There happens in life those rare moments when you find yourself on center stage; A monumental question has been posed and everyone else in the room is listening, ready to capture that wedge of sage counsel from your personal wisdom. If you are a senior, and the audience is your grandchildren, the introspection that you share could well affect their formative youth.
If you are the President of the United States, and the audience is a group of earnest students at Moscow University of International Relations, the opportunity is presented for delivering a marble-worthy quote that could favorably advance the course of human history. I well remember this moment in 1998; the most epic swing and a miss since mighty Casey struck out in Mudville.
President Bill Clinton was on a tour of Russia, just seven years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russian President Boris Yeltsin was clumsily attempting to restructure his country’s political and economic bearings under the perestroika banner. The future leaders of this grand nation had invited the leader of Western culture to give them a handle to grasp the mysterious tool of free enterprise. President Clinton told them:
“First, in tough times governments need stable revenues to pay their bills, support salaries, pensions, and health care. That requires decisive action to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. Otherwise, a few pay too much, many pay too little, the government is in the hole and can never get out, and you will never be able to have a stable economic policy. It is tempting for everyone to avoid wanting to pay any taxes. But if everyone will pay their fair share, the share will be modest and their incomes will be larger over the long run because of the stability and growth it will bring to this Russian economic system.”
To this day, citizens from all over Russia can visit the countless statues and monuments where President Clinton’s quote is not on display.
I recently found myself standing before a large, foreign audience of sorts. A journalist from L'Humanité, a newspaper controlled by the French Communist Party, requested an interview from me on what it means to be an American conservative. He was touring the United States during our presidential election season, gathering intelligence on our big campaign season to share with his audience back home.
While I regret not sharing a more direct interaction, I found it fortunate that reporter Christophe Deroubaix and I missed our attempt to meet in person because it gave me the opportunity to more fully answer his questions in my own words. While I am merely the county-level Republican Party Chairman of a conservative community, the last thing I wanted was to repeat the Bill Clinton bathos from 1998.
Christophe Deroubaix: “What does mean for you to be a conservative?”
An American conservative is one who rests on the proven truths and tested wisdom that are captured in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Ideologically, we attempt to conserve these founding principles in our communal interactions. I can sum this up as:
1. Recognition that there is an omnipotent creator of the Universe who is to be revered as the actual source of natural laws and of inalienable rights for every human on earth. All competing notions give too much power to one group of people over the others.
2. Rugged individualism; An encouragement for every adult to depend on their own efforts to provide for their family and themselves. Conservatives understand that citizens who are self-reliant are the most free and the most happy.
3. Limited and distributed government; The Declaration of Independence makes clear the primary purpose of government. Immediately after listing some inalienable rights is the statement "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." Conservatives object to those who seek additional roles for government, especially when they interfere with the natural laws of commerce. The writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in 1799, “I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, and for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of its being a public blessing.”
4. A strong defense; Conservatives believe that defending the people of the United States from foreign attack is the primary purpose of government. Coupled with this granted power of ultimate force is a strong measure of accountability to the people being defended. Therefore, the military is to be run by a civilian (Seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
5. Majority rule with minority rights through representative government. Conservatives believe that the majority opinion should prevail except in those cases when the rights of those in the minority are being infringed. America is a republic; not a democracy. Conservatives also find it self-serving and underhanded when the courts are used to force social change on the majority, such as the redefinition of marriage.
6. Individual charity, balanced with a last-resort government safety net. Conservatives believe that the government should only take money from some to give to others in one of three circumstances; inherent disability, the temporary condition of poverty, and unforeseen natural disasters where insurance would not reasonably be in place. In all other cases of charity, Conservatives believe that government should tax as little as necessary in order to allow prosperous people to give voluntarily to those whom they see in need. For example, taking care of an autistic adult would be an appropriate use of government funding, where keeping an able-bodied adult on welfare for a long period of time creates an unhealthy dependence.
Christophe Deroubaix: “What's your stand on the following issues?”
. Taxes: Hayek is clearly superior to Keynes. The purpose of taxation should be to fund government. It should not be used to redistribute wealth. Because taxation removes the fuel of money from a natural economy, it should be kept at a rate that the economy will easily tolerate, say 17% total. A healthy economy that is not slowed by heavy taxation will generate an optimum amount of funding for government operations.
. Obamacare: Health care is not an exception to the rules of natural law. We receive the finest care when the laws of supply and demand are allowed to function in the private industry of doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and insurance. Problems occur when uninsured people need care beyond their means to pay. Obamacare attempts to resolve this through forced involvement in the government program. A better solution would be to ensure by law that every individual (or their parents) is responsible to fund his own health care.
. Abortion: As we are endowed by our Creator with the right to life, no one who is less than God is in a position to determine when that right begins. No conservative wishes to coerce a woman to give birth against her will. But we have yet to figure out how to ensure the life of the unborn person without asking the pregnant person to give birth. As it is the government’s role to ensure the peoples’ rights (not to grant them), the abortion of unborn humans should be discontinued as a relic of uncivilized expedience.
. Guns: Conservatives revere their right to protect themselves, their family, and their property with ultimate force for two reasons, for which I give you these quotes; "To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow.” - Jeff Snyder, New York gun rights advocate. "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.
. Gay marriage: Marriage is a religious institution created by God long before governments existed. When clergy pronounces two people to be married, that union is accepted and supported by the voluntary members of that church. When the state redefines marriage, its citizens are forced to accept those unions in spite of their religious convictions. While most conservatives believe that traditional marriage should be maintained by law, I personally do not believe that it is the proper role of government to license this religious institution.
. Death penalty: Some bastards deserve to be put to death.
. Climate change: First of all, conservatives appreciate a healthy environment and enjoy air, water and land that is not polluted by selfish practices. Sensible laws against pollution are appropriate. But the phenomenon of climate change should be a scientific study not befouled by political ideology. Evidently, the earth has experienced many periods of varying climates. If human activity is causing an undesirable change in the climate, let’s seek to understand it. But we should frustrate all efforts by the control freaks of government to diminish industry. The altruistic calls for environmental protections are merely a well-branded campaign by statists to justify their pious attack on free enterprise.
. Religion: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the primary of our Bill of Rights, and begins with the wording, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor the free exercise thereof…” In the American structure, with an overt recognition of a Creator God, a culture of religious pluralism can well exist. While non-believing citizens may be exposed to official government recognition of the existence of God, no citizen need be compelled by government agencies to adopt any particular belief about the Creator. It is imperative, however, that those who fulfill the Constitution in elected office religiously maintain an unyielding regard for the Founding Father’s god. The notion in the Declaration of Independence that humanity’s Creator would have also endowed all of them equally with unalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is well within the character of the Biblical God. For mere consistency of logic, the Creator who is recognized by the authors of the Declaration of Independence either is the Biblical God or another supernatural being who is similar to the Biblical God. The Founder’s Creator cannot, by reason, be Neptune, Allah, The Hindu Rain God, Mother Earth nor non-existent. Yet how does the American apologist reconcile the First Amendment to the Constitution with an official government recognition of a narrow definition of God? To define a god who is simply what we want him to be is to avoid discovering the truth about him. Worse, a god who is limited by human capacity to conceive him is a weakened god, unworthy of instituting principles, and certainly not sufficient for basing the establishment of an entire nation. The Biblical God said of himself, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). America’s founders responded with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”