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Why I Believe What I Believe
Rolling Stone ^ | 7/13/95 | P. J. O'Rourke

Posted on 01/05/2003 3:02:18 PM PST by John Farson

A conservative believes in the sanctity of the individual. That we are individuals -- unique, disparate and willful -- is something we understand instinctively from an early age. No child ever wrote to Santa, 'Bring me, and a bunch of kids I've never met, a pony, and we'll share.' The great religions teach salvation as an individual matter. There are no group discounts in the Ten Commandments. Christ was not a committee. And Allah does not welcome believers into paradise saying, "You weren't much good yourself, but you were standing near some good people."

Virtue is famously lonesome. Also vice. as anyone can testily who ever told his mother, "All the other guys were doing it." We experience pleasure separately. Ethan Hawke may go out on any number of wild dates, but I'm able to sleep through them. And although we may be sorry for people who suffer, we only 'feel their pain' when we're full of baloney and running for office.

To say that we are all individuals is not a profession of selfishness any more than it's a call to altruism. It is simply a measurement. Individuals are the units we come in, and the individual is the wellspring of conservatism. The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and -- lest individualism run riot -- insist upon individual responsibility.

The Individual and the State

THe first question of political science is -- or should be -- What is good for everyone? And by "everyone," we must mean "all individuals" The question can't be, What is good for a single individual? That's megalomania -- like a New Hampshire presidential primary. And the question can't be, What is good for some individuals? Or even, What is good for the majority of individuals? That's partisan politics, which at best leads to Newt Gingrich or Pat Schroeder and at worst leads to Lebanon or Rwanda. Finally, the question can't be, What is good for individuals as a whole? There's no such thing. Individuals are only available individually. Complete sets are not for sale.

By observing the progress (admittedly spotty and fitful) of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate. Judaism gave us laws before which all men, no matter their rank, stood as equals (though this did mean no BLT sandwiches). Christianity taught us that each person has intrinsic worth, Newt Gingrich and Pat Schroeder included. The rise of private enterprise and trade provided a means of achieving wealth and autonomy other than by killing people with broadswords. And the Industrial Revolution allowed millions of ordinary folks an opportunity to obtain decent houses, food and clothes (albeit with some unfortunate side effects, such as environmental damage and Al Gore).

In order to build a political system that is good for everyone, that ensures a free society based upon the independence, prestige and self-rule of individuals, we have to ask what all these individuals want. And be told to shut up. There's no way to know the myriad wants of diverse people. They may not know themselves. And who asked us to stick our nose in, anyway?

In a free society some people will want to make money or art or love or a mess of their lives. Some people will want to help others. Some will want others to help them. And some people will complain about how chaotic freedom is and agitate for its restriction. We can hazard certain guesses about the common desires of mankind: three squares and self-esteem. But we may find that any given example of mankind is fasting to obtain enlightenment or deeply involved in masochism.

In a free society a person can want what he likes and do what he wants to get it as long as this does not occasion real and provable harm to a fellow person (light bondage and discipline are acceptable). Thus the two fundamental rules of a political system in a free society are (1) Mind your own business. (2) Keep your hands to yourself. The political leaders of our nation would do well to reacquaint themselves with these tenets. (Hillary, mind your own business. Bill, keep your hands to yourself.)

But how do we actually go about the construction of such a political system? We don't have to. The framers of the United States Constitution have already done a fair job of it for us.

The Constitution contains a plan for representative democracy that has, over the years, been successful in luring some of our most egregious national characters out of the private sector, where they would have done no end of damage to industry and commerce, and into public office, where they can be watched.

The Constitution promulgates our system of courts and laws, the purposes of which are to keep individuals who are too smart, too big and strong, too rich or too pretty from running the rest of us ragged. It is an imperfect system, as the O.J. Simpson trial is proving exquisitely. But it beats deciding legal cases by means of armed combat -- unless you're Nicole Brown Simpson or Ron Goldman.

