One of the most enduring images from the GOP convention in Tampa was when Paul Ryan said: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
Then there was Mitt Romney’s hidden camera riff about the 47% who will vote for Obama no matter what because they want everything for free, pay no income tax, and see themselves as victims.
These two images get to the essence of what really separates Liberals from Conservatives, not just in the US, but also around the globe. It also gives me an opportunity to make a philosophical point, which ought to be a central theme in conservatism today and ought to be front and center in Mitt Romney’s campaign: The Federal Government must never be the safety net!
Liberals and Government:
Liberals view government as their parent. Accordingly, they want a really cool parent. One that lets them live in the basement indefinitely, buys and cooks the food, does the laundry, pays the bills, gives them a free cell phone, and takes care of them when they are sick. A cool parent asks no questions and makes no demands. A cool parent wouldn’t care if you smoked weed in the basement, slept until noon, played video games all night, had frequent wild parties, and blasted loud music. Really cool parents wouldn’t mind your alternative lifestyle because it would just enhance their own coolness! They might even remodel the basement for you, put on an addition, and add a private entrance to make you totally comfortable living there. Really cool parents are awesome, no? In fact they are so awesome, why would you ever leave the basement?
And there’s the rub; you wouldn’t. You would happily live the decadent life of a dependent mooch in your parent’s basement where you would obtain none of the habits or skills to ever be independent or make a positive contribution to society. Then one day your parents or the money would disappear, and you would be one angry helpless slacker living in a dark basement that the bank wants to repossess.
This is why socialism eventually fails wherever and whenever it is tried. Sure, it might take a few generations to breed all the success traits out of the population, but eventually that will happen and the society will crumble.
Conservatives and Government:
Conservatives don’t view government as their parents, don’t want to be dependents living in anyone’s basement, don’t care if their government is cool, and are not afraid of being independent. That does not mean Conservatives reject all government. On the contrary, Conservatives understand that for them to be free they need strong federal and state governments. But conservatives want a federal government that only does the things no other entity can, like defense, lawmaking, judiciary, money, foreign relations, and taxing. All the other things, like taking care of dependents, healthcare, education, retirement, and free cell phones, should be done by the states, individuals, families, non-government organizations, religious groups, and private companies. These are the fibers which weave together to form a resilient society. The States and the society must provide the safety net, not the federal government, and for good reason.
The federal government is unique in that it alone can print money! This sets up a classic conflict of interest. This is why the federal government must never be the safety net. Keeping these entitlements and safety net items out of the federal sphere is the only way to insure that the voters don’t ever have the power to vote themselves free money and “rights” which belong to other generations. Thus, the states and non-government society are in a better position to honestly provide a sustainable safety net. I wish this philosophy was front and center in Mitt Romney’s campaign.
Incidentally, this is the way the country was laid out in The Constitution. Those founding parents may not have been “cool” but they sure were smart.
Here’s what it looks like when the process is complete:
The 2012 race in a nutshell: