Liberals view the government as a force for good that should be used at every possible opportunity to reorder people's lives. This is an outgrowth of the liberal belief that most people are stupid and unable to ascertain what's in their own best interests without the intercession of their superiors (liberals) to show them what's best. That makes government extraordinarily handy to liberals because they can use the power of government to force people to give up their money, force people to do things they don't want to do, and to try to reshape society into the utopian vision they have of how the world should work.
On the other hand, conservatives view the government as a necessary evil that should generally be used as sparingly, judiciously, and reluctantly as possible. This is not because conservatives believe people are angels, but because we believe Adam Smith was correct when he said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
Furthermore, the conservative view says that the government is slow, inefficient, inordinately expensive, error-prone, and as likely as not to create problems worse than the ones it tries to solve with its bungling efforts. Hence Ronald Reagan's classic line, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
These contrasting views have a great deal to do with why liberals and conservatives seldom see eye-to-eye on a policy issue.
A liberal looks at the potential good he believes can come from forcing a business owner to comply with a new regulation and supports it. A conservative worries about the cost of the regulation, the unintended effects, and the cumulative expense and time of many regulations and opposes adding yet another burden on a small business owner's shoulders.
A liberal loves the idea of forcing businesses to pay workers more than what they're worth through the minimum wage. Conservatives see the minimum wage as more meddling in the free market that will have negative consequences. If you force the business owner to overpay, he will surely change his behavior as a response. Maybe he'll hire less people. Maybe he'll have less money to spend on equipment. Maybe he won't be able to give out Christmas bonuses to his best performing employees. Whatever the case may be, assuming a politician in DC can micromanage the salaries of a business owner better than he can seems to be incredibly arrogant.
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