The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, of course. You could hardly call yourself free without those freedoms. But even more important, the Bill of Rights protects your money, car, house and stereo. The Fifth Amendment says, ". . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Some alleged defenders of liberty look down their noses at property rights, believing them to be the sordid, mean and grubby side to freedom. But think how little time you spend worshiping idols your neighbors abhor or gathering in mutinous crowds. And when was the last time you said anything more controversial than "Evan Dando sucks." Now think how much time you spend using your Visa card.

In fact, most day-to-day freedoms are material freedoms. Your career, your home, your workout at the gym, shopping, traveling, entertainment, recreation, any buying and selling, any hiring and firing, the baseball team you root for and the prerogative of its players to stay out on strike until beach volleyball becomes the national pastime are all matters of property rights. In the old Soviet Union there wasn't any private property. Everything was public -- like a public restroom, which is how the old Soviet Union looked and smelled. Dead-end jobs and zoo-cage lives, shoddy goods and mucky food and constant shortages of even those, complete lack of initiative and innovation in all things -- that was what made the Soviet Union so depressing, not the fact that it was illegal to stand on a street corner shouting, "Marx bites his farts!"

And one other thing the Bill of Rights does is try to protect our freedom not only from bad people and bad laws but from the vast nets and gooey webs of rules and regulations that even the best governments produce. The Constitution attempts to leave as much of life as possible to common sense or at least to local option. Says the Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." And, continues the 10th, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." And it is these suit-yourself, you're-a-big-boy-now, it's-a-freecountry powers that conservatism seeks to conserve.

But What About the Old, the Poor, the Disabled, the Disadvantaged the Helpless, the Hopeless, the Addled and the Daft?

Conservatism is sometimes confused with social Darwinism or other such me-first dogmas. Sometimes the confusion is deliberate. When those who are against conservative policies don't have sufficient opposition arguments, they call the love of freedom selfish. Of course it is -- in the sense that breathing's selfish. But because you want to breathe doesn't mean that you want to suck the breath out of every person you encounter. Frankly, it's a disgusting idea and not the kind of thing the average conservative would care to be seen doing on the street.

Conservatives do not believe in the triumph of the large and powerful over the weak and useless. (Although most conservatives would make an exception to see a fistfight between Norman Schwarzkopf and George Stephanopoulos.) If all people are free, George Stephanopoulos must be allowed to run loose, too, however annoying this may be.

But some people cannot enjoy the benefits of freedom without assistance from their fellows. This may be a temporary condition, such as childhood or when I say I can drive home from a bar just fine at 3 a.m. Or, due to infirmity or affliction, the condition may be permanent. Because conservatives do not generally propose huge government programs to combat the effects of old age, illness, being a kid or drinking 10 martinis on an empty stomach, conservatives are said to be uncaring or mean spirited. In fact, charity is an axiom of conservatism. Conservatives like and admire manners, mores, religion, family, friendship and most fraternal and community organizations. And charity -- being kind and helpful to others -- is central to all these customs and institutions. Even the Crips, the Hell's Angels and the Democratic Leadership Council claim to supply mutual aid to their members. Charity is one of the great responsibilities of freedom. But in order for us to be responsible and, hence, free, that responsibility must be personal. Of course not all needful acts of charity can be accomplished by one person. But to the extent that responsibility should be shared and merged, it should be, in a free society, shared and merged on the same basis as political power, starting with the individual. Responsibility must proceed from the bottom up, from the individual outward, never from the top down, never from the outside in, with the individual as the squeezed cream filling of that giant Twinkie which is the state.

You have to take care of yourself to the best of your ability to do so. Your family has to take care of you. Friends have to take care of your family. Neighbors have to take care of those friends. And a community has to take care of its neighbors. Government, with its power of coercion, red tape and inevitable unfamiliarity with the specifics of the case, is a last and a desperate resort.

