In the history of the conservative movement, our philosophy has been better defined by our opposition.
During the Cold War, Soviet tyranny made the best case for limited government both abroad and at home. And Ronald Reagan seized on their bad example. During the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s infidelities made the best case for social conservatism. And George W. Bush, the candidate, seized on the principle of personal responsibility.
And now, the Obama administration’s overt overreach of government is once again showing why the end of the liberal ideology leads to a place of tyranny. Obama’s Justice Department has spied on the Associated Press. Obama’s Internal Revenue Services has targeted those in the political opposition. And Obama’s foreign policy decisions have abandoned our military heroes after putting them in harm’s way.
In an article on Slate.com, John Wilkerson stated that “Obama is making a the case for conservatism better than Mitt Romney ever did.” A few great points from that article:
Showing is always better than telling, and when the government overreaches in so many ways it gives support to the conservative argument about the inherently rapacious nature of government…
…Conservatives argue that the more government you have, the more opportunities you will have for it to grow out of control…
…Another conservative correspondent points to economist James Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize in 1986 for his work studying economic incentives in government. His argument was that politicians are not benevolent agents of the common good but humans acting in their own self-interest or for a special interest. “If there is value to be gained through politics,” Buchanan wrote, “persons will invest resources in efforts to capture this value.” Since Democrats and Republicans alike are sinful, each side will find ways to work that is self-interested, rapacious, and boundary breaking. Keep the government small to limit the damage.
Indeed. We conservatives are always trying to make the case of why government should be limited. We have many examples before us – from both Republicans and Democrats. The Obama Administration clearly has a very pro-statist ideology and is doing all it can to advance its philosophy with “benevolent” government programs in the arenas of health care and being our “caretaker” in the area of gun control and doing things “in the name of our security” by spying on the ‘free’ press to ensure they aren’t leaking important information.
Those who share their ideology believe the opposite of James Buchanan – they think that if we just get the right people in power, those government officials will act for the “common good” of us with their newfound power. Hope and change will come.
Just last week, President Obama made his pro-big government argument to graduating class at The Ohio State University. In a statement, he said, “Unfortunately you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all of our problems. Some of these same voices do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
In less than a week, Obama himself is proving his argument is a losing one. As in the past, those most opposed to conservative principles often make the best case for why we should, in the end, embrace those principles. We, as conservatives, need to continue to use this moment – and others like it – to demonstrate the reason we believe in limited government.
And hopefully this gives those in leadership roles the backbone to seize the moment – of another bad example of liberalism – and stand up and make the argument in favor of conservative principles. Governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal made a good start to that this week in a public letter to President Barack Obama, where they state that the IRS targeting conservative groups is “Big Brother come to life.”
Let us rally and stand up for what is just and right and for those policies that lead to freedom and prosperity for all. If our opposition helps make our case, let’s point out where they are wrong and what the right path forward is.