The last line of the Pledge of Allegiance says, I believe, the gist of what conservatism should be. The more one researches what conservatism purports to be, or should be, one is inevitably led to the conclusion that conservatives place a greater emphasis on and belief in both liberty and justice.
It is not that liberals do not believe in “liberty” or freedom, or that conservatives do not believe in equality. Instead, the liberal definition of freedom differs from that of the conservative. Their idea is to provide one with all the things necessary in life so that one can be relatively free of worry and burdens. Their answer is to provide from birth to death be it through social welfare programs or education. The conservative version of freedom is to free oneself so that you can provide for yourself. The conservative formulation is freedom to, rather than the liberal version: freedom from.
In the conservative version, what this should translate into is freedom to build a business without burdensome regulations or taxation. It means the freedom to live our lives as we choose. It is the freedom to define our own individual American dreams and the freedom to chase after that dream.
This dichotomy is evident in the policy area of education. There is no doubt that a college education can add additional income to oneself over a lifetime. No conservative disputes this fact. Unlike liberals, however, conservatives realize that not every one is “college material,” or dare we say, “not equal” when it come to academia. This does not disparage those who do not pursue a college degree. There are many, many people without a degree who live a happy, comfortable life while there are many unemployed people with college degrees. We will always have a need for plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, roofers and builders to name but a few occupations that do not require a college degree.
The liberal version of educational reform translates into throwing money into a losing proposition in an effort to make everyone “equal” and pursue a college career because perhaps Singapore rates higher in math than the United States. But, you will not find too many Americans jumping on planes and flying off to Singapore in search of their dreams and you are more likely to find those from Singapore coming to the US pursuing their dream.
Hence, we have costly funding schemes for education- the liberal solution. To them, if the school is failing, just give it more money and it will magically improve. To them, extending loans and grants to college students who have no business being in college is the answer. So they create remedial courses in college. If one needs remediation in college, one should reconsider whether they belong there in the first place.
Instead, the better solution is choice and by that, it infers freedom- the freedom of a caring parent to send their child to the school of their choice rather than trapping them in a failing public school. And speaking of equality, they (the liberals) are actually ensuring inequality by keeping students in a failing school.
Education is only one area where we see these differences. And the equality versus liberty debate is evidenced by polls conducted over the years. One poll indicated that liberals rank equality and opportunity more highly than conservatives. Conversely, conservatives rank liberty, justice and free enterprise more highly than liberals. Unfortunately, conservatives may be losing the battle for the soul of Americans.
That same study found that 60% of Americans believe the government should do more “to promote the common good.” Only 37% of those surveyed believed the government should do more to “promote individual liberty.” When asked to consider the dimensions of liberty, 57% said “freedom requires economic opportunity and minimum measures of security.” Only 38% defined freedom as “being left alone to pursue their lives as they please…”
And this is another difference between conservatives and liberals; conservatives stress personal responsibility. This is apparent when it comes to issues like gun control. In almost knee-jerk reflexive action, whenever some mass shooting horror occurs, the Left inevitably blames everyone and everything except the shooter. There is the gun manufacturer, the manufacturer of modifications, the Internet, the existing “loopholes in the law,” etc.
In that poll mentioned above, it found that just 19% of Americans no matter their political leanings trust the government to do what is right. Ironically, that may be the saving grace for the future of conservatism for if one cannot trust their government, then what is left but oneself or one’s neighbor or one’s community?
And you will not find that sense of community in liberal strongholds. This writer has experienced more authentic friendliness and openness from people despite the amount of melanin in their skin in a place like Lynchburg or Richmond, Virginia than I will ever find in a city like New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore. Yet, within these bigger cities there are smaller communities. It is there that conservatives must stress their message rather than appealing to the whole. There will be communities that resist or refuse the conservative message of freedom and liberty, but not even trying and writing them off will ensure liberal victories.
It is the spirit of liberty- not equality- that made this country great. It is what calls people to our shores. Again, it is not that conservatives have an animus towards equality, but an animus towards equality of outcomes. That mindset- equality of outcomes- is that of someone trying to put the circular block in the square hole. Conservatives are better than that.