There is no virtue in compulsory government charity. And no virtue in advocating it. A politician who commends himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Who isn't? A voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money -- if a gun is held to his head.

When government quits being something that we only use in an emergency and becomes the principal source of aid and assistance in our society, the size, expense and power of that government are greatly increased. This in itself is a diminishment of the individual. And proof that we're jerks, since we've decided that politicians are wiser, kinder and more honest than we are and that they, not we, should control the dispensation of eleemosynary goods and services.

But government charity causes other problems. If responsibility is removed from friends, family and self, social ties are weakened. You scratch my back, and HI get a presidential commission to investigate your claims of dorsal itch.

We don't have to look after our parents. They've got their Social Security checks and are down in Atlantic City with them right now. Our parents don't have to look after us. Head Start, a high-school guidance counselor and AmeriCorps take care of that. Our kids don't have to look after themselves. If they get addicted to drugs, there's methadone. If they get knocked up, there's welfare. And the neighbors aren't going to get involved. If they step outside, they'll be cut down by the 9mm cross-fire from the drug wars between the gangs all the other neighbors belong to.

What Government Actually Can Do -- Such as Kill People

Making charity part of the political system confuses the mission of government. Charity is, by its own nature, approximate and imprecise. Are you guiding the old lady across the street, or are you just jerking her around? It's hard to know when to offer charity without being insulting or patronizing. It's hard to know when enough charity has been given. Parents want to help children as much as possible but don't want to wind up with helplessly dependent kids. Parents want to give children every material advantage but don't want a pack of damned spoiled brats. There are no exact rules of charity. But a government in a free society must obey exact rules, or that government's power is arbitrary, and freedom is lost.

This is why government works best when it is given limited and well-defined tasks to perform. And even the most adamantine conservative believes there are certain tasks for which government is needed. War, for instance.

Privatization of military force has been tried at various times in history. The Dark Ages in Europe are an example of the results. Law enforcement is also the proper duty of the commonwealth. As bad as our police have sometimes been, giving a Glock and a warrant to a McDonald's rent-a-cop would be worse. Certain public works and public services are best, or at least most conveniently, provided by the state. The post office, the highway system and even schools could, perhaps, be run by corporations, but it's hard to imagine the advantage of competing networks of sewer pipes. When building a new home, you'd look up sewers in the Yellow Pages, call around to get the best estimate, and they'd come dig a hole to your toilet. And there are some projects that are cool -- like going to the moon -- but just too weird, expensive and long-term to undertake with personal funds. Finally, there is nothing wrong with a nation acting as an ultimate insurance pool.

When catastrophes occur that individuals cannot reasonably be expected to foresee or defend themselves against, we all pitch in. It is a proper use of tax dollars to alleviate the honest distress caused by fires, floods, storms, earthquakes, riots, plagues, mudslides and tidal waves. Although it is exasperating to the individual taxpayer when all these things happen in California every three months. I've about had it with sending Spam and tarpaulins to homeless movie producers.

There is a subtle but important difference between the government organizing mutual help in a crisis and the government providing compulsory charity -- between disaster aid and a federal welfare system. Note that the end result of all the above-listed limited functions of government is simply the survival of the individual. He is protected against being attacked by Iraqis, shot by gangsters, felled by typhoid or left to starve in his ruined Malibu, Calif., beach house. There is no government attempt to make his life good or fair, much less to make a good or fair person out of him.

The preamble to the Constitution says, "We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare..." It doesn't say "guarantee the general Welfare." It certainly doesn't say "give welfare benefits to all the people in the country who aren't doing so well, even if the reason they aren't doing so well is that they're sitting on their butts in front of the TV." And here is the source of contention between conservatives and liberals. A liberal would argue that those people are watching television because they lack opportunities, they're disadvantaged, uneducated, life is unfair. And a conservative might actually agree. Conservatives do not attack liberals for saying that things are bad. Rather, the fight begins when liberals say, "Government has enormous power. Let's use that power to make things good."

