In the effort to counter the statist trends in American culture, we can often become fixated on the symptoms rather than the root causes of our problems. This is easy to do. It’s easy to get hyped up about Obamacare specifically. It’s easy to hop on the war path about the merits and detriments to culture when it comes to the practice of flag desecration. It’s super easy to fall into the practice of picking sides over the next big media-manufactured “controversy”. I get it. It’s super easy to do. Here is why we, as conservatives, continually lose these cultural clashes; we’ve forgotten our first principles. We’re trying too hard to engage in petty scuffles, predicated on emotion and controversy that garner ratings for corporate media, and many seem to have forgotten the purpose of argument (which is to reach a satisfactory resolution).
We don’t argue to shout down our opposition, we argue to progress. We argue to build bridges, to persuade, not to destroy.
Everything in a modern conservative’s arsenal can boil back down to these simple premises:
What is government?
And, by extension,
What then is law?
By refusing to play to the emotional, irrational impulses generated by click-bait articles and compulsive social media posting, we can create a new kind of dialogue that can actually win an argument. A novel concept, I know.
What is government?
Governments are mechanisms of restraint, both against foreign and domestic aggressions. That is the simple purpose of the American government’s inception. Of course some foreign governments were not created with this ethos. There are dictatorships and despotisms worldwide which are easily evidenced, but most arguments which will take place in the American sphere of conflict will deal purely with American issues, so it’s imperative to take the nuance out of the definition of government, and to stick to the intent of our founding first principles.
What then is law?
If government is restraint, then law is force. Law is the force by which the government restrains a people through their enforcement agencies. It’s that simple. So when you, as an advocate for limited government, encounter an individual advocating for increased government this must be the foundation of the argument. If it isn’t, then you will be having two different conversations, distorted by two different world views. It is imperative to find common ground with those you argue with or it will simply end with frustration, and wasted effort.
When you establish the functions of law and government (as they were intended to be), then you can begin to ask the person you’re arguing with questions about their world view. This is the fun part. As you ask poignant questions about the application of government force against individuals, those who once advocated a controlling governing body will begin to see why forcing society to accept things such as subsidized farming, massive bureaucratic welfare programs, government run healthcare, taxation without representation, and the military industrial complex (perpetrated under the guise of “defending freedom”), and many, many other immoral practices of our current government are, just that, immoral.
Laws must be few, explicit in intent. The nature of law is to dictate the conditions under which a society, as a collective entity, deems it permissible to justify the use of force against the individual to induce their compliance. With this understanding of the nature of law, it ought to horrify any reasonable individual to witness the flippancy, and regularity with which this force is authorized in our present society!
Law must be explicit
A law must be explicit, both in intent for application, and conditions under which exceptions may apply. Generality is the enemy of freedom, because it allows for subjective interpretation, and abuse of law by the rich and powerful members of society, while crushing the poor and average. Laws must be few, so as to allow the individual maximal freedom with which to interact, and cooperate with his fellow man within the context of a social order. Law must refrain from being idealistic; when the use of force is justified against the individual in the name of progress toward utopian ideals. The world is not an ideal place. It is possible to create justice through arbitration, and reparations, but ideologically motivated legislation drives the expansion of government and minimizes the freedom of the individual.
These are precepts which any true conservative can embrace if they believe in free-market capitalism and competition, individuals having a right to the fruits of their labor, and a limited government contained through the enumeration of specific powers and function.