Two weeks ago Glen Dean defined conservatism, and then asked numerous other bloggers to do the same. I was one of the bloggers he asked, so I will do my best to explain what conservatism means to me.
First of all, I believe in a small, limited government. This is the core of conservatism in my opinion. I am not anti-government. I recognize the need for a government. Unfortunately, our current government has become far too big; it meddles in areas it has no constitutional right to. In my view, the federal government should only do the tasks outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Once we start ignoring the Constitution, we essentially descend into anarchy. This, I would argue, is happening now.
I believe that capitalism is the most moral and just economic system. I recognize that it is not perfect, but it is as close as any human system is likely come. Capitalism, for example, makes it possible for a person to become wealthy serving your fellow man. Other systems, such as socialism, rely on government force to achieve their ends. Capitalism leaves individuals to their own devices. It encourages competition and helps ensure that the best and brightest are rewarded, and has helped the U.S. become the most wealthy nation in human history. Problems with education, the environment, and healthcare (and numerous other problems) could be addressed far more effectively by allowing more capitalism and free market forces to do their work, and less government intervention.
In this regard, some might call me a Constitutional libertarian. I am not what some would call a purist conservative. I do not an immigration restrictionist; I think that immigration is generally good for the economy, and thus favor increasing current levels (although I do recognize the need for greater immigration security and favor increased border patrols as well as an orderly guest worker program). Studies by restrictionist groups usually cite the strain immigration places on the welfare state as reasons to oppose immigration, but these studies always fail to get at the real problem – the welfare state itself. Most objections to immigration can be traced directly to socialism. Curtail socialism and most problems with immigration evaporate.
I am also generally not a social conservative. When it comes to abortion I am pro-life, but beyond that I think social conservatives error in their desire to limit individual liberty. The mythical “homosexual agenda” is little more than an opportunity for demagoguery among politicians. I am sympathetic to social conservatives in many ways however; I think that stronger families are good and traditional ideals concerning morality and faith are positives for society. I just feel that imposing them at the barrel of a gun defeats their purposes. In short, social conservatism is a very valuable personal philosophy for living one’s own life (and one which I try to live my life based upon), but it is not a good governing philosophy.
So far I may sound libertarian, but on foreign policy I tend to side more with the neoconservatives (although not completely; I am not lusting for war with Iran, for example). I believe that radical Islam poses a very real and serious threat and needs to be confronted. I understand the value of multilateralism and think that we should work with as many allies as possible, but don’t think they should hold veto power over our interests (although, a minor criticism is that I think more could have been done in the past few years to convince other nations to join us). For this reason, I favor a strong military as it is one of the legitimate roles of the federal government.
Ultimately, conservatism for me is all about the role of government. A small federal government that provides for the basic security of its citizens while allowing matters that can be resolved by the free market to be resolved in such a manner is a government that I could respect.
Elsewhere, A.C. , Clark Stooksbury, and Mark Rose offer their definitions