Can We All Get Along?
Sean Evans, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science
Mar 1, 2013
As we face another budgetary crisis through ideological conflict, many Americans ask, a la Rodney King, “Why can’t we all get along?” The simple answer is that we argue because we have differing assumptions about the world, and ask questions that lack overlapping answers.
Conservatives believe in ordered liberty or freedom with decency, as people are free to live as they wish but must exercise self-restraint. When we live a free and decent life, each person can fully meet one’s potential, which promotes human dignity.
In politics, conservatives are less concerned with the size of the state and more interested in finding the proper balance between government and citizens, and ensuring government policy works with, not against, our selfish nature. Naturally, conservatives seek to maintain a free and decent society against the forces of decline.
Liberals see government spending alleviating the oppressed, and believe we should fund the welfare state at whatever cost to achieve that. Therefore, if we cut government spending, we further oppression, which is evil. This explains liberals’ tax position and unwillingness to discuss meaningful entitlement reform. The problem is, we have an unaffordable social safety net, and failure to reform it means liberals will hurt those who need it the most.
Conservatives see the debt and deficit as a result of our “anything goes, me-first” society and fear we are bankrupting the nation while the entitlement society saps individual initiative. This combination will make future generations worse off, unless we act now. Therefore, conservatives see reducing and reforming the welfare state as essential to American survival and see liberal attempts at social engineering as well-meaning but ultimately foolish.
This column originally appeared in the March 1 edition of The Jackson Sun