A List of What Conservatives Believe (according to Glenn Beck)

Glenn Beck is a silly person, so ordinarily I wouldn’t comment on anything he says. However, today he generated a list today of what conservatives believe to which I cannot help but respond. 

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights do not include housing, healthcare or Hummers. Hummers are not necessities. In fact, they are harmful to society. They should be banned. Shelter and medicine are necessities, therefore they are inalienable rights and should be available to all citizens. The rights to food, shelter, medicine, and education flow from the organic rights enumerated in the Declaration of the Independence and the mission of the US government as listed in the Preamble of the US Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights DO include the pursuit of happiness. That means it is guaranteed to no one. Of course, the government cannot guarantee happiness. But it is required to maintain the conditions under which happiness is possible for every citizen. A right means it’s guaranteed. Therefore, the right to pursue happiness is a guarantee.

A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that success. This statement falsely substitutes the word “success” for the word “happiness.” An honest statement would read: “A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that happiness.” Who doesn’t agree with that? But what is at issue with the application of the right to pursue happiness is whether one person has the right to pursue happiness at the expense of other persons. The answer to that question is clearly no, since rights apply to everybody. What Beck wants to say is that those members of the social classes that organize the exploitation of the working class should not be taxed. This is indeed what many conservatives believe, and it’s what makes their politics so elitist and despicable.

A conservative believes that there are no protections against the hardship and heartache of failure. We believe that the right to fail is just as important as the chance to succeed and that those who do fail learn essential lessons that will help them the next time around. There is no right to fail in any document underpinning American civilization. Neither is there one found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beck is misusing the language of rights.

A conservative believes in personal responsibility and accepts the consequences for his or her words and actions. Everybody, whether socialist, liberal, or conservative, believes this. This isn’t a conservative belief, but a basic belief humans have held since time immemorial.

A conservative believes that real compassion can’t be found in any government program. If the government feeds a child who will otherwise go hungry, then real compassion is manifest. Beck finds virtue in a little girl’s government failing to look after her. That’s not conservatism. That’s social Darwinism of the rankest sort.

A conservative believes that each of us has a duty to take care of our neighbors. It was private individuals, companies and congregations that sent water, blankets and supplies to New Orleans far before the government ever set foot there. Right, because the government failed to meet it obligations to citizens living in New Orleans. The government represents its citizens. The government is the citizens’ instrument for taking care of the citizenry. Just as the government serves the interests of national security, it serves the interests of domestic security, and nothing is more central to domestic security that addressing catastrophe at home. Therefore, the duty that each of us have to take care of our neighbors—a duty only nihilists refuse to recognize—rightly occurs through the government. 

A conservative believes that family is the cornerstone of our society and that people have a right to manage their family any way they see fit, so long as it’s not criminal. We are far more attuned to our family’s needs than some faceless, soulless government program. This is not a conservative idea. Neither is it a liberal idea that the government should play some role in facilitating the optimal socialization of children. Conservatives are big on intervention of this sort. I call hypocrisy.

A conservative believes that people have a right to worship the God of their understanding. We also believe that people do not have the right to jam their version of God (or no God) down anybody else’s throat. This is a liberal idea.

A conservative believes that people go to the movies to be entertained and to church to be preached to, not the other way around. So what are conservatives going to do about it? Regulate Hollywood and the black church?

A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence. Who doesn’t believe this—outside of the bankers who encourage and compel debt?

A conservative believes that a child’s education is the responsibility of the parents, not the government. In other words, conservatives oppose public education. But the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require an adequate education, and the only way to ensure this to everybody is through public education. So either Beck doesn’t believe in realizing organic rights in this country or he doesn’t understand the implication of his own arguments.

A conservative believes that every human being has a right to life, from conception to death. Or, to put this another way, the conservative believes that the government should have the power to commandeer a woman’s body and force her to bear children. Of course, the conservative also believes in strapping a man to a cross-shaped gurney and pouring poison into his veins until he dies. 

A conservative believes in the smallest government you can get without anarchy. We know our history: The larger a government gets, the harder it will fall. For neither conservatives nor liberals is it ever a question of the size of government, but always what the government does and for whom it does it.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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