I don’t have much faith in my fellow man. In fact, my own conservatism has much to do with the fact that I reject the entire notion of human improvement altogether. Grandiose liberal efforts do not work, not because they are simply led by the wrong kind of men, but because they are led by men, period.
“Progressivism” is a great idea. But most progressives can’t balance their checkbooks much less create nirvana. “Feminism” sounds swell. Too bad females are most cruel to other women. “Multiculturalism” is well-intentioned. Yet it seems every time different cultures cohabit it creates more friction than friendship.
I’m a mess too. It amuses me sometimes that even though it is my job to give critical opinions about others, I’m awful with money, eat poorly, drink too much, and don’t spend enough time with friends and family. But then again, most of those same friends and family are guilty of the same flaws and faults. As I said to a liberal acquaintance once, who quickly became angry with me when discussing politics, “Let’s try to be friends first, and if we can get that part right, then maybe we can save the world.”
I think my words just made him angrier; he never became my friend. As far as I know, he is still out there trying to save the world, and he’s probably still angry that it hasn’t worked out yet.
Conservatism is just another failed “ism” to many, and the Right is often just as guilty of promoting utopianism as the Left. While I typically describe myself as a “conservative with heavy libertarian sympathies,” some libertarian purists who have a rigid faith in the free market ignore that the concentration of private capital can be just as damaging as the concentration of government. Even more utopian are the neoconservatives, a collection of trigger-happy John Lennons, who continue to “imagine” a Middle East that will happily embrace American values at the point of a gun. That this scenario has yet to play out in Iraq and now Afghanistan hasn’t seemed to deter the right-wing utopians who continue to champion it.
I have been uncomfortable with the label “conservative” for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned and also because so many big government Republican hacks have so damaged the term. After all, George W. Bush called himself a conservative. Yet no other popular label better describes my philosophy. I believe in limited government primarily because I don’t want other flawed men — those who will inevitably create so many flawed systems, programs, and bureaucratic schemes — to have that much power over me. I’m screwed up enough as it is.
Liberals seem to believe that man is inherently good and the larger the collective effort the quicker humans can “evolve,” trending ever closer toward earthly perfection. I believe that individuals can be, and many are, good people, despite man’s overall flawed nature which does not evolve and can never be perfected on this earth. Some might find this pessimistic view of humanity depressing, but it’s actually quite liberating. Those who keep wondering when we will eradicate “racism,” “sexism,” and religious strife, often drive themselves bonkers with their futile efforts, even cursing their neighbors for not being more “enlightened.” But the only way to truly do away with such problems is to eradicate man altogether, since ethnic attachments, differences between the sexes, and a yearning for God are significant, constant aspects of the human experience.
That we often become jealous or nasty about such differences is also unfortunately part of our makeup. Conservatism recognizes man’s flaws and seeks to do the best with the reality at hand. Liberalism tries in vain to create its own reality or ideal, never taking into account the flawed nature of the material it seeks to work with.
Our Constitution is an inherently conservative document because its entire purpose is to separate, delegate, and minimize government power. Even President Obama recognizes that the U.S. Constitution is a “charter of negative liberties.” It is no accident that the ridiculously large government we suffer under today has had to circumvent our nation’s founding document at every turn to become so powerful, and seeking a return to “constitutional government” is much more than some cheap conservative catchphrase. Though it might seem contradictory, being a conservative in America necessarily means being a radical. Because any serious attempt to actually stuff our modern federal government back into its constitutional box — a colossal, unprecedented reversal of more than a century and a half of government expansion — would be nothing short of a revolution.
Will this ever happen? Perhaps not and perhaps I’m being utopian in thinking a return to constitutional government is even possible. Yet, as liberals continue to argue that the solution to all our problems is to place even more power in the hands of fewer men, I will continue to argue for fewer laws, restrained power, and smaller government so that when men do their inevitable worst, we can at least minimize the damage.