Month: April 2017

Limited government is still worth fighting for

Henry David Thoreau opened his pamphlet “Civil Disobedience” with a quote he attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs least.” Although there’s no record of Jefferson actually saying or writing those words, they were adopted by generations of conservatives as a motto to succinctly explain our view about the limited roles and responsibilities of government. That view has been under attack since its very beginning, however, and a recent survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that conservatives have been steadily losing ground. “As Congress faces an April 28 deadline to fund government operations, the public is now split in their general preferences on the size and scope of government,” wrote the report’s authors. They added, “48% say they would rather have a bigger government providing more services, while 45% prefer a smaller government providing fewer services.” While this news doesn’t necessarily signal the beginning of the end, it is indeed cause for alarm. Because even though past generations preferred smaller government, they still allowed it to grow well beyond its means. Imagine what will happen now that growth is an actual preference. Some moderate conservatives have even gone so far as to recommend that we surrender and accept big government as a permanent political fact, then simply offer ourselves as the best people to run the system. But they have forgotten – and many Americans have obviously never known – why conservatives prefer limited government in the first place. Limited government is more of a process…

We must protect speech, even ‘hate’ speech

Alabamians should be quite proud of the substantial progress that our state has made on the issue of racism. Last Tuesday night, a speech was given at Auburn University by a man who proclaims to be "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States." His speech was called ignorant, extremist, and racist, and the tension it created caused the talk to be covered by national and even international media. It was cancelled by school administrators, a federal court weighed-in, an order was issued, and dueling demonstrations ensued. There were even a couple of nasty fist fights. But if that same speech would have been delivered six decades ago, at the same location, it would have been called ... Tuesday night. Nobody would have noticed. Campus life would have moved along as if nothing controversial was being spoken inside that nondescript university building, and not a single reporter would have wasted their time covering something so commonplace as a little-known racist saying racists things somewhere in Alabama. That's undeniable progress, so good on you, Heart of Dixie. On the other hand, the fact that so many people did notice - and moreover, that they responded so poorly - does present the millennial generation with an entirely different yet equally insidious threat to their freedoms: censorship. Here's how it went down: earlier this month Auburn University announced that it was cancelling a speech scheduled to be delivered on campus by Richard Spencer, the aforementioned…

Should conservatives care when politicians commit adultery?

One glaring distinction between conservatism and liberalism is that conservatives believe there is usually a clear right and wrong on most social questions, or at the very least a more virtuous way to behave in difficult situations. Whether at first glance or after careful study, we find very few actual gray areas in our mostly black and white world. In fact, Russell Kirk considered this understanding to be our movement's initial principle. "First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order," Kirk wrote in his famous summation of conservatism. "That order is made for man, and man made for it; human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent." Loyalty. Fidelity. Honesty. These are but a few virtues found within this enduring moral order. While some may cast them aside as relics of a puritan past, we are governed by them no less than our ancestors were. For who wants to be betrayed, cheated upon, or lied to? As Kirk said, they are permanent, and we cannot change them no more than we can change human nature itself. When we ignore them, or worse, accept their opposite as a fact of life, we take a chisel to the foundation of society and chip away a bit of something very important. That's why it's extremely disheartening to read that most Republicans suddenly don't care if our president cheated on his wife. And to add insult to injury, it appears that Democrats have taken the high-ground on the matter.…

Conservatism accepts that some speech must be censored

Soon after the 18-century lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson compiled the first dictionary of the English language, he received visits from many prominent groups at his Fleet Street home to congratulate him upon the achievement. One such delegation was said to represent the respectable ladies of London. “Dr. Johnson,” they said. “We are delighted to find that you have not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.” “Ladies,” Johnson replied. “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.” When the late Christopher Hitchens recounted that story during a 2007 lecture opposing censorship, he was getting at this: there’s something a bit peculiar about one adult using the power of government to limit what another adult writes, reads, or in the modern sense, watches. The human instinct to censor goes far beyond harmless “indecent or obscene” words, of course, and stretches to cover nearly all forms of human thought: artistic, political, and especially religious. Censorship abounds globally and is strongly accepted, even popular, in most societies, even in the West. Not so much in the United States, though. We tend to believe that we’re grown-up enough to decide for ourselves what to read and watch, except for those who haven’t, in fact, grown up. Here, we believe that children are the only ones who should be protected from certain aspects of free speech until they can discern its usage for themselves as mature, or at least legal, adults. Even someone as zealous for the First Amendment as Hitchens…