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The Whys and Lies of Conservatism

If you have problems at times explaining to your family, friends or coworkers exactly what conservatism is please read this column by Sean Holliday.

He analyzes the stereotypes then proceeds to shatter those images.

I, like the majority of conservatives, don't fit the stereotype. I am neither rich nor stupid; bigoted nor ruthless. I am, however, conservative. These are the reasons why.
The heart of conservatism is religious. It is the belief that a wise and all-knowing Creator put man on earth in order to make him an agent unto himself. Like any good parent, God entrusts us with our own destiny. He allows---and expects---us to make our own decisions and to bear the responsibility for the decisions we make. This agency is integral to our development. The purest form of conservatism recognizes the importance of and respects that agency and the responsibility associated with it.

Liberalism on the other hand seizes an individual's agency---and the responsibility respective to it---and transfers it to the state, effectively nullifying a person's ownership of their own life and destiny. Under liberalism, the state is responsible for an individual's or family's well-being. Federal programs are ultimately responsible for feeding people. Schools are responsible for educating children. Courts are responsible for deciding what is taught. Individuals and parents have no responsibility.
He does well in explaining further philosophy of Principles vs. Problems.
Conservatism recognizes and governs by principles. Liberalism recognizes problems and reacts, trying to correct the perceived problems---often without a thorough analysis of the principles involved or the effects of short-term solutions on the long-term future.

Such reactionary government is often an emotional response to perceived suffering or injustice. Sympathy for constituents is a virtue that has a place in any good government. (It is certainly better than indifference.) But emotion cannot be the filter through which government operates.
He then makes the argument of Autonomy and Empowerment in this way.
In the last quarter-century, the business world has seen a migration to the principle of empowerment; allowing employees to act with greater authority in matters relating to their individual jobs. The principle is based largely on two ideas: number one, the efficiency of speeding up the decision making process; and number two, the acknowledgement that the employee knows his or her individual job better than anyone else.

Conservatism has long recognized this principle. In conservatism, decisions are made whenever possible at the individual level, or as close to it as is practical. Local governments---cities and states---play a larger role in the government of their respective constituencies. The federal government plays a lesser role, acknowledging that the local governments know better the situations and concerns of their constituents and can act more efficiently address those concerns.

This decentralized approach to government requires the optimistic belief that people can and will for the most part make right decisions. Liberalism centralizes the decision-making power, suggesting a pessimistic lack of confidence in either the intelligence or the morality of the people it proposes to govern. The assumption that the few governing power holders know better the lives and concerns of---or are morally superior to---the people they propose to govern is arrogant, dangerous and absurd. Given that power is finite, centralization increases the relative strength of the power holder, attracting to government the unscrupulous and power-thirsty.
He next covers the Lies of conservatism which require it be in context. He moves on to Faith vs fear and states.
Practical conservatism acknowledges these exceptions to the rule and treats them as such. Liberalism treats the exceptions as the rule. Conservatism has faith in the people it governs and in the principles by which it governs. Liberalism has fear for the people it governs and for the problems it perceives. It seeks to quiet that fear by seizing and centralizing the power of the people, in an effort to protect them from themselves.
He concludes strongly the first line reading:
Conservatism is not perfect. No theory of government is.
If you have problems articulating what you know intuitively is right read this whole article and never be ashamed to say "I am conservative".