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10 Of The Greatest Pieces Of Conservative Wisdom

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -- P.J. O'Rourke

We have gotten to a point in our society where people can pursue courses of action that we know, they know, that everyone knows are highly likely to end in disaster. But then, when the aforementioned tragedy inevitably occurs, there is a demand that the federal government "fix the problem."

But what's wrong with saying,

* You're about to lose your house because you got a subprime loan to buy a house $300,000 more than what you could afford. Sorry, but it's your own fault.

* Maybe you wouldn't be struggling to make ends meet if you hadn't dropped out of high school and had 3 babies by 3 different men by the time you were 25. It's not the government's job to take the place of your children's father.

* Your business wouldn't be struggling to hire workers today if you hadn't hired a work force that is 90% illegal aliens in the first place. So, if your business suffers while you replace the illegals, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Instead, when the bill for the irresponsibility of these sort of people comes due, it always seems to be everyone else's job to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into.

"And many writers have imagined for themselves republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for there is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live that anyone who abandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation: for a man who wishes to profess goodness at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not good." -- Niccolo Machiavelli

Too often, people and nations are judged harshly because their actions fall short of some imaginary, moral ideal. Capitalism may be the best economic system, but it's bad because it doesn't make every person equally rich and successful. The United States has been the most moral super power in history, but we're as bad as Nazi Germany because we haven't lived up to the utopian standards in some liberal's head. The U.S. military takes more care not to kill civilians than any military ever has, but they're just as bad as Al-Qaeda because they accidentally kill civilians while fighting terrorists who use the innocent as human shields.

When it comes to your principles, there's nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, but we shouldn't revile people and nations because they come up short of their aim and merely hit the moon.

"By government giveaway programs, individuals are often hurt far more than they are helped. The recipients of these programs become dependent on the government and their dignity is destroyed. Is it compassionate to enslave more and more people by making them a part of the government dependency cycle? I think compassion should be measured by how many people no longer need it. Helping people to become self-sufficient is much more compassionate than drugging them with the narcotic of welfare." -- Rush Limbaugh

Government wealth transfers are destructive, not just to the productive people who have their money taken, but often to the people who receive the money as well. The aim of every government program we have to help the poor should not be to help them just get by; it should be to put them in a better position to help themselves. If you do nothing but teach people to stand around with their hands out, waiting for you to take care of them, you've created a beggar. If you teach people to take care of themselves, you've created a productive person who may actually be able to shoulder part of the burden in this country instead of being part of that burden themselves.


"In the early decades of the Republic, equality meant equality before God; liberty meant the liberty to shape one's own life....A very different meaning of equality has emerged in the United States in recent decades -- equality of outcome. Everyone should have the same level of living or of income, should finish the race at the same time. Equality of outcome is in clear conflict with liberty. The attempt to promote it has been a major source of bigger and bigger government, and of government-imposed restrictions on our liberty." -- Milton Friedman

Individuals, genders, and even whole ethnic groups do not always have the same interests, talents, backgrounds, or experiences and thus, they do not achieve the same outcomes. That doesn't mean the system is unfair; it means that despite the fact that some people like to try to pretend that every American is just another interchangeable cog in a great wheel, we are each different. That's why the government should get out of the quota business and allow everyone to rise or fall based on his own abilities and inclinations. If that means some people or groups are able to surpass others in certain areas, so be it; that's life.

"A succinct summary of the tragic vision was given by historians Will and Ariel Durant: Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for those are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history." -- Thomas Sowell

We're far too cavalier as a society about tinkering with our society's most important traditions and customs. We discuss making fundamental changes to marriage, to our cultural norms, and to the customs and laws that have helped preserve this country since its foundation with nary a thought to the lasting damage we may be doing to our society.

People should remember that the history of the world is not that of great countries rising to prominence and then staying there eternally. To the contrary, the landscape of history is littered with nations and empires that became great, lost the spark that made them exceptional in the first place, and then dissolved or came to ruin.

"We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much." -- Ronald Reagan

If anything, the federal government is already far too big, spends far too much money, and has far too many employees. Given the already staggering size and scope of our government and the enormous amount of taxpayer money it already spends each year, there is simply no reason that we should ever need to increase the percentage of taxes that the government takes in. American families teach their own children that they're going to have to live within their means, so why shouldn't we expect as much from the politicians we've sent to Washington to represent our interests?

"War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." -- General William T. Sherman

No matter how accurate our weapons become or how good our intentions are, there is never going to be such a thing as a "humane" war. Moreover, trying to create one only lengthens conflicts, convinces our enemies that they can get away with attacking us, and leads us into a moral quagmire as we get into endless debates about how nice we're being to our enemies as we try to kill them.

This whole concept has been taken to extremes in Iraq that would have been unimaginable to previous generations of Americans. If we don't wise up, we're going to end up in the same situation as Israel, which is unable to force a bunch of rock throwing, genocidal savages to sue for peace despite the fact that the Israelis could wipe them out to a man in a week’s time.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." -- James Madison

I seldom say "never" about anything, but the sort of fascist putsch that the Left fears in this country will never happen in our lifetimes, our children's lifetimes, or their children's lifetimes.

What may happen, however, is that the American people will be tricked into supporting people who will strip away their freedoms, one at a time, in the name of "helping us," until we realize that many of the freedoms we held so dear are gone because we mistakenly thought we wanted them to be taken away.


"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader." -- Samuel Adams

It is not the government that makes this country great; it's the people. As long as the American people are, on the whole -- decent, ambitious, fiercely independent, relatively well educated, patriotic, and godly -- this country will do fine. But, if we become a nation of selfish, hedonistic, unpatriotic, irreligious takers, we are doomed to go into a steep decline. That's why it's worth fighting a culture war, because if we ultimately lose that war for the character of the American people, nothing else that we do will matter.

"There are no solutions, only trade-offs." -- Thomas Sowell

The government is always promising to "fix" some problem or another, but as often as not, the only thing it ends up doing is creating a brand new set of larger problems that some other politician will have to try to "fix" a few years down the road.

In fact, many of the biggest problems we have as a nation are a direct result of actions undertaken by our own government in previous years. That's why it's a serious mistake to only consider the immediate issue that the government is promising to "solve" without thinking about what fixing today's problem may cost us tomorrow.


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