Hope for change in the new Congress
By: Robert E. Meyer
For over two years, conservatives have been anticipating this moment, the first step to reinstall representatives in Congress which will hopefully put us back on the path toward limited government. While the characteristics that divide liberals from conservatives may be articulated on numerous fronts, the primary arguments are rooted in a fundamental disagreement over the proper role of the federal government or even government in general. Conservatives are actually “moderates” on a political spectrum that places tyranny on one end of the continuum, with anarchy at the opposite pole, with limited government as the middle ground.
Interestingly enough, political science taught from a liberal perspective uses a political or ideological spectrum that places communism on the left and fascism on the right. From there, it is a small rhetorical jump to falsely associate conservatism with fascism, while denying that progressivism is simply a watered down version of socialism. In reality there is little difference between the two polar extremes when measured by the standard of too much government control.
Conservative idealists point out that numerous activities of the government are illegitimate because there is no mandate for these functions under the U.S. Constitution. I long ago gave up on the idea that a bunch of self-interested politicians, even with a smattering of principled statesmen and constituents to hold their feet to the fire, will suddenly change policies, or defund programs that make a mockery of limited constitutional government. The best we can hope for is to stall growth of the government, and take baby steps back in the right direction.
One reason why this is so difficult is that once you get the public dependent on entitlements and wealth distribution schemes, it is almost impossible to wean them off the giveaways. It becomes nearly impossible to educate and motivate people to eschew programs which are perceived to be in their own self-interest. For every person too proud to accept government relief, 100 will elbow and shove each other to line up and receive it as a reckoned entitlement.
Liberals will insist that the correct role of the government is to assist people by means of wealth redistribution policies. They then try to place this under the “General Welfare” clause in the U.S. Constitution. Our Founders, Madison in particular, insisted that the correct understanding of this term was not that the federal government would be a charity of first resort, or the means of manufacturing equalized outcomes. Rather “General Welfare” is in contrast to specific welfare, whereby governmental policies were potentially designed to benefit all Americans, and the citizens of all states equally, rather than to benefit citizens of certain states or with special interests. It’s not a question of the federal government lacking compassion, but realizing that under the theory of federalism, the powers of the federal government were to be few and limited, whereas the powers of the states were to be many and more substantial. Notice also, that in the liberal view of things, private charity is seen as a virtually inconsequential force for legitimate wealth redistribution.
The above discussion probably provides a good rationale as to why voluntary contributions to charity are greatest from religious conservatives who believe it is their personal moral obligation to help others with their personal resources. Liberal secularists, who voluntarily give far less to private charities are for aiding others primarily via increases in taxes, particularly from those that they deem can better afford to pay.
Frequently we hear the references made linking conservative economic policies with the Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge. Those who make such comparisons can’t be very familiar with the actual story, at least as depicted in the famous 1951 cinematic version staring Alistair Sim. In the movie, the opening scene shows solicitors visiting Scrooge’s business office to raise money for the poor. Scrooge tells them he will not give to the cause, because people who are not well off must seek refuge from those institutions he helps to support with his taxes. So Scrooge, the supposedly greedy consummate capitalist, offers in substance, the same socialist solution that today’s progressives prefer. Nothing new under the sun.
In the 26 months since Barrack Obama has been elected president, many Americans have gone from a blind faith in the dogma of “hope and change,” to a position of agnosticism toward liberalism, whereby they are losing their religion. Remarkably, more than 40% of Americans still cling to an ideology that has failed miserably to bring about its promised utopia, but it’s easy to convince people that they have a right to plunder the geese laying the golden eggs.
I am hopeful that the freshman class going into this Congress, can be the first step of a catalyst that makes average Americans reconsider how they think about the role of government in their lives.