By James Silberman Millennials have no idea what conservatism is. That’s not an accusation, merely an observation. Political correctness has made it so that most of the public square has been scrubbed clean of conservative ideas.
What our generation does know about conservatism, it generally doesn’t like. Conservatives are typically seen as intolerant and regressive, and this has manifested itself publicly all across the nation. Take for example this oft-used chant of Occupy protesters, "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay. Tea Party Go Away."
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. If people have never heard the arguments for conservatism, they haven’t been forced to defend or think critically about their own views that they have come to see as progressive and objectively good. Thus, it stands to reason that millennials see conservative ideas as triggering and offensive. While at Tacoma Community College, I once detailed conservative, free market solutions in a presentation. A girl started crying. That’s a true story.
Now that I have illuminated the problem, here are the basics of conservative thought, brought to you by some of the greatest minds in the history of our nation.
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer,” Ben Franklin said in 1766.
This is the basis of conservative economics. The premise is that a nation’s economic success is defined not by how many of its people receive government handouts, but by how many are able to live their lives independent of them.
Which brings us to our next point…
Conservative Opposition to Socialism and Big Government
“Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have,” said Barry Goldwater in 1964.
When one relies on the government to provide for them, they are at the whim of said government. Politicians are free to dictate that someone else needs that aid more, or more likely, they decide to give themselves a pay raise, and the needy citizen is left out to dry. This is the basis of the conservative view of limited government.
"If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking is freedom,” said Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.
Free healthcare, free education, expanded food stamp programs and income redistribution all sound great when politicians get up on stage and promise to give them to you. However, what they don’t tell you is what you lose in the process: your freedom. For the government to give these things to you, taxes have to be so high that you are unable to provide for yourself. You become dependent on the government for your very existence, giving up your independence for comfort and a false sense of security. This is the basis for conservative opposition to socialism in any form.
Conservative Foreign Policy
"[He] had seen firsthand the horrific results of appeasement. It was a path chosen by feebleminded people who were morally incapable of confronting evil,” Vince Flynn said in his 2012 book Kill Shot.
Something I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around is the way that pacifism is seen as the moral high-ground nowadays. Let me be perfectly clear: There is nothing compassionate about sitting idly and allowing ISIS to roam the Middle East and North Africa sawing off the heads of journalists and burning apostates in cages when our military has the capacity to do something about it. War is hell, no one denies that. But sometimes, it is necessary in order to confront great evil and protect those who cannot protect themselves. If America had given in to the allures of pacifism during the mid-twentieth century, Hitler likely wins World War II and we’d all be speaking German right now.
The left can say whatever they want about the cost of war, but we must also take into consideration the cost of doing nothing. Weighing these considerations, and being willing to confront perpetrators of evil if necessary is the basis of conservative foreign policy.
The Foundation of the Conservative Worldview
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.
This is the big one. This is the bedrock on which every other conservative idea rests. Free enterprise, freedom of speech, of association and of religion, the right to bear arms and the rest of the Bill of Rights all stem from this revolutionary idea that our freedoms don’t come from government. They are endowed to us by our creator, thus, no earthly authority can rightfully take them away. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.
In conclusion, the conservative seeks freedom for all. Where the liberal strives to create equality of outcome, the conservative seeks equality of opportunity. It is important to note that the Declaration of Independence does not guarantee happiness, but the pursuit of happiness. The role of government is not to give us things but to remove barriers to our ascent in life and allow us to become self-sufficient adults and contributing Americans.