The Distinction is Clear

In my years observing politics, what many allegedly conservative candidates will say on their way to describing the differences between their philosophy and that of their “liberal” opponents is that ultimately, they both want the same things, and share the same ends.   This is often said in the context of a moderate Republican politician trying to demonstrate a compassionate facet of their persona, and it will almost always be followed with the misguided idea that the difference comes down to a disagreement about means.  I cringe in revulsion at the sentiment, and couldn’t possibly disagree more. I share nothing of consequence with the leftists’ means, never mind their ends.

While Republican politicians who adhere to such a view are generally seeking to attract votes, it’s important to know that many of them hold this view precisely because they haven’t considered the deeper philosophical differences between the conservatism they claim, and the liberalism they practice.  By admitting they’re exactly alike in their means or ends, what these politicians accomplish is to give the leftists cover.  The two ought to be nothing alike, sharing neither means nor ends, but the left has been quite adept at disguising their actual desires behind a cosmetic fascia of carefully constructed lies, and moderate Republicans have been only too happy to accommodate them.  I will not.

A conservative believes that the federal government exists for just a few specific purposes.  Those include the printing of money, the national defense, the maintenance of courts, and the administration of justice under an objective law, as well as conducting relations with other national governments around the globe.  Everything else should be handled either by the several states, or the people, respectively, as the oft-neglected 10th Amendment makes plain.  Conservatives hold this view because we believe that any government beyond the strictest necessity constitutes an immoral predation upon the lives and liberties of its people, but its goal should be to guarantee the rights of citizens, while in all other ways avoiding infringements on their rights.  In contrast, leftists hold that it is the proper function of government to manage the lives of individual people, aggregated en masse, for the good of the state.  This dramatic difference in orientation ought never be neglected by a candidate seeking to oppose the statists’ preferred candidate.  The key distinction is properly condensed this way:  A conservative holds that guaranteeing the rights of individuals  is the end they seek, while the sole purpose and motive of statists is to aggregate power to the state through a pretense at speaking on behalf of constituencies.  To a true conservative, every individual is an end in and of herself, while to a statist, the only end is the totality of the interests of the state, whatever they believe that to be at the moment.  Both philosophies require the use of coercive force, but in completely different ways: The former uses force in defense of individuals, while the latter uses it aggressively to suppress them.

If you have any doubt about this essential difference, consider the manner and thought of the advocates of either philosophy with respect to a given issue.  On the matter of poverty, for example, conservatives will argue that the best way for any person to rise from the depths of poverty is by voluntary assistance from others, combined with a larger measure of effort from the person suffering those circumstances.  A conservative knows that no person has a greater interest in their personal success than those persons.  Conservatives believe in mentoring, educating and training to the extent that can be done, so that the person in poverty may lift himself.  A leftist, or so-called “liberal” believes that every person not in poverty has an obligation,  to be enforced and implemented by the state, to contribute to the upkeep of every person in less than ideal conditions, not limited merely to your neighborhood, state, or even the nation, but for every person in poverty around the globe.  In short, the coercive force of the government will be applied against individuals on behalf of some other individuals, irrespective of their choices, moral standards, or simply good common sense.  Every policy of a statist has as its final argument, one demanding hand awaiting your wallet, with a gun in the other, leveled at your head.

Conservatives use force for defensive purposes alone.  By the nature of our philosophy, conservatives would use force as the last resort, and only as an instrument of the state in carrying out its mandate to guarantee the rights enjoyed by every citizen.  If you are robbed, conservatives will use force, as needed, to apprehend and imprison the thief, and compel them to compensation where possible, unlike a leftist who will become the robber on behalf of the alleged interests of the state.  If you are attacked or murdered, conservatives will use force to the appropriate extent needed to see justice enacted, whereas liberals see only a social justice that cares not for the individual, either perpetrator or victim, but instead the collectivized notions of justice for society at large.  Notice that these are the functions of government that the statists seem least interested in fulfilling.  They have been historically indifferent in prosecuting criminals and defending the country, and the judges they tend to appoint aren’t nearly so interested in the administration of law as in seemingly making the streets safe for criminals, frequently erecting new standards of law out of whole cloth to find rights of the accused that they hadn’t previously enjoyed.

This understanding of the difference between conservatives and liberals is critical in order to fully comprehend why conservatives must never accept as their spokespersons or candidates any who claim that there exists no fundamental difference in the goals of the two groups.  All this provides is a disguise for the liberal.  The leftist is able to then claim that his attacks on the rights of individuals are a mutually adopted norm, to be accepted without question or resistance from anyone.  Standing on the stage, the leftist can pose as an advocate of civil society all the while working to undermine its foundations.  The difference is and ought to be both indelible and stark when considered in the context of the means and the ends.  This is why we conservatives need vigorous candidates who will oppose every bankrupt premises of the left and point out the distinctions in unambiguous terms.  With the diligence of a people finally roused from a long night’s political slumber, perhaps we can once again put forward a candidate who will carry our banner.

On the 3rd of September, I will travel to Waukee, Iowa, in search of that candidate.  She knows not only how to “fight like a girl,” but also how to stand for conservatism.  She understands this difference.  So should  you.

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