The prevailing view among young people seems to be that conservatives are basically an old-fashioned, self-serving gang of racists and rich Christians who are somehow simultaneously uneducated and overprivileged. I would like to offer an alternative view for anyone whose education has given them this impression, for those of you who would like to know what your educators have been concealing from you, because it is in their political interest to keep you ignorant.  This is a brief, succinct expression of the ethos of conservatism in America, summed up at the bottom in a mere two sentences.  

Conservatism is the preservation of the values which form the foundation of a culture.  America’s foundational principles are derived from a combination of classical (Greco-Roman) democracy, the distinct British liberal (Lockean) principles limiting the purpose of government and fundamentally viewing government itself as an obstacle to individual development. This unprecedented constitutional disdain for government was intended to remedy the tyranny of the majority, which inevitably caused the death of all previous attempts at democracy. The idea that certain actions by government are absolutely forbidden, even if a majority of the people vote for them, also reveals a quasi-religious faith in the eternal endurance of particular truths implicit in the convictions of America’s founders — truths, as it would turn out, of unmatched pragmatism. Part of the Western religious perspective is the belief that the individual human spirit holds unfathomable potential for good that far exceeds that of the mob-psyche of the collective, and that, therefore, individual freedom is so critical to the health of the entire culture that it cannot be restricted for any reason, no matter the excuse and no matter the rationale. It is for this reason that conservatives hold individual liberty as their highest value — higher than justice and higher than equity.  

Conservatives, like the early Americans, spurn authority, hate when other people think they know, better than we do, what is best for us. This is why we detest government regulation of our business endeavours, why we oppose all attempts to limit our access to weapons, why we say that taxes should be minimal and primarily dedicated to the military which protects our freedom, why we think that government has no business in marriage, why we despise language-policing and political correctness and why we are such relentless proponents of free speech. In addition, we are never surprised when those whose goal is the systematic destruction of our freedoms attempt to justify their public policies as matters of “justice,” of “equality” and of “compassion for the oppressed.” We know from history that justice, equality and compassion are always the excuses that tyrannical people use when attempting to justify the expansion of their control over others.  

We see the ultimate incarnation of tyrannical impulses in socialism, which completely crushes the human soul with its doctrine of equity. The level of equity which socialists claim to be their goal requires such extreme centralization of power and such complete invasion of private life that no matter who occupied the government, tyranny would be inevitable, as history has repeatedly demonstrated with abounding, and horrifying, examples. The economic goals of socialism, in fact, require a government so powerful that it would clearly be incompatible with the foundational values of America, and of Western civilization in general, or at least of the Anglosphere — the values of individual liberty, limited government and personal responsibility.  So here, in two sentences, is the simplest expression of American conservatism: 

  1. The human spirit is an immensely powerful, untamable force of nature, which holds vitally important potential for manifesting good in the world.  
  2. The less control the government exerts over an individual, the more the individual is able to reveal their amazing, and necessary, potential for the benefit of all.  

 

Brady Barley is a first-year student in WCU’s master’s program in general psychology.  BB909044@wcupa.edu 

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