When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise, we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth.

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, NR

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Color is the Conservative Flag?

We thought this to be an interesting post with some interesting comments, and thank those who have written for their participation. We are leaving it on top for a couple of more days, so please not only read and respond, but keep scrolling for new material!


Lately, we have been talking about certain tenets or beliefs dealing with government and civics that all factions and wings of conservatives can rally around. So what are those things? What are these pillars of conservatism that we all agree upon, regardless of where we are in the ideology spectrum?

I took this question to the esteemed members of this Blog. Each of us have our own Blogs, our own life-experiences that have influenced how we view conservatism; I can safely say we each have a particular view within the conservative tent that appeals to us more than others.

I chose four as the number. Four is an architectural commoner for me, as it implies symmetry, cohesion and basic support; pillars of foundation for lack of a better visual. I think we as believers of a conservative philosophies can express at least four items to imprint into a universal conservative platform. At the very least, its a good start.

I volunteer to step on the Elephant dung first. My choices, not in any way prioritized, are as follows:

* Smaller Government: Can there be a bigger Elephant (pardon the pun) in the room? If this is not the one banner to unite us, then we cannot be united. But what is small? Size of bureaucracy or size of budget? I will keep it simple just to get to my next one. I will pick budget. I recommend a Constitutional amendment that will limit federal spending to no more than 15% of GDP (excepting bona fide national emergencies). That's a full 5% more than God himself demands from his flock. I'm being generous.

* Non-foreign intervention: This is a sticky one, but I am not saying cutting the military unnecessarily. I am saying, eliminate wasteful weapons systems that will NEVER come to production, stop being the world cops for every little event that happens and calling for an end to being protectors of the European Union. We send the Marines abroad only when there is indisputable proof and blatant evidence that by not conducting pre-emptive action that it would cause grave and imminent harm to the United States. Liberating countries and spreading freedom through military means is a liberal bastion of thought. Where the hell it got into the conservative platform is beyond me.

* Free-but-equal trade: This is not a sexy choice, but I think there is no larger item that directly affects the economic model of a conservative country. We tear up every single NAFTA, CAFTA, CRAP-TA agreement we have and make new agreements with everybody. You subsidize your industry? so do we. You have cheap labor, sorry, our consumer goods have to rise a bit but we don't bleed our jobs overseas for the sake of 10% savings on our I-pods. I am simplifying of course, but you clearly see where my sails are blowing here. This goes somewhat cross-grain to my open market belief, but like all things, none can live in a vacuum.

* We celebrate conservation of the land: What? you say... are you talking environment? Isn't that a liberal stronghold? Yes it is! and I don't know why! Look, I am not for taking over large swaths of land by Fiat the way Teddy Roosevelt did, but the Genie is out of the bottle on that. Conservatives let liberals steal this prime item by using the land when convenient (oil, gas, lumber and coal industries) but looking the other way at clean water issues, air quality, and keeping our lips shut when the Exxon Valdez went "ooops" up in Alaska. Conservatives should conserve! Conservatism moves slowly and methodically towards change. That is natural to us. Who says we have to be business developers 100% of the time? Can we at least get a dialogue here?

OK, who is next?


Okay, I guess it's my turn. I'll stick with the theme and do my four most important conservative principles. Not in any particular order I will now type who is safe.......oh sorry, I've been watching too much Dancing With The Stars.....

* Small Government -
I agree 100% with T-P on this subject, although I will take it a step further and say both bureaucracy and budget. I want the government involved in social issues, health care, education, etc. as little as humanly possible. Let me decide what is right for me and my family, not some out of touch with reality politician. When we put politicians in charge we are basically saying that they are more honest and capable of making decisions and nothing could be further from the truth. Stop the irresponsible spending, especially on bailouts that they have no business interfering with, in the first place.

*Preserving the Constitution -
The Constitution of the United States is the cornerstone of our American government. Our forefathers developed the Constitution to set limitations on what government is allowed to do and establish our freedom. It has done so quite effectively for over 200 years and they would be appalled if they could see how liberalism is chipping away at it's fundamental principles.

*Individual Freedom
and Empowerment - There is power in knowing that it is up to us to determine how we live our lives. It is our duty and responsibility to protect and defend individual's freedom and rights granted to us by the Constitution. Individual Freedom has empowered people throughout the years and they have accomplished many great things because of it. We want to be free, to choose our own destiny, to make our own choices and to have the power over our own mind, body, lives, and soul.

