If I Were King, Vol. 1: How to Be a Conservative
First, in a lot of ways, I identify myself as a conservative, because a conservative is someone who wants to “conserve”, which means to protect something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing. In this case, I want conserve a lot about what America was founded upon, things like our open-armed invitation to the needy and rejected of the world, or that it was the individual’s job to be charitable, not the government’s, or the keen sense of personal responsibility to contribute to our country’s success. And many other important things.
Donald Trump is connecting very effectively with those that identify themselves as “conservatives”. It’s not a novel thing to have a candidate call themselves conservative, when what they mean is that they are less liberal than the liberals.
But Conservatives believe that the original intent is good and should be conserved. Unfortunately, very few even know the original intent of the Constitution and the design our Forefathers had for our country (because it isn’t taught in public schools, oddly enough), so they can’t even be truly conservative because they don’t know what they’re trying to conserve. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Did you know that In 1860, our federal spending was less than 1.8% of GDP, and our deficit was less than 0.5% of GDP? In 2016, our federal spending is now over 21% of our GDP, and the deficit is now over 2.5% of GDP. What happened? Are there new things that a government ought to do that it didn’t need to do before? Because during that period, America was growing in leaps and bounds while keeping very little or no debt.
In 1860, we spent all of our money on three things: Defense (37%), Interest (3%), and Other Spending (59%), and a significant portion of the latter was the postal service, which is arguably unconstitutional as well and even more likely simply unwise, but I won’t get into that. What’s most concerning is that our federal government has expanded what it thinks is its business by a lot, with only 13% going to Defense spending now (something that is clearly articulated in the Constitution as part of the Federal Gov’s responsibility), while government pensions, health care spending, education, and welfare, categories that didn’t even exist in 1860, represent a whopping 63% of government spending.
People often argue that times have changed. To some extent, yes. But did the poor exist in 1860? Did people need health care? Did our children need education? Did people need a plan for themselves when they could no longer work? The answer is yes to all of these. All of those things were true in 1860 just like they are today. The biggest difference is in what people expected of themselves and of their government. In 1860, the people and local communities were responsible for these things, not the federal government. To be truly conservative is to want that back. Not only that, I think it makes a ton of sense to be conservative in this way.
People complain a lot about how much government debt we have, but if we were to cut these previously non-existent categories from our federal budget and give those responsibilities back to the people (which is where, according to the conservatism our Founding Fathers established, they belong) and kept our revenues and other expenses flat, we would be out of debt, completely, in about 7 years and 9 months, and if you include agency debts as well, it would take just over 10 years. Is that realistic? No. Because we couldn’t afford to pay as much in taxes because our costs would go up to take back our responsibility for health care, taking care of our elderly, and the poor and needy. But it wouldn’t cost nearly as much because we, as individuals, are so much more efficient at these things than the federal government.
But looking at it differently, if we cut those expenses, balanced the budget (which would be easy at that point) and paid maintenance levels of interest on our debt (which would no longer increase year after year because the budget would be balanced), our revenue requirements would reduce by 58%, and since our current income tax represents about 60% of our federal revenue, we could reduce income taxes nearly completely, giving you all of that money back to take care of your neighbor, your children’s education, and your health.
Take a look at how much you are paying to the federal government on your pay stub: If you had all of that to keep, would you be able to take care of your health needs, help the poor, and save for education costs for your children? I bet you’d do all of that and have cash left over.
What’s more, you might even get creative and find lower cost ways to get education for your children, like from work-for-tuition colleges like College of the Ozarks, or a health-sharing system like Samaritan’s Ministries, and maybe we’d find more effective ways to give out welfare than by bean-counting; maybe not everyone that’s getting welfare should be getting it, and I bet there’s plenty that aren’t that could use a hand up.
But a distant machine like the government cannot be expected to have the kind of sensitivity we can as people who rub shoulders with other people. So why do we ask them to do that kind of work?
So what does Donald Trump’s success mean about us “conservatives”?
It means we’re desperate for something true and pure and non-political, so we are easily deceived by someone having the appearance of these things, and we are badly disconnected from what it means to be conservative in the first place, or we would see the obvious discord between Trump and true conservatism. It wasn’t conservative to keep people out of our country, as is Trump’s plan, even though there were plenty from other countries that were our enemies, but rather to invite all into it and require all to work for their keep, except those that couldn’t, and those would be supported by their neighbors (and I haven’t heard Trump suggest that we should cut welfare). People worked for the government out of zeal for the mission. Now, they need pensions and benefits for it to be attractive, and government work is seen as (and is, at this point) lackluster and uninspiring. We should not be offering any new pensions, and we should seek ways to offer attractive buyouts to eliminate our existing pension commitments. And we need to restore the mission of the government to revive the passion and sense of fulfilling duty in people’s hearts for public service.
There’s so much more to say, which is why this is “Volume 1”, but I’ll close by saying this: To be really conservative requires that you first understand what it means to be conservative, which involves understand the founding roots of our nation, and once you understand, it will require that you hold to perspectives that are now politically radical due to our terrible drift away from what made us great as a nation.