Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why I'm Conservative

Surprise! Seattle is not the most liberal city in the nation. Turns out San Francisco and Washington D.C.  beat Seattle out. Well, not much surprise there. But what I was more interested in, and the one thing the article did not explain, was how “liberal” was defined.    

               I suppose most off us, no matter whether we call ourselves liberal or conservative, have some idea what we mean. Or do we? I confess I’ve simply gone on gut reaction; I’m for some things and against others. But do I have a rationale?  Maybe. 

               I am a Conservative by politics, but I’m first of all conservative. By that I mean I believe in keeping what has been proven good.  I am not adverse to considering a new idea.  But I lean toward skepticism until an idea is tested. 

               For example, one of the hot topics today is the minimum wage. Liberals, especially in Seattle, advocate raising the minimum wage to a living wage, something in the range of $15 an hour rather than the current $9.47. The argument is that many people who now struggle to get by will benefit. The argument against is that many of those low wage earners will lose their jobs and prices will rise. Both sides put forth reasoned arguments. Neither has good really data to support their argument. So I if I err I err toward the conservative.  I certainly would like to see adults  earn a living wage. I doubt there are any Conservatives who want to keep people poor. But would raising the minimum wage this dramatically actually benefit the poor? And what would the unintended consequences be? So if I must vote, I resist the untried solution and lean toward something more conservative. 

               Another of the hot topics is gun control.  The impetus for more control is the increase in gun violence. The Liberal take is that reducing the numbers of guns will reduce gun deaths. And that seems a no brainer. If no one had guns, there would be no guns used to kill people. But I wonder. Would that even be possible?  It would only work if all guns were removed from private ownership, and we should be intelligent enough to recognize that would create a general revolt and a refusal by many to obey the law.  That would be a pretty high price to pay for an untried and ill-advised  change in our culture.

               I grew up on the conservative east side of Washington. Nearly everyone had a gun. Kids had guns. I had a gun when I was eleven. Yet there were no mass murders. No one walked into any school in my part of the country and shot up the place. And as far as I can determine, that was true through our history. So I’m skeptical that we’ve identified the root cause of gun violence.  Is it really guns, or is it something else? And being skeptical of this new idea,  I lean strongly toward the wisdom of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States:  American citizens have the right to bear arms.

               But I am not a rabid anti-gun control fringy. I believe that keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals makes perfect sense. I also believe some guns, such as military style weapons, should be carefully and closely controlled.  I suppose that would put me in the crosshairs of the NRA (sorry for the metaphor), but it seems reasonable. And I wonder why that is not possible without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. 

               The tried and true wisdom of the past, of course, did not begin with the fathers of our nation. To a very large degree it is based on values that date back many centuries to the roots of our Judeo-Christian culture. The prototypes of many of our laws are found in the texts of the ancient Hebrews. Our welfare system, for example, has its origin in the laws God gave through Moses to Israel where farmers were to leave a part of their fields unharvested so that the poor could glean. In fact,  the principle that people are personally responsible to help those in need is absolutely biblical. Those values transformed cultures throughout our history as Christianity became the religion of Europe.  

               So, being conservative, and given the proven benefits of those values, I consider them worth conserving. 

               Among those values is a very high regard for human life. The Bible, for example, holds human life so sacred that the price for unlawfully taking a life was death. So when it comes to the issue of abortion or euthanasia, I lean toward the proven values. 

               I am realistic enough, however, to recognize that life is complicated and there are seldom absolute blacks and whites. There are times when we must choose between two evils. Lying, for example, is wrong, but if lying saves a life, saving the life is a greater good. Taking a life is wrong. But sometimes, as with medical abortion, taking one life to save another may be justified, though a particularly difficult decision to make. 

               But abortion for lesser reasons violates the principle that human life is to be held sacred.
               History has demonstrated that principle wise. The Roman practice was to expose unwanted babies to the elements until they died. The result was the depreciation all life, and Rome descended into a barbarism that we have a hard time comprehending, things such as the  blood games of the coliseum where the crowd cheered as others died for their pleasure. I wonder. Do we want that? Maybe that really is why guns have become so lethal in our modern American culture. Maybe we have lost any sense of the value of human life, so it is very easy to take the life of another. Maybe.

                As a conservative I lean strongly toward holding very high the value of life. 

               I also believe on the basis of the tried and true values of our biblical heritage that personal responsibility is better than legally enforced behavior.  There are times, of course, when we fail as people to be responsible. For example, there are times when big business operates far too much on the principle of making money and disregards the responsibility it has of providing a product that is worth the price charged and of paying employees a just wage. When that happens, I believe that we do have the responsibility to require responsible business practices. I don’t believe in pandering to big business. 

               But I am slow to come to the place of condemning business or businessmen.  

               And I am very slow coming to the philosophy of income equality so popular in Liberal circles.  I believe it is the possibility of improving in life that is the motivation for effort. I believe we reap what we sow, and that effort and ingenuity is rewarded and the failure of effort should not be. That has proven wise by the immigrants, including my ancestors, who came to America, worked very hard, and rose in a generation or two to be leaders in every level of society. It is proven today by the new wave of immigrants who might begin as laborers but who are already rising to be business owners and leaders in government. So I am conservative. 

               I am sure Liberals have a rationale for their position on these issues.  I would be interested in hearing.  But as much as I have been able to understand their philosophy I have not been persuaded that I should toss the tested values of the past. But, of course, that is what makes me conservative.

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