The eight principles of conservatism
George Orwell once said, “If there are certain pages of Mr. Bertrand Russell’s book, Power, which seem rather empty, that is merely to say that we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Orwell was right about the importance of restating the obvious, even if he expressed himself in an unnecessarily condescending way.
As the campaign silly season kicks off with daily tracking polls, VP rumors, discussion of the Romney family dog’s bowel movements and speculation about which BBQ sauce Obama prefers on his Western-style dog burger, it’s a good time for conservatives to take a step back and reflect on why they fight the fight. Because when the obvious is not restated, it stops being obvious.
Nature possesses fundamental laws such as Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion or Bernoulli’s principle. The conservative worldview of American civil society is based on the absolutes of human nature, which possesses its own fundamental laws. Attempting to work around these laws is dangerous, which is why liberal social experiments in reality-bending make such a glorious mess of things (a phenomenon with its own law: the law of unintended consequences). From these fundamental laws, conservatives derive their notion of common sense. This wisdom can be boiled down to eight fundamental concepts:
1.) All people are endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We fought a war to regain these rights from our old government, and we created the Constitution to keep our new government from ever taking them away again.
2.) Limited government is a necessary evil required to maintain a civil society. Excessive government is an unnecessary evil that undermines the liberty intrinsic to human dignity.
3.) Equal justice under equal laws must exist for a society to remain unified. Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason. The law does not exist to serve only the aggrieved and making it do so divides the people under it.
4.) Solutions are best when they are established voluntarily and locally. The federal government is the antithesis of that, as it is coercive and distant.
5.) Life is a series of tradeoffs. Doing one thing will come at the expense of doing something else.
6.) An individual is more likely than bureaucrats to know what is in his own self-interest.
7.) Policies are as useful as the incentives they create, not the good intentions with which they were created.
8.) As observed by Milton Friedman, there are four ways of spending money. From most efficient to least efficient:
a. Spend your own money on yourself.
b. Spend your own money on someone else.
c. Spend someone else’s money on yourself.
d. Spend someone else’s money on someone else (which happens to be how government spends money).
From John Locke and Thomas Jefferson to Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell, great minds have penned thousands of pages expounding on the above, building complex policy positions and framing national debates. From copyright law to school vouchers, from Medicare reform to immigration policy, conservative positions derive from one or more aspects of these eight starting points of liberty in a free society. We owe it to society and its future generations to restate the obvious: 2+2=4. Because when someone says 2+2=5, that extra 1 often becomes another fiscally insolvent government program.