Thursday, January 24, 2008

Words...and their meanings

As with "Liberal", the word "Conservative" has changed meanings over the years. When I think of a "Conservative", I think of someone who, while he may not like it, does not believe that abortion should be banned by the government. Today, however, many people who consider themselves "Conservative" would have no problem employing the full weight and power of the federal government to criminalize the procedure except in certain very limited circumstances. Also, some "Conservative" people I know are all for corporate and farm subsidies - because American farms and businesses must be protected. Finally, many people who call themselves "Conservative" believe that the U.S. has a sacred duty to protect, defend and even spread Western democratic ideals - if for no other reason than to protect our foreign markets. Still others would, while giving lip-service to our “immigrant heritage” gladly prohibit ANY new immigration through our southern border. I have never seen these things as "Conservative". Rather, I believe they are a corruption of the ideals with and upon which this republic was founded. To be "Conservative" is…to conserve; it is to save, preserve, to value highly and continually use that which worked previously while being open to positive change - progress - as it comes. Many, who today call themselves "Conservative", are either reactionary, looking to hold on to what they’ve got today - or worse: simply the mirror image of the socialists they so fear.

If our safety is at risk as the result of our dependence on foreign oil, then we must save and protect ourselves - by renouncing Arab oil, drilling at home and bringing along new technologies as fast as practicable. If our health is threatened by pollution, then we ought to “conserve” clean water, air and land. A balance can be struck. If taxes are necessary (at the state level) to conserve the environment, then so be it. For every one who leaves a state for taxes, another will come for the environment. A “Conservative” is not going to look the other way while a business wantonly pollutes or permits a dangerous workplace. No, rather he is going to use other prods besides the sledgehammer of “governmental regulation” to bring businesses into line. A “Conservative” doesn’t want to abolish workers’ unions, only prevent them from perpetrating the same abuses they were called into being to prevent.

Those who call for the abolition of the Social Security System and the Department of Welfare without explaining what is to take their places, are not “Conservative”, they are Social Darwinists – and idiots. A true “Conservative” believes in neighborhoods, communities and community-based solutions for the problems our society faces. A true “Conservative” understands that Laissez-Faire capitalism doesn’t work any better than Marxism. He looks to conserve what was good and right about the Liberties and responsibilities which our grand- and great-grand-parents enjoyed, while filling in the economic holes through which many fell in the days before we understood that we – as a nation - are our brother’s keeper.

The New Deal and The Great Society were well intentioned, but they pompously replaced “community” with “government” and vacuously promised to end poverty and inequality. Their legacy of dependence and irresponsibility has been one giant unintended consequence. But, with that said, a “Conservative” understands that the government has its place – and ought, sometimes…temporarily, to expand that place as necessary…while always remembering that it is the market that creates wealth, the government creates nothing.


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