The politics of division is at play within the conservative movement. Some predominately economic conservatives are at odds with some predominately social conservatives. This internecine spat is the result of conservatives forgetting they share a common opponent.
What these conservatives should firmly fix on is that they share a basic philosophy regarding the relationship of the individual to the state. Many believe the individual possesses various rights that define what it means to be an individual at a fundamental level. More than that, all conservatives believe the source of these rights is not government.
Most conservatives believe that these inalienable rights—such as life, liberty and property, “are endowed by our Creator.” To some, this is a personal and eternal God expressed in a formal faith tradition. To others, this is a less-defined but faithfully acknowledged God. Some acknowledge no “god” but still believe that there is something greater than the individual or the state. While those in the second or third categories might not attend the houses of worship of those in the first category, all accept the idea that our human worth is not derived from government.
The place of the individual vis-à-vis the state is the root of commonality for all conservatives, and the basic disconnect between conservatives and collectivists. Government exists not to confer rights, but instead to secure rights.
Liberals, collectivists and socialists, however, look to government to fulfill all manner of basic human needs. The state takes the place of parents in the home. The state takes the place of a father in protecting and providing. The state takes the place of a mother in nurturing and caring. The state takes the place of church and home in teaching right and wrong and the priorities of life. The state takes the place of the individual in planning, preparing and persevering. Instead of saying, “God will provide,” people learn to think, “Government will provide.”
The common enemy of all conservatives is the centrality of the state instead of the individual in our political system. All conservatives oppose elevating government to a place of reverence and esteem. Government must be closely watched and carefully limited.