My son, a freshman, wrote a paper for college. To see my 19-year-old son have such a cogent argument for a principled life, it gives me great joy and pride. Here it is:Conservatism: The Right Way
The purpose of American government ought to be explained simply by any citizen. Unfortunately, simplicity does not come close to describing what the United States government has become. A debate has arisen between those who believe in a large and interfering government and those who believe, like our founding fathers, in a limited and withdrawn government. The first of those opposing viewpoints can be described as modern liberals and the second as conservatives. Only one of those sides is right, and in more ways than one. Conservative principles, such as limited government, deregulation, lower taxes, and liberty, help America by promoting business (economy) and independence (self-determination).
The United States constitution itself was founded on principles of limited government. A system of checks and balances was established in order to keep the government from gaining too much power. Conservatives know that by supporting a limited government they ensure that their freedoms do not become limited as well. Conservative talk radio host, Jason Lewis, says, “Because government has the force of law, it must be limited.” The dirty little secret of government is that in order to maintain stability, an individual must sacrifice a few freedoms. The conservative thought is that the fewer freedoms that must be limited, the better.
Government increases its footprint on our lives by increasing what it spends, often in the name of aiding its people. Spending continues to skyrocket despite an ever increasing march toward greater and greater deficits. Spending has increased in years past primarily due to government programs and intervention in the private sector. Programs like Medicaid, social security, and Medicare guarantee people benefits if they meet certain criteria. The spending for these government entities, known as entitlement programs, is over sixty percent of our federal budget, which is in the trillions of dollars (“Why entitlements…” 79). There are several inherent problems with these programs. They encourage financial dependence on government funding which makes the rest of the American public responsible for paying the bill on other people’s expenses. The idea of less government spending is most commonly known as fiscal conservatism.
The government pays for these excessive programs by acquiring revenue through taxation and by borrowing. Conservatives favor a tax reduction not just for the upper tiers of income earners but for everyone. In stark contrast, liberal politicians promote raising taxes on American businesses and those who earn high income. Those who favor higher taxes tell people that they do so in the interest of fairness, however very little is fair in a progressive system where the top twenty-five percent of income earners in the United States pay nearly eighty-six percent of the taxes. The bottom fifty percent of income earners in the United States pay only three percent of the tax burden (Ahern). These little known facts disprove the idea the "rich" escape taxation. Rather, it's the poor and the middle class who escape taxation today.
Another misguided excuse to raise taxes is in the name of raising tax revenue for government spending. However, history shows that the opposite is true. During the three major periods of income tax reductions in United States history, the 1920’s, 1960’s, and 1980’s, tax revenues actually increased dramatically (Mitchell). Ronald Reagan took office as President of the United States in the early 1980’s and cut the top tax rate from seventy percent to twenty-eight percent. By the end of his two terms, not only did the United States experience the longest period of peacetime growth in history, but tax revenues increased by fifty-four percent (Mitchell). High tax rates discourage investment in taxable ventures and encourage people to invest in non-taxable avenues, of which there are few. When the tax rates are lower, those who are rich invest in taxable ventures like the stock market and small business, which expedites business growth and thereby job creation. If these lessons of the past show anything, it is that lower taxes provide much more government revenue. Conservatives believe, based on history, that lower taxation on all levels provides incentives for investment, wealth and opportunity, and relief for all Americans.
Fiscal conservatives also believe that government should play a near-invisible role in the private sector and let the free-market dictate itself. America achieved greatness not through government intervention in the economy, but through capitalism. Several members of the Centre for Economic and Financial Research note that entrance to the business world is much easier and economic growth more abundant when regulation is less strict (Yakovlev 26). Along with lower taxation, the deregulation of specific markets can have a profound impact on small businesses in those markets. When it comes to the regulation of our markets, liberals believe that more government involvement in the economy is best. However, conservatives know that American entrepreneurs work best when uninhibited and when the market determines value among competitive enterprises. Government intervention usually delays the necessary and healthy revision of poorly-run businesses that struggle to achieve a profit.
The abundance of market regulation also leads to less competitive American business in a global economy. By increasing the amount of law and regulation, the government is essentially dissuading companies from establishing themselves in the United States. “Governments can boost competitiveness through the absence of burdensome regulations and lowering taxes,” said United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to a group at the Conference on Productivity and Competitiveness in Santa Marta, Columbia (5). This boost in competitiveness would entice business not to go overseas but to stay in the United States.
Conservatism holds the protection of our liberties above all else. The freedom of speech and second amendment rights are just a few of the freedoms for which conservatives have fought hardest.
Freedom of speech is essential to the survival of democracy in the United States. There have been movements recently to limit this basic right that Americans have. People have been trying to limit the amount of time that one political viewpoint can have on the radio in the interest of fairness. This regulation, commonly known as the Fairness Doctrine, is in direct conflict with the freedom of speech. Anytime the freedom of speech is limited it may lead to suppression in other areas.
Another current debate is that of gun control. The Bill of Rights tells United States citizens that they have the right to bear arms. There are understandable limitations on where and when people are allowed to carry firearms. It is when the government tries to limit the ownership of guns that it becomes unconstitutional. Thomas Jefferson said it best when he said, “What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms” (United Liberty Staff). The revolution was based on a civilian militia and that is why the Founding Fathers decided to place this right only below the freedom of speech, religion, and the press.
The United States was founded in order to escape the oppression of a large and intervening government. When government is limited, history amply shows that business and the individual benefit. Conservatives agree that of upholding the practices of the constitution and preserving individual liberties is the most important task before us today. Conservatism is not just a distinction between the political views of the right and the left it is a question about what is right and wrong for this country and its people, and clearly conservatism is the right way.