stridently promote. While I might be labeled a conservative, at least on some issues, I am clearly more progressive when it comes to other modern debates over issues. I view the death penalty, and our modern wars and continual military buildup, with considerable suspicion. I also care for the environment in ways that are anything but consistent with the party line views of most political conservatives. I further believe that our personal liberties are being violated by an over-reaction to questions regarding terrorism and security. (I have named only a few issues to simply give you a sense of my problem with the label.) Yet, I am not a modern political liberal either, at least when it comes to promoting entitlement programs and a great deal of state and federal spending. I am profoundly troubled by the liberal partnership between governments and almost all labor unions. This is why I admire Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. (I believe in the right to form unions and to unionize work but the pendulum has swung too far from the middle through massive entitlements.) The long term well-being of the nation is thus threatened by our out-of-control debt problem. Our present spending could well destroy our economy and then alter our way of life in radically unforeseen ways that could wreck the social fabric of our society. For this reason, the rising debt (and everything connected with solving it) is THE issue that moves me profoundly at the present moment. (What we need is a better, and more realistic, centrist argument about the real size and consequence of our debt.) I do not believe this is a left or right issue. I believe both parties need to give on some of their special projects and stop posturing in order to work together to solve this massive problem. Until after November I am not holding my breath for any real solutions and beyond November I am still not sure that we will see the radical changes that we actually need. If this is a form of political cynicism then so be it. 

Some months ago I heard a prominent conservative express my deep doubts about what happens when conservatives hold power. He said that "the tendency of conservatives is to turn government into a private sector bidding war." That nailed it for me. When this happens we have a government by entrepreneurship. While I believe deeply in the power and initiative of the entrepreneurial spirit I do not believe that governments should pursue entrepreneurship. When they do, bad things always happen. Conservatives need to understand this if they are to ever learn to govern wisely and humanely. I am just not sure most of them do at this moment.