It's the wrong tool for the job. The liberal is trying to fix my wristwatch with a ballpeen hammer. Government is an abstract entity. It doesn't produce anything. It isn't a business, a factory or a farm. Government can't create wealth, only individuals can. All government is able to do is move wealth around. In the name of fairness, government can take wealth from those who produce it and give wealth to those who don't. But who's going to be the big Robin Hood? Who grabs all this stuff and hands it back out? Remember, even in a freely elected system of government, sooner or later that person is going to be someone you loathe. If you're a Republican, think about Donna Shalala. If you're a Democrat, think about Ollie North. And when government takes wealth from those who produce it, they become less inclined to produce more of it (or more inclined to hide it). And when government gives wealth to those who don't produce it, they become less productive, too, since they're already getting what they'd produce in return for not producing it.

If government is supposed to make things good, what kind of good is it supposed to make then? And how good is good enough? And who's going to decide? What person is so arrogant as to believe he knows what every other person in America deserves to get? (Well, actually, all of Washington -- press and pundits induded -- is that arrogant. But never mind.) We don't know what people want. By the same token, we don't know what people need. The government is going to wind up giving midnight basketball to people who don't have shoes to play it in. Then there'Il be a block grant to provide shoes, which people will boil because what they really lack is something to eat, and that brings us to expanding the school-lunch program. Pretty soon it's not government, it's shopping. It's not Congress and the White House, it's Mall of America. And a bunch of politicians have your charge cards.

Once the government has embarked upon a course of making all things fair, where is it to stop? Will tall people have to walk around on their knees? Will fat people be strapped to helium balloons? Will attractive people be made to wear ridiculous haircuts? (And has Tank Girl begun a one-woman campaign on this issue?)

When government quits asking, What is good for all individuals? and starts asking, What is good? individual liberty is lost. We abandon a system in which all people are considered equal and adopt a system in which all people are considered alike. Collective good replaces individual goodies. Now life will be fair at last. The whole power of government will be directed to that end. But limited government is hardly suited to a task of this magnitude. The role of government will need to be expanded enormously. Government will have to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Government will grow to a laughable size.

Or it would be laughable, except for our experience in this century. Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China and dozens of other places around the world did indeed create just such leviathan governmental engines of "good." And the dreadful history of the 20th century is in large part a history of the terrible results of these collectivist endeavors. Once respect for the individual is lost, then what do a few million dead individuals matter? Especially if their deaths are for the collective good? Fifty million were killed in the war the Nazis started. Soviet purges and persecutions killed 20 million more. As many as 30 million died in Chinese famines caused by forced communization of agriculture. That's 100 million dead from collectivism, not counting Korea, Indochina, Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua and so on.

Of course, a liberal would say that a sharing and caring government doesn't have to turn out this way. It could be something like Sweden. And there you have it. The downside: 100 million dead. The upside: Ace of Base, Volvos and suicide.

Why Collectivism Doesn't Work

But why can't life be more fair? Why can't Americans take better care of each other? Why can't we share the tremendous wealth of our nation? Surely if enough safeguards of liberty are written into law and we elect vigorous, committed leaders... Have another hit on the bong. Collectivism doesn't work because, first, it's based on a faulty economic premise. There is no such thing as a person's "fair share" of wealth. The gross national product is not a pizza that must be carefully divided because if I get too many slices, you have to eat the box. The economy is expandable and, in any practical sense, limitless. We have proof of this in the astonishing worldwide percapita economic growth of the past 200 years. Certain resources may be finite -- petroleum and oceanfront property. But human resourcefulness is not. Thus we get wind power, solar power, atomic energy, gasohol and vacations in Kansas instead of at the beach. The lesson of economic development is that what happens when we run out of a resource is what happened when we ran out of whale oil -- nothing.

