I was raised in a staunchly Republican household. My father worked for Richard Nixon’s election in his first run for the presidency against John F. Kennedy. Sometime during Kennedy’s administration, I started to think for myself, and I decided the tenets of the Democratic party more closely resembled those I believed in.
The tenets of conservatism consist of individual autonomy; society is based on the individual and primarily motivated by self interest. Implied is political equality, protection of individual rights, respect for individual choices, and using reason in making decisions. Religious toleration, popular sovereignty and consent, representative government, private property rights are key. Our Constitution acts as protection to the people and their unalienable rights.
Some folks say “our Constitution is not just a document to design the government.” I disagree. The Constitution is a document designed to do exactly that. It was conceived and written for that precise purpose – to form a government that would guarantee the rights we talked about above to the people – all the people – including those at the margins of society.
This Constitution was written because all the separate states in the Confederation of American States wanted to do their own thing – and it wasn’t working. The only purpose of the national government was to represent the states internationally. There was no president, judiciary, executive agencies or tax base. The only way the national government had of paying off the Revolutionary War debt was by asking the states for money, and they rarely remitted any.
Throughout the history of this country there has been a good and proper tension between the Federal government and the individual states, and basically economics is at the root of the tension – who gets to decide who to tax and who gets to decide how to spend those taxes. Our taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society – a society that takes care of those who are unable to take care of themselves. Fortunately we have a Federal government that will ensure all of the people are treated fairly if the states and individuals fail in their duties.
As my aunt used to say “People are no damned good!” Left to their own devices, people are mean, chauvinistic, and selfish. Without the government to fairly and equitably distribute justice and privileges, the people at the margins – unemployed/underemployed, handicapped, children, LGBT folks, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, elderly would fare very poorly.
The spending the government does is only what is necessary to keep the country running. I, personally, do not want to be responsible for raising a military, or providing the civilized benefits of national museums, national parks, educational opportunities, and response to natural disasters.
Tell me which 90-year-old widow you want to deny health care to.
Tell me which baby you want to keep food and housing from.
Tell me which soldier or sailor you want to leave without enough money to feed her family.
Tell me which college student you want to disapprove a loan for.
Tell me which unemployed 45-year-old college graduate you want to deny bare subsistence support to.
Your taxes and my taxes are the way we take care of those members of society who are unable to take care of themselves. They are what make us civilized.