*States Rights - We desperately need to give the power and responsibility back to the states, especially in regards to education. All states are different and need to be treated as such. One policy that might make a lot of sense in Alaska, might not work so well in New York. We need to remember that the government did not create the states, the states created the government. Too many have forgotten that important fact! One size fits all may be great for sweatshirts but in government it just doesn't work. The Tenth Amendment states.......

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Since I haven't yet been voted off the island here at CC, I will press on and add what four items on which I believe the conservative philosophy should rest. This is easier for me since T-P and Jenn have already served as guinea pigs.

* Respect for the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. Distinctly different from strict constructionism, originalism is the theory of interpretation that relies upon the framer's intent. The articles within the Constitution are both broadly written and narrowly defined. The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial does not specify the definition of speedy, but the Sixth Amendment does specifically guarantee the right to counsel for a trial.

It is important that the intent of the founders be respected if the document is to remain viable. Adding new rights and eliminating old ones are not within the purview of courts. The courts were constructed so that the Constitution would be applied to federal and state decisions, not to be the creator of phantom law.

* Respect for states rights. Jenn covered this one, but as usual we are of like mind. I need not discuss the concept here, as it is evident in the text of the Constitution that the federal government was to be limited to specific areas of concern, and the other areas left to the individual or to the states. A prime example of the intrusiveness of the government into state affairs is the condition of education in this country. The Constitution does not give the fed the responsibility of educating children, therefore the education standards should be written and enforced at the state level. It is how citizens can actually control the outcome of the affairs of the states, as local control is far more effective and responsive to citizen desires and concerns.

* Capitalism. In his first inaugural address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson said "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."

I am not sure anything else need be said.

* Strength and Integrity of the nation. Alexis de Tocqueville stated "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

America's integrity is in question. Not because of the war in Iraq, and not because we seek to eradicate those who would attack us. It begins at home, where about 1 in 5 people have a healthy disrespect for the very legislative body that rules with an iron fist so many aspects of our lives. Our government, as individuals, acts selfishly with only the thought of today. How can the decisions of our federal government around the world be respected when her own citizens do not have confidence in the very people for whom they vote?

Conservatives must define the role of the United States in the world, for the reality is that as America goes, so does the world. It can be seen in this current economic downturn which is affecting the entire world population. The economic situation didn't start in North Korea or Somalia or the United Kingdom. It began in America because of irresponsible lending practices by banks that were not regulated by government. It is our own domestic actions that cause doubt and lack of confidence in America.

There you have it, short and to the point. Will they let me stay here another week?


What am I trying to conserve? When I look at the world, even the history of the world, what we have in America is unprecedented and unique. Imagine going to a room at a convention center in any city in America and sitting with 2 or 3 dozen other people and its up to you to form a new nation. You have just come through a period of abuse and oppression at the hands of a monarch. Older relatives have told you stories of how they fled their homeland because of religious persecution. Some of the people in the room with you own other human beings and treat them as chattel. What are your priorities, what do you insist upon, what points do yield and what informs your decisions?

Imagine being able to access the words and thoughts of people throughout history through youtube videos. You could watch History Channel depictions of past civilizations and determine what worked and what didn't work. If you had the works of great philosophers and thinkers who had studied these questions long before you, what would you find? What would be your priority? The absolute essence of who we are as Americans, what draws the rest of the world's citizens to our shores, legally, illegally, by stowing away on a ship, by milk cartons and inner tubes tied together with shoe laces launched into shark infested waters, by H1 visas and through asylum, by charter or military transport, by hook or crook is freedom from the tyranny of government. Whether it is the stifling tyranny of Eurosocialist regulatory and entitlement schemes or the dictatorship of a Zimbabwean thug, their people want to come here. Whether it is the oppression and corruption of the ejido system or laws in Mexico that don't permit dark skinned Indians to migrate to the cities or a People's Republic that can't feed its people in Asia, they want to come here. But why?

It is rumored that Thomas Jefferson was unhappy with a couple of the revisions to his original writing of the Declaration of Independence. Principle among the changes he objected to was changing the wording of that famous phrase "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hapiness." It is rumored that he originally wrote what he took from John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Life, liberty and the pursuit of property. Jefferson understood and believed what Locke wrote. He knew that the key to freedom is the ability to own and dispose of property as you see fit (property and contract rights). Jefferson hung around long enough to eventually become president, of course, but also to participate in the Constitutional convention. In the 5th and 14th Amendments, you will find in the due process clauses of those amendments the phrase, life, liberty or property.