We're not about to run out of pizza ingredients, and if we want our fellow citizens happily shouting, "Hold the anchovies," we've got to bake more pizza. In order to do this we need economic liberty. People are much more likely to invest in expensive ovens and learn how to toss gobs of dough in the air if they stand to profit from doing so. It is for this reason that conservatives so strongly support free enterprise and capitalism, not because conservatives are greedy (although if you have any inside stock tips on companies that have invented an edible Domino's carton, this conservative would like to know).

Collectivist economic policy has been a failure the world over, but that's nothing compared with the failure of collectivist political policy. Moscovitch automobiles are bad, but even a Moscovitch doesn't collapse as spectacularly as the Berlin Wall. Collectivist political policy has failed for a very simple reason: It makes everything political.

Under collectivism, powers of determination rest with the entire citizenry instead of with the specific citizens. Individual decision-making is replaced by the political process. Suddenly the system that elected the prom queen at your high school is in charge of your whole life.

Individuals are smarter than groups, as anybody who is a member of a committee or of a large Irish family after 6 in the evening can tell you. The difference between individual intelligence and group intelligence is the difference between Harvard University and the Harvard University football team.

Think of all the considerations that go into each decision you make. Is it ethical? Is it good in the long run? Who benefits? Who is harmed? What will it cost? Does it go with the couch? Now imagine a large group trying to agree on all these things -- imagine a very large group, say 260 million people -- and imagine that group trying to agree on every decision made by every person in the country. The result would be stupid, silly and hugely wasteful. In short, the result would be government.

Individuals are not only smarter than groups, individuals are -- and this is one of the best things about them -- weaker than groups. To return to Harvard for a moment, it's the difference between picking a fight with the football team and picking a fight with Michael Kinsley.

Collectivism makes for a large and hence very powerful group. This power is centralized in the government. Any power is open to abuse. Government power is not necessarily abused more often than personal power. But when the abuse comes, it's a lulu. At work, power over the whole supply cabinet is concentrated in the person of the office manager. In government, power over the entire military is concentrated in the person of the commander in chief. You steal felt-tip pens. Nixon bombs Cambodia.

But government abuse of power does not have to be illegal, clandestine or even abusive. Sometimes it's just a matter of the aforementioned confusion of mission. There are so many worthy national goals. And government is charged with achieving all of them. The government is supposed to strengthen the dollar but also increase export trade. The government is supposed to foster full employment but also keep inflation in check. These goals may be contradictory. There is fierce competition among their respective advocates. How can a collectivist government mediate? When the referees field a team, who calls the fouls?

Most government abuse of power is practiced openly, and much of it is heartily approved by the Washington Post editorial board and other such proponents of the good and the fair. But any time the government treats one person differently from another person because of the group to which that person belongs -- whether it's a group of rich special-interest tax dodgers or a group of impoverished minority job seekers -- individual equality is lessened, and freedom is diminished. Any time the government gives away goods and services -- even if it gives them away to all people equally -- individual dependence is increased, and freedom is diminished. And any time the government makes rules about people's behavior when that behavior does not occasion real and provable harm to others -- telling you to buckle your seat belt or forbidding you to say fuck on the Internet -- respect for the individual is reduced, and freedom is diminished. An individual could undertake all these things and cause no harm whatsoever and, indeed, might do some good. But the size, puissance and ubiquitousness of government make such actions dangerous. It's one thing if I swat the dog, something else if 260 million people do.

The Worst Thing About Government

There is one last thing about a powerful collectivist government that is worse than everything else, and that's the person who runs it. And it doesn't matter how carefully we select our president or how carefully we select the senators and representatives who are supposed to keep that president from doing what he swore he wouldn't do. Every one of them is going to be a wrong choice. Conservatives believe in individuals. But they don't believe that individuals are good -- just human. And we all know what that means. And even the best human in the world is not fit to wield the enormous power available to the modern collectivist state. To be a liberal is, ultimately, to believe otherwise. If you are a liberal and you think that there are people good enough to be entrusted with such awesome dominion over their fellows, I beg to remind you that Mother Teresa would be right in there with Pat Buchanan on the abortion, school-prayer and funding-for-NEA issues.

