I was asked that on Twitter today, and while my answer is short, it’s too long for Twitter, so here goes.
The shortest possible answer I can come up with is this: Belief in individual freedom and responsibility, the U.S. Constitution and Amendments, and particularly the Bill of Rights.
Obviously, that’s defined from an American perspective, but hey, I’m an American.
That’s really all there is to it, but if you want more details, read on. (I won’t blather on as much as I normally do, I promise!)
I’m both a social conservative and a fiscal conservative, but I lean towards fiscal issues more than social issues. I think you can find the answer to just about any political question from the belief statement above.
Q: What about gay marriage?
A: I don’t see anything about marriage in the U.S. Constitution. To me, that means that the federal government should not be in the marriage business. I’m Catholic, and gay marriage would certainly be prohibited by my church. But, if you belong to a church where it’s considered acceptable, then you should listen to your heart and to your church.
Q: What about national healthcare?
A: I think Article I & II, and the Ninth and Tenth Amendment pretty clearly lay out the powers of the Legislative and Executive branches. I don’t see it listed there.
Q: So, you don’t believe in social programs at all? I always knew you cons were selfish.
A: See above, under personal liberty and personal responsibility. I do believe that the government should promote these wherever possible. If a given social program can be shown to enhance personal liberty and personal responsibility, then I’m all for it. Otherwise, no. An example might be a jobs training program. I think you could argue that the Eisenhower interstate system enhances personal liberty, by promoting ease of travel as well, and providing jobs that create useful infrastructure. That might be a stretch, and I’m certainly not going to say that all interstate dollars have been well spent. But no, I’m against limitless unemployment benefits, for example. Those detract from both personal liberty and personal responsibility.
Q: Ohhh…you’re one of those “small government types”. Is there any government program you do like?
A: The answer to that appears in the preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Q: So, you believe in the preamble, huh? I guess that means national defense is ok, but what about “promoting the general welfare”? Isn’t that a social program?
A: No, I do believe in the general welfare clause. I think it’s been stretched beyond meaning, but what I said about social, and even economic, programs that expand personal liberty and personal responsibility still applies.
Q: What about President G.W. Bush’s (R-USA) wire taps?
A: See the 4th Amendment. Bush exceeded his authority here. I don’t have a problem with wiretaps as long as they follow the legal procedures set up for them.
Q: Are you sure you’re not a libertarian? You sound more like a libertarian than a conservative to me.
A: I’m close to a “small-L” libertarian, but nowhere near a “big-L” one. It’s a grey area, but I think libertarians tend to desire a government that is too small to be workable. I want a small government, but one that’s big enough to carry out its primary duties. Also, I think libertarians take the “personal liberty” idea to extreme. Giving up national security to enhance personal liberty won’t result in expanded personal liberty for very long. I’m very much a believer in “original intent”, and a strong believer in the 9th and 10th amendments. Some people call this a federalist, even though it was called being an anti-federalist in the 1800s (someday I really need to blog about that). I prefer Constitutionalist. If you want to say that I’m not really a conservative, I’m a Constitutionalist, I won’t be hurt by that.
Q: Uh huh. What are the “primary duties”?
A: Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense…
Q: Fine, so you can handle some of the bigger issues, but what about changes in the times and the technology that goes with it? What about businesses that want to look at your e-mails, or cops that want to examine your cell phones?
A: This whole “living constitution” idea is crazy. The founders were pretty smart. They didn’t have to know about cell phones or email. All they had to know about was what was right and what was wrong. The 4th Amendment covers this. Although I would say that if you’re working for a company and using company e-mail, you should remember that it is the company’s e-mail. And that anything you use it for belongs to them. Personal e-mail is a different story altogether.I’m sorry, I did blather on as much as usual. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s not the soul of me.