Why Conservatism’s Most Important Value Is Liberty

Many young people are reluctant to embrace conservatism for a variety of reasons.

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.

They have not been properly exposed to conservative values, which is less obvious but equally important. Most conservative parents have not taught their children these values since at least the World War II era.

Most still don’t. Most conservatives will not be able to define conservative values if they are asked.

In light of this, I present here, and in subsequent columns, a list of conservatism’s defining characteristics.

We will start with the most important conservative value, liberty.

Conservatives believe in individual freedom. (There is no liberty without individual liberty. It has been the main 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’s why:

  • The Statue of Liberty was donated to America by the French designers.
  • The Liberty Bell is America’s iconic symbol.
  • 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 America schoolchild knew by heart Patrick Henry’s cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
  • Chinese youth protesting the Communist takeover of Hong Kong waved American flags

And that is why America’s Founders were adamant that the state—the national government—be as small, as limited, as possible. The smaller the government, and the greater the liberty, the better. Big government and large liberty are mutually exclusive.

Liberty is not the only one who is a victim of big government. Human life is also a victim. Big government was responsible in every genocide of the 20th Century, the century that saw genocide. Without big government, 100,000,000 people would not have been killed and a billion more wouldn’t have been enslaved. One exception was the Hutu genocide in Rwanda of Tutsis, which was tribal in its nature. Tribal culture, just like left-wing cultures, emphasizes the group over individual.

To limit the size of the national government and its power, the founders delegated most of the governmental powers the states. The Constitution outlines the powers of the national government and asserts that all other powers should be delegated to the States. In addition, they increased the power of the states by having presidential elections decided by the states—the Electoral College—rather than by the popular national vote, and by how they structured the Senate, one of the two branches of Congress. They ensured that every state was represented equally in the Senate, regardless how small its population.

The Left’s opposition to the Electoral College and to the Senate makes perfect sense. It’s the power inherent in big government, not liberty, that animates the Left. Every left-wing party or movement has had one thing in common: an ever larger and more powerful government.

Liberty is a liberal as well as conservative value. But it has never been left-wing. Liberty cannot be a left-wing value because the more liberty an individual has, the less power the government holds. The reverse is true: the weaker state, the weaker Left.

This is especially true for free speech, which is the greatest liberty.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental conservative principle, and it has always been a fundamental liberal principle. It has never been a Left-wing value. For that reason, everywhere the Left is dominant—government, media, universities—it stifles dissent.

It’s simple: A free exchange between ideas is the only way for a left-wing movement to survive. Leftist ideologies tend to be power- and emotion-based, rather than reason- or morality based. Leftists do not allow for honest discussion. They don’t argue with their opponents, they suppress them.

Freedom of speech is being seriously threatened for the first time in American history. It has been severely curtailed. With the rise of the Left, the inevitable suppression and repression of free speech is occurring.

That liberals—who have always valued liberty and free speech—vote for the great suppressor of liberty, the Left, is the tragedy of our time. Liberals have lost sight of what they stand for. They only remember what conservatives are against.

So, the next time a liberal or left-wing friend or relative asks you what conservatives stand for, say “liberty”—especially free speech. And explain that’s why you fear and oppose big government—because big government and individual liberty cannot coexist.


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