But it's a moot point. She's not running. And neither is anybody else who's much good. The best do not rise in politics, and there are good reasons for this. The best people have jobs or, anyway, family and friends. They're too busy to spend the day going to National Church Bingo Association Play-or-Pray breakfasts, shaking hands with all the contestants in Square-Off -- The U.S. High School Geometry Olympics. Also, all political discourse is conducted via the lowest common denominator. Notice how the extremely complex NAFTA debate quickly degenerated into "Tacos will be cheaper" rs. "Mexicans carry knives." And, finally, running for office is fundamentally a matter of telling untruths. In order to get elected, a politician has to claim that the government can make you richer, smarter, taller, better looking and take six strokes off your golf game. And he has to claim that government can do all these things for free or, at least, very cheaply. As a result of these various factors, politicians are -- and I'd like to put this as kindly as possible -- lying, ignorant bums.

You may have what you think are excellent reasons for advocating the expansion of the powers of the state. You may have the best of intentions in desiring to limit the often reprehensible behavior of individuals. But before you declare yourself an opponent to conservatism, I ask you to think about our nation's political leaders. Would you hire any of them to cut your lawn? Dole does a tidy job, but he never gets far. He keeps wandering away to talk to the neighbors about cutting their lawn. Gore hasn't gotten started yet. He's talking to the cat about dandelions being an endangered species. Gingrich is using the Toro to carve out NEWT in big letters in the grass. And Clinton couldn't make up his mind whether to do the front first or the back. Should he use a push mower or the power kind? Rotary or reel? Trim, then rake? Or the other way around? Maybe fertilize and reseed instead of mowing? So he gave up, and he's inside raiding the refrigerator and flirting with your baby sitter.

A conservative could have told you: If you want something done right, do it yourself.

And If You Still Don't Get It. . .

You say liberalism limits freedom, but aren't right-wingers the ones who want te tell me hew to live and what to do?

There is, alas for us Republicans of the coed naked bondtrading ilk, a bluenosed and authoritarian side to conservatism. Liberty implies responsibility, but some conservatives forget that responsibility implies liberty as well -- and lots of it. The good thing about conservative authoritarianism is that it's legalistic and explicit. Conservatives don't want you to have sex in public with animals -- it upsets their bird dogs. So they pass a law against it. But you can fight this law in the legislature and the courts, and if that doesn't work, you can elect other legislators later and get the law overturned. Most liberals don't want to limit a particular freedom. They just want to take your money, which limits every freedom. You'll be allowed to have sex with animals on the White House lawn at noon. But you'll have to walk to Washington. And you'll be wearing plastic sandals.

When choosing between evils, always pick the specific over the general.

But what about abortion? By the time l get that law overturned, I'II have a kid in high school.

Conservatives don't understand why it's a terrible crime to kill a little baby but OK to kill an itty-bitty one. It is impossible to argue in favor of abortion if you believe in the sanctity of the individual, let alone if you believe in an immortal soul. Abortion is simply wrong. But politics is a practical matter. Politically, the abortion issue is not a question of right or wrong but a question of when a person becomes a citizen. When does the state extend its protection to the individual? And when does this protection cease? Some more or less arbitrary decisions have to be made about these matters. The state cannot follow you into the grave (except for taxation purposes). And the state can't go into the bathroom with every adolescent boy who's got a copy of Penthouse and make sure the sperm get a good home. Abortion may be wrong, but it has to be a woman's own business until "viability," "quickening," "the end of the first trimester" or some other commonsense starting point for fetal citizenship.

If belief in the sanctity of the individual means abortion is wrong, why do conservatives favor the death penalty?

