Explaining Conservatism By DENNIS PRAGER for The Stream
There are a number of reasons many young people shy away from conservatism.
The most obvious is that they have been exposed only to left-wing values — from elementary school through graduate school, in the movies, on television, on social media and now even at Disneyland.
Less obvious but equally significant is that they have never been properly exposed to conservative values. Since at least the World War II generation, most parents who held conservative values either did not think they had to teach their children those values or simply did not know how to do so. Most still don’t. If asked to define conservative values, most conservatives will be tongue-tied.
In light of this, I present here, and in subsequent columns, a list of conservatism’s defining characteristics.
We will begin with the most important conservative value — liberty.
A Primary Value of the American Experiment
Conservatives believe in individual liberty (there is no liberty other than individual liberty). It has been the primary value of the American experiment. While many countries include the word “liberty” in their national mottoes and national anthems, no country has so emphasized liberty as has America.
That is why:
- The French designers of the Statue of Liberty gave the statue to America.
- The iconic symbol of America is the Liberty Bell.
- The one inscription on the Liberty Bell is a verse about liberty from the Book of Leviticus: “And you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”
- Americans sing of their country as “the land of the free” and “sweet land of liberty.”
- Until recently, every American schoolchild knew by heart Patrick Henry’s cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
- Chinese young people who protested the Communist takeover of Hong Kong waved the American flag.
Bigger Government, Smaller Liberty
And that is why America’s founders were adamant that the state — the national government — be as small, as limited, as possible. The bigger the government, the smaller the liberty. Big government and big liberty are mutually exclusive.
Moreover, liberty is not the only victim of big government. Human life is also a victim. Every genocide of the 20th century, the century of genocide, was committed by big government. Without big government, one hundred million people would not and could not have been slaughtered, and a billion more would not and could not have been enslaved. (There was one exception: the Hutu genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, which was tribal in nature. Tribal culture, like left-wing culture, emphasizes the group over the individual.)