What Conservatism Must Conserve
As we stand on the verge of Democrats taking control of the federal government, and as emboldened leftists across media, politics, punditry, and the general population seek to silence and punish conservatives -- even going so far as to draft legislation that would criminalize the political rallies of their opponents -- it seems a good time to take a step back and remind everyone what exactly conservatism is trying to conserve -- or should be conserving.
Conservatism must conserve the Constitution. The United States of America is not a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. As the young United States was floundering under the weak Articles of Confederation, Founding Fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and Fisher Ames knew well that in order to “preserve the Union” and to protect liberty, a sound Constitution was required.
Among many other magnificent things, in order to provide for a unique “Union” of a variety of states, the Constitution represents a brilliant compromise between large states and small states on balanced representation in Congress and the manner in which the President is chosen. Among many other magnificent things, the Bill of Rights protects religion, speech, assembly, and the right to bear arms. The Constitution is the world’s most enduring charter of government. In 1878, William Gladstone rightly described our Constitution as “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
Conservatism must conserve law and order. “States are laboratories for democracy,” we are told. Of course, under federalism, this would be the case with local governments as well, especially large cities. The most repeated and verified political experiment in U.S. history is this: via liberalism, or leftism -- whatever you want to call it -- Democrats have turned American cities into some of the most dangerous, dirty, and lawless places in the world.
Under authoritarianism -- the ultimate goal for American leftists -- the regime is the law. For American colonists languishing under the British Monarchy, this would be translated as “the King is the law.” As Thomas Paine put it in Common Sense, “In America, the law is king.” And the “supreme Law of the Land” in America is the U.S. Constitution. If the law is ignored, if the Constitution is ignored, chaos reigns -- borders are dangerously porous, the police are reviled, buildings are burned, businesses are looted, elections are corrupt, and so on.
Conservatism must conserve capitalism. The U.S. has long been the world’s leading economic power. Nothing contrived by man is more responsible for this than capitalism. Likewise, no other economic system the world over has done more to lift people out of poverty than capitalism. As history has clearly demonstrated, no economic system has proven better than the free-market economics touted by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.
Published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations had an almost immediate impact on government financial policy worldwide and is considered by many to be the most important treatise on economics ever written. Smith’s seminal work was enthusiastically embraced by America’s Founding Fathers, and thus capitalism in America was born. Walmart, Ford, Exxon, IBM, CVS, AT&T, Kroger, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and the like all owe their existence to American capitalism. Not one of these companies would exist as they do today without hopeful investors seeking a profitable return -- even Jeff Bezos went to such with his hat in his hand -- and without customers operating in a free market.
Conservatism must conserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. Marriage is the oldest institution in the history of humanity -- older than God's covenant with the nation of Israel, older than the Law, older than the church. Marriage is one of the earliest truths revealed by God. If anything is true, marriage as the union of one man and one woman is true. On this, there can never be compromise.
Married mothers and fathers are the foundation of every sound society the world has ever known. No law written by human beings should ever subvert this ancient and foundational institution. President Ronald Reagan summed it up well when he noted, “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society… in the family we learn our first lessons of God and man, love and discipline, rights and responsibilities… the strength of our families is vital to the strength of our nation.”
Conservatism must conserve life. From America’s beginning, it was clear that the “right to life” was considered “unalienable” by America’s Founders. In other words, this right is conferred upon us by our Creator, and any effort to take this away -- no matter the stage of life -- is a struggle against the One who made us all and His eternal Law.
The plight of the unborn is the greatest civil rights battle of all time. Any person who refuses to protect the most innocent and helpless among us should never be placed in a position of power in any nation, but this should especially be the case in the United States of America.
Above all, conservatism must conserve that we are “one nation under God.” Conservatism must conserve the idea that there is a God who created all things, who is the Author of all life, who is the Lawgiver, the ultimate Arbiter for what is moral, the final Judge, the Savior of all humanity, and the One to whom we owe our ultimate and final allegiance. Because all law is rooted in someone’s idea of what is moral, conservatives must reject the foolish notion that we should not “legislate morality.”
If conservatism seeks to conserve anything, it is those things that have been settled for all time. If conservatism seeks to conserve anything, it is the idea that there is an Author of truth and that the laws of mankind and all good government must be rooted in His Law. If we want our nation to endure as our Founders envisioned it, these things must be conserved.
Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith and Reason.