Property rights secure our freedoms (religion, speech, right to bear arms, assembly, etc,) and protects us from the tyranny of government. As it turns out, it is also the key to our prosperity and anywhere you find prosperity in the world, you will find either tyranny or property rights and since there can be only so many tyrants, to me the essence of classical liberalism, conservatism, what I want to conserve, is free exchange secured by property rights. The strongest critique of John Locke was by Karl Marx who in his Communist Manifesto said "the theory of communists may be summed up in a single sentence: Abolition of private property." How does one "spread the wealth?" Through the abolition of private property.


Clay said...

I agree with tearing up the current trade agreements. I am not against free trade, but the current agreements seem to have backed us into a corner.

Greywolfe said...

(cracking knuckles) I'll take a poke at this one. True Conservatism as I see it holds many of the same tenents that truth and Jennifer have illustrated. But I would have to go with a bit more. For the sake of brevity I'll use four points also.

1. A return to the original plan. I support an Amendment to the Constitution that clearly enunciates the first and second Amendments. This could be done by reading period articles and letters that were written by the framers of the constitution. It's a bold move, but if we truly want to restore this country then we need to take it back. The two biggest weaknesses we have is that they have controlled freedom of speech, religion, and our ability to defend ourselves from individuals and our benevolent government (allow me a second to wipe up the sarcasm).

2. The federal government has granted itself extraordinary powers by misinterpreting the commerce clause of the Constitution time and time again. To stop this we need to get the Federal courts under control. We must push for strict adherants to original intent as a litmus test for any federal judge. Only then can our lawmakers/moneychangers be kept in line. Did I just call them crooks? Yep, guess I did.

3. Education, Social Services, and the IRS are all Departments that should be abolished at the federal level. With respects to the previous posts, the problem is the amount of power that is held in Washington. If you abolish the first two and put them into the states hands it is a good start, but only when the tax code can no longer be used as a club will you be able to hamstring the Federal government. I suggest the Fair Tax. It makes more sense and is more "fair" than anything else.

4. Further on Education. First and foremost it is the Parent's responsibility to teach their kids. To that end, we must first teach parents what their true value is. Teach them how to be exceptional and strive to make themselves and their own families more self-sustaining. Then they can teach their children and we can finally start nailing the coffin lid shut on liberal poisons in our schools.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Wow narrowing it down to four is not impossible but requires some thought!

1. Adherance to Constitutional principles following those principles in thier actual intent and not using liberal interpretation as a means of watering down or rewriting the Constitution. Taking to heart especially the Tenth Amendment which states that, "The powers not delegated to The United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States repsectively, or the people."

2. The second goes hand in hand with my number 1. Limited government which does not interfere in the lives of the people. The intention of government is to provide certain protections from harm such as the defense of the Nation, and an atmoshphere of well being which allows each citizen to prosper and achieve according to his or her abilities in aspiring through our freedom and liberties to grow and make our lives successful through individual responsibility for our own lives and those of our family.

3. Keeping the Nation safe through a strong defense. One thing that we have to remember is that as the worlds only super power we have an obligation to defend this Nation but also to protect those who look to us for guidance. We are not the worlds police force but we cannot be an isolationists Nation either. We must determine carefully where we are needed but keep open the ability to move when needed also!

4. Allowing through less government intervention the free market and free trade to shape and prosper both the markets and the economy. Yes there must be certain government over sight but this idea that every badly run company must be bailed out or restructured by the government is dangerous and inexcusable in a free society. When there is a problem allow the market to find market solutions and get government out of the way so that the economy can grow and prosper.

Our current problems came not from the free market but from government intervention that forced the market to make stupid economic investments especially in housing. Had government NOT forced the irresponsible lending the collapse would have never happened because the economy would have grown in a clear and correct manner instead of an over inflated manner which created the bubble that crashed in September.

I could go on, but your limit was four, so they are what I would make as my priorities.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer is right on target, IMO.

Let us recall that the Constitution LIMITS government, but only when WE force elected officials to adhere to the constitution by taking the government to court when they don’t. This is why conservative non-profit organizations and lobbyists are important; who among us can afford to sue the government every ten minutes? Since the Constitution limits the role of the federal government, and places responsibility for “human services” squarely within the realm of states’ rights, that should be a guiding principle for conservatives.

When states spend more than revenues allow (such as in CA), the answer is NOT to ask for federal assistance, but rather to curtail spending. Just because the people of a state may “want,” universal health care doesn’t mean that they can afford it. If health care is a #1 priority, then obviously citizens will have to decide what to give up in order to have health care. We may refer to this as “responsible financial management.”

We are not a sovereign nation if we cannot control our borders or protect our people from attack by foreign sources. This is an important role for the federal government, and as it pertains to the security of our borders, it has failed miserably. I would rather see Border States getting federal money so that they could patrol their own borders with state law enforcement officers, than continue to suffer from the malfeasance of federal agencies. We need an adequate national defense structure, but we must also resolve this problem with illegal immigration. As far as foreign intervention is concerned, such involvement must follow the “clear and present danger” rule. There is NO reason for the US to send troops to Bosnia, or Georgia, or anywhere in Africa if there is no threat to the American people from any of these locations.


Patrick M said...

So that I don't suck up excessive space (slurp, slurp), I'll keep my list short:

1. Individual liberty - with more people becoming appendages of collective groups, individuality is the key to a return to the rest of my points.

2. Smaller government - To pick up on a point where TP left off, smaller size, smaller budgets, smaller everything. And the size should be constrained by...

3. Original Constitutional intent - The purpose of the Constitution is to limit the government to certain functions, empower the states with other responsibilities (and be more integral in our lives then the feds), and secure individual rights and liberties. We've forgotten it.

4. The Free Market Economy - We have never really had pure capitalism in this country. The government has always functioned as a form of regulator, under the idea of "promot[ing] the general welfare". While, due to the fact that we have to be able to balance our economy with government controlled and government commanded economies, the government has some role in protecting the individual from some excesses by companies that have tapped the political system to gain advantage, the idea that the federal government's job is to manage the economy is what has placed us in our current dilemma. Hand in hand is the need to open trade in the global economy, and avoid any stupid-assed isolationist scheme in the process. The way we bring the world to our way of thinking is to trade with them, import their products, and export our freedom.

Okay, a little more long winded than I planned, but it's the intrusion of government in our economy that is crippling us now.

Obob said...

I stopped to say howdy, not give a dissertation. I'll be more intellectual in time.

Robert said...

Obob, you can't help but be intellectual, and it is might good to see you here. We haven't swapped football barbs this year---My Auburn Tigers were a no-show, so I haven't had much to crow about.

Ohio State/Texas will be a good game, although I think State is a bit overmatched...Sorry, I have to call it like I see it...

Come back often and I will try to be nice to your Buckeyes...

Patrick M said...

Robert: I wouldn't mess with the Bucks if I were you. I might get my Ohio blood a'stirrin' up. That would not be pretty

Joe said...

My four:

1. Preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of America...which the new president will swear to (chuckle, chuckle).

2. Cut federal spending by eliminating unrelated amendments to bills.

3. Do away with DOE, IRS and other overstuffed agencies.

4. Get government hands off of and out of business...almost none of our law makers knows anything about it.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

Hmmm, we seem to at least be arriving at one or two pillars,... what say you Robert?...

Robert said...

I agree that there are a couple of common areas, and a couple of areas that could probably slide into the other ones.

Have a thought that we may want to leave this one on top for a few more days...Will submit it to the oversight committee.

Anonymous said...

That was a bit dramatic, don't you think?
Americans are patriotic yes, but the degree of enthusiasm for this goes a bit over board. IMHO

Gayle said...

IMHO this doesn't go overboard at all. How can enthusiasm regarding patriotism go overboard? If anything, we need more of it! I think it's a great idea and a wonderful post. I don't have anything to add to it though because I arrived here so late everyone else has already covered just about anything I would be able to think of, and surely has written it more eloquently as well.

Bravo to all of you!

Anonymous said...

Actually Phantom, I couldn't disagree with you more! How can someone have too much love for their country, and I am not talking about blind love.

What this country needs is people who are passionate and will take up a cause no matter what that may be (hopefully it is conservative, but nonetheless). What exactly do you find dramatic? That we are trying to change the way America perceives conservatism? Or maybe that we have a purpose more important than ourselves? That we can come together and focus on our similarities and not on our differences?

Gayle, thank you for your kind words but don't sell yourself short! One of the things that I most respect about you is what you showed in the post above.....an enthusiasm (good choice of words by the way) that so many lack in regards to conservatism and our country in general.

Too little enthusiasm is definitely possible......and it is a shame that anyone needs to defend their love for their country.

Greywolfe said...

Going overboard for my conservative principles is a fault I'll gladly be found guilty of. I think I'm becoming infamous for this quote "Being extreme in defense of a righteous cause isn't extreme. Its our duty."

Anonymous said...

Well said....Greywolfe!