What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: InAweofGod’sCreation
A few months ago I happened to be listening to a radio program hosted by a popular political commentator who began to discuss the foundational elements of his conservatism. He listed off several key planks he believed in: less government, less taxes, less spending, more freedom, etc.
These positions are very common among conservatives. For example, they comprise the very slogan of FreedomWorks, a national conservative political action group: “Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom.” Senator Jim DeMint, a conservative icon and chair of the Senate Conservatives Fund, champions “less government and more freedom.” Ronald Reagan himself once said that “the basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom…”
This is not conservatism. To conserve is to preserve—to maintain something at its current level or condition. No, this is relativism.
What would “less government” and “more freedom” have looked like in the shadows of Hitler’s leviathan? Clearly, it would be night and day when compared to America before the progressive era of the early 20th century, for example. A fight for less taxes morphs as each new tax is imposed. If Congress imposed a 75% tax on imports and a 50% income tax, these conservatives would be content to chip away at those ever-increasing percentages. Thoreau said: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Such conservatives are seemingly content to pick at the leaves.
A political position that defines itself in relation to another position or set of circumstances necessarily will change as those other positions or circumstances change. Those who employ these definitions take no firm stances nor base themselves on any solid, principled foundation. Swept away in a strong rip tide of statism, they hope to make progress by taking baby steps in the other direction.
Utah Representative Ken Ivory has becomes known for questioning “where is the line?” Lines and boundaries exist and must be enforced. To instead want less or more of whatever currently exists is to constantly change. As the line between government and the people moves consistently to the so-called “left,” so does the relative opposition to it.
Conservatives would do well to abandon relativism and take a firm stand for what is right. (They might find themselves becoming libertarian in the process.) For if we have no consistent and stubborn defense against encroachments and usurpations of any degree, then we are like a man who believes he owns a parcel of land which his neighbor also claims is his. Unless the boundaries are defined and defended, the neighbor may continue to encroach further onto that disputed land. His advances cannot be checked, for until the land owner takes a firm position and says “this far and no further,” there is effectively no line the neighbor cannot cross.