Nobody said conservatives were good people. And we like the death penalty a lot. We like it not for the sake of revenge and not because it's a deterrent but because the death penalty illustrates a basic principle of conservatism: Actions have consequences. The real question is how come so many liberals who are against the death penalty are for abortion? They'd kill a baby for being inconvenient, but when an adult whacks a dozen co-workers at the post office, he gets a timeout.

Speaking of dead postal workers, why are conservatives opposed to gun control?

In case we have to shoot Democrats. It happened during the Civil War, and it could happen again.

Actually, conservatives are not necessarily opposed to registering guns or even licensing their ownership, but we are deeply suspicious of the people who favor these things. We suspect their aim is to disarm society, not to ensure responsible gun ownership.

A law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms in a free society because authority in a free society ultimately rests with individuals. The government does not grant us certain freedoms. Rather, we permit the government certain powers. Sometimes governments forget this. If you want to know why the right to own a gun is worth preserving, ask a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp or a communist gulag.

As for the assault-rifle question, remember that in 1776 all rifles were assault rifles.

OK, OK, forget I asked. Just put that thing back in the pickup truck and calm down. Why are conservatives opposed to government funding of art, music, public broadcasting and so forth?

It's not really because of the dirty pictures. If my tax dollars are going to be spent by a nitwit in SoHo, I might as well get some smut out of it. The problem is that taxes are taken by force. Every time tax dollars are spent, you have to ask yourself the questions, What if my mother went to prison for tax evasion? What if she tried to escape? Would I let a prison guard shoot my mother over this item of federal spending? Would I kill my mom to be able to listen to Cokie Roberts?

Where does that leave social programs? Don't liberal social programs help some people?

Sure. It would be impossible to throw that much money around without somebody managing to help himself to some of it. But go to the places that have had the largest number of liberal social programs, where the most social spending has been done. Go to the inner cities, Indian reservations and Appalachia. Then ask yourself, "Do these people look helped?"

But what about Social Security?.

Social Security has given a bunch of money to old people. That's not terrible. But Social Security is a pyramid scheme. People who get in early make out like bandits. People who get in late are screwed. And Social Security is a very sophisticated pyramid scheme. The people who are going to get screwed weren't even born when Social Security was set up. But they have been now. And they're you.

Aren't government programs necessary to fight racial prejudice and ether types of discrimination?

Equality before the law is fundamental to freedom. The state cannot treat people differently because they belong to different ethnic groups, races, religions or sexes. Discrimination must be illegal. But it must be illegal even when it is done for the best possible reasons. Once group identity replaces individual identity in a society, that society becomes a battleground for those groups. I've been to Lebanon.

Well, aren't government programs necessary te preserve the environment?

Throw collectivism out the door of economics and it comes crawling back in the window of environmentalism. Of course there are certain things that could and should be done to make the earth nicer. But should government be relied upon as the principal means of doing them? What the government has done for inner cities -- it can do that for the rain forest.

If liberalism is that awful, why are so many musicians, actors and ether prominent people liberals?

Greed. They're beautiful. They're celebrated. They have more money than we can imagine. But it isn't enough for them. They won't be satisfied until everyone also thinks they're "good".

Isn't conservatism just negative? What are the conservative answers to the world's problems?

Yes. Get a job.

Don't you have anything good te say about liberalism at all? Don't liberals mean well?

No. And no points are awarded for purity of intentions. Whoever seeks to allow the mastery of the state over the individual makes a pact with the devil. Communists worship Satan himself. Socialists think perdition is a good system run by bad people. And liberals want us all to go to hell because it's warm there in the winter.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government; Philosophy; Political Humor/Cartoons

1 posted on 01/05/2003 3:02:18 PM PST by John Farson
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To: John Farson; MotleyGirl70; jwalsh07; Inkie; rdb3; JavaTheHutt; packrat35; cake_crumb; Mad Dawgg; ...
Ping and bump!
2 posted on 01/05/2003 3:05:35 PM PST by chance33_98
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To: John Farson
I think it was the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, "What is true is what I can't help believing."

