Change we can believe in

Obama came into office on a wave of hope and change. Liberalism/progressivism is characteristically associated with change, while conservativism is associated with blocking change, or slowing down change, or, more positively, promoting tradition, especially in the sense of traditions as they relate to the founding principles of liberty, free speech, limited government, individual rights, self-responsibility, etc.

As Jan Narveson wrote about in his book, The Libertarian Idea, there has to be more to this issue of “change”, because surely all change is not necessarily good, nor is all change necessarily bad. Dropping the cartoonish distinctions between modern liberals and conservatives for minute, let’s look at change from a different angle.

Most people who still retain a healthy respect for our Constitution would agree that changing the restrictions in the Constitution and giving the State more control over our lives than the Founders intended, and the Bill of Rights supports, is bad. So it’s safe to say the Constitution and the rule of law provide the parameters in which change can take place. Considering change from this angle alters the perception of resisting change simply as preserving the past– change can be desired, and happen, within the Constitutional parameters which protect our individual rights. 

The minimal-state, libertarian position is that once the parameters are set then change is limitless, and this is how I understand the intentions of the Founders. Going back to conservatives and modern liberals/progressives, what we’ve experienced lately is that the progressives are attempting to change the parameters, and this is not the type of change, I don’t think, that many who voted for Obama had in mind — but it’s becoming apparent that it is the type of change that progressive supporters had in mind. Obama clearly won the independent vote, but many, if not most, of these independents didn’t understand what hope and change means to Obama and his progressives supporters, many of the supportes in congress and prominent government positions.

The conservatives are right to resist this type of change — however, conservatives are being challenged to refrain from relying on state power to resist changes in society, based on moral preferences, which are within the proper parameters. This type of resistance to societal change, based on morals, has turned off a large part of the public which are socially liberal. This doesn’t mean that morals have no place in public discourse, just not in legislation — there are plenty of private forums to work out moral issues, but modern society has grown beyond moral enforcement.

The conservatives are building the right position by resisting government over-reach and promoting the free market — now they need to understand the importance of civil liberties and the moral space free people need in order to change and grow, become responsible and work out their own spiritual path (“spiritual” meant in the broadest sense of the word). This is where a libertarian-conservative alliance can take place to roll back progressive madness and return America to prosperity, charity, liberty and opportunity for everyone.

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