Conservatism is true for me.

3 posted on 01/05/2003 3:10:11 PM PST by martin_fierro
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To: BartMan1
4 posted on 01/05/2003 3:12:39 PM PST by IncPen
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To: John Farson
If belief in the sanctity of the individual means abortion is wrong, why do conservatives favor the death penalty?

One is innocent, the other is not.

5 posted on 01/05/2003 3:13:44 PM PST by chance33_98
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To: John Farson
I really enjoyed his book, A Parliament of Whores.
The chapter on the Kennedys was priceless.
6 posted on 01/05/2003 3:19:43 PM PST by RIGHT IN SEATTLE
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To: John Farson
Early in this very long article the author admits that adherence to Judaic law means giving up BLT sandwiches. That did it for me.

But seriesly, conservatism will always be a hard sell. After all, it demands that we be self-governing adults. That's tough. No more rationalization of lousy behavior. No more self pity.

Liberalism is so much more comfy. Problem is, when we go down that path we end up slaves.
7 posted on 01/05/2003 3:29:50 PM PST by ricpic
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To: sauropod
8 posted on 01/05/2003 3:38:27 PM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: John Farson
PJ sure can write.
9 posted on 01/05/2003 3:56:02 PM PST by nathanbedford
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To: John Farson
10 posted on 01/05/2003 4:03:03 PM PST by VRW Conspirator
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A conservative believes in the sanctity of the individual.

Such as the conservatives who gutted the Fourth Amendment and voted to allow pregnant women to be pawed freely at airport checkpoints?

You meant "libertarian," P.J., not "conservative."

11 posted on 01/05/2003 4:16:39 PM PST by Greybird
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I really enjoyed his book, A Parliament of Whores. The chapter on the Kennedys was priceless.

Actually the Kennedy chapter was in Give War a Chance

12 posted on 01/05/2003 4:44:17 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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To: John Farson
"Discrimination must be illegal."

On public property and for matters of justice, yes; not on private property.

An "individual" has the 9th amendment right to discriminate who is allow to be on, use, buy/sell, touch, or smoke on his/her property, for whatever reason(s) such as eye color, skin color, religious beliefs, where a person went to high school, sexual orientation preference, too ugly/to good looking, male or female, the list goes on and on.

This is where conservatives have really dropped the ball.

I will quote the author again:

"The Fifth Amendment says, ". . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Some alleged defenders of liberty look down their noses at property rights, believing them to be the sordid, mean and grubby side to freedom."

Restaurants, hotels, airplanes, office buildings, gas stations, coffee shops, department stores, etc., are not public property.

How many conservatives do you here declaring anti-smoking ordinances, regulations, and laws unconstitutional because government lacks jurisdiction and the 5th and 9th amendment "individual" rights are violated?

Not too often, if at all.

13 posted on 01/05/2003 6:21:34 PM PST by tahiti
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To: John Farson
read later
14 posted on 01/05/2003 6:45:03 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: John Farson
As always, we win the argument, lose the country. The cat's about to give up...
15 posted on 01/05/2003 6:49:29 PM PST by Revolting cat!
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To: Greybird
Since many moderate/statist Republicans have co-opted the name "conservative" -- "libertarian" is probably a better term.

PJ wrote this in '95, when a lot of us thought "conservative" meant smaller government.
16 posted on 01/05/2003 7:18:55 PM PST by John Farson
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To: John Farson
Conservatives do not believe in the triumph of the large and powerful over the weak and useless. (Although most conservatives would make an exception to see a fistfight between Norman Schwarzkopf and George Stephanopoulos.)

17 posted on 01/05/2003 7:22:52 PM PST by tet68
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To: snowstorm12
18 posted on 01/05/2003 7:28:02 PM PST by snowstorm12
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