Conservatism and freedom: Sen. Lee gets it

familyof3Utah Senator Mike Lee delivered a superb exposition on how conservatism, accurately interpreted and applied, offers the best hope of providing the maximum amount of freedom and highest quality of life for more citizens than any other alternative. Sen. Lee spoke to the Faith and Freedom Coalition yesterday, saying,

We’re all committed to bedrock principles of individual liberty, individual rights, and personal responsibility.  But the reason we fight for individual freedom is the strength, vitality, and value of the communities free individuals form.

The alternative to big government is not small government. The alternative to big government is a thriving, flourishing nation of cooperative communities – where your success depends on your service.

It’s a free enterprise economy where everyone works for everyone else, competing to see who can figure out the best way to help the most people.

And it’s a voluntary civil society, where free individuals come together to meet each other’s needs, fill in the gaps, and make sure no one gets left behind.

Conservatism has never been a vision of isolated loners. Ours is a vision of husbands and wives; parents and children; neighbors and neighborhoods; volunteers and congregations; bosses and employees; businesses and customers; clubs, teams, groups, associations and friends.

We conservatives don’t simply want smaller government – that’s not enough. We want bigger citizens, stronger neighborhoods, and more heroic communities.

We understand what liberals do not. That freedom doesn’t mean “you’re on your own.” Freedom means “we’re all in this together.”

Sen. Lee goes on to explain the core of a free society rests on “the first and most important human community of them all: the family.” He explains:

Too many in Washington seem not to realize it, but the rapid changes we have seen in recent years in America have only made the family more important, not less. The family is the foundation not only of our society, but of our economy, our culture, and our democracy as well. The family is indivisible from any facet of America’s history or destiny. Crises like divorce, fatherlessness, and social isolation – while moral in nature – have enormous social and economic consequences.

In the same way, economic problems like unequal opportunity; stagnant wages; and the spiraling costs of housing, health care, and education represent moral threats to family stability and national unity.

Working families today are bearing the brunt of all of the above. And as a result, too many are falling behind.

Their anxieties are very real – and so are the liberals’ flawed, seductive, big-government proposals to relieve them. To address those anxieties, it is not enough for us simply to oppose liberals’ ideas. We have to propose conservative ones. We have to show working families that bigger government will not solve their problems; that instead, bigger government is creating them.

Sen. Lee’s entire address is well worth a few minutes of your time and can be read below:

Thank you very much. It’s a privilege to be with you today.

It’s always a treat to be with conservatives from places other than Washington, D.C. Unlike too many who work and reside in this city, you actually know why you’re here.

You know what you believe. And you know what you’re fighting for.

That already puts you further along the “Road to Majority” than most of us in Washington. Unfortunately, for conservatives around here, the “Road to Majority” is usually “The Road Not Taken.”

There are many reasons why this is so. But I think the biggest is that in this city, conservatives often fall into a trap – defining ourselves by what we are against.

Big government, debt, higher taxes and regulations, Obamacare.

But we don’t invest nearly as much time and energy in communicating what we conservatives are for.

And I don’t just mean what policies we advocate. Conservatism is not about the bills we want to pass, but the nation we want to be.

As you know, for conservatives, politics is just a means, not an end.

The real goal – what conservatives are really for – is not an agenda for government. It’s a vision of society. A view of the world we want to build, together.

Together. That word, “together,” is an essential – and too often overlooked – part of what we conservatives believe.

We’re all committed to bedrock principles of individual liberty, individual rights, and personal responsibility.  But the reason we fight for individual freedom is the strength, vitality, and value of the communities free individuals form.

The alternative to big government is not small government. The alternative to big government is a thriving, flourishing nation of cooperative communities – where your success depends on your service.

It’s a free enterprise economy where everyone works for everyone else, competing to see who can figure out the best way to help the most people.

And it’s a voluntary civil society, where free individuals come together to meet each other’s needs, fill in the gaps, and make sure no one gets left behind.

Conservatism has never been a vision of isolated loners. Ours is a vision of husbands and wives; parents and children; neighbors and neighborhoods; volunteers and congregations; bosses and employees; businesses and customers; clubs, teams, groups, associations and friends.

We conservatives don’t simply want smaller government – that’s not enough. We want bigger citizens, stronger neighborhoods, and more heroic communities.

We understand what liberals do not. That freedom doesn’t mean “you’re on your own.” Freedom means “we’re all in this together.”

The value we place on community is based on the value we place on the first and most important human community of them all: the family.

Conservatives have argued for years that the family must be at the core of our worldview. On issues like school prayer, or the right to life, or traditional marriage, or home-schooling, conservatives have said protecting the family is the most important part of our moral agenda.

Today, some critics say that times have changed, and we have to change with them. They say we have to reach out to people beyond our conservative base. They say we have to change the way we think and talk about families.

It may surprise some of you to hear, but I think they make a great point. Times have changed. We do need to broaden our appeal, and change the way we think and talk about family.

But ultimately, the critics have it backwards. The problem is not that conservatives have focused too much on the family – but far too little.

Too many in Washington seem not to realize it, but the rapid changes we have seen in recent years in America have only made the family more important, not less. The family is the foundation not only of our society, but of our economy, our culture, and our democracy as well. The family is indivisible from any facet of America’s history or destiny. Crises like divorce, fatherlessness, and social isolation – while moral in nature – have enormous social and economic consequences.

In the same way, economic problems like unequal opportunity; stagnant wages; and the spiraling costs of housing, health care, and education represent moral threats to family stability and national unity.

Working families today are bearing the brunt of all of the above. And as a result, too many are falling behind.

Their anxieties are very real – and so are the liberals’ flawed, seductive, big-government proposals to relieve them. To address those anxieties, it is not enough for us simply to oppose liberals’ ideas. We have to propose conservative ones. We have to show working families that bigger government will not solve their problems; that instead, bigger government is creating them.

The “Road to Majority” may be the road less traveled, but it’s long past time for conservatives to take it. Our movement is at its best when we take on big challenges.

And the great challenge of our time is the challenge of the forgotten family: the honest, noble parents across the country trying to make ends meet in a society, economy, and democracy increasingly rigged by Washington against them and their children.

It is time for a new conservative reform agenda that levels the playing field and finally meets the challenges facing working families:

  • To give underprivileged families a fair chance to work their way into the middle class;
  • To give families struggling to stay in middle class their fair chance to make a good living and build a good life;
  • To make it easier for couples for start families… for entrepreneurs to start businesses… and volunteers to start civic and charitable organizations;
  • To help all Americans at every step along the path to success overcome the obstacles big government has put before them.

It is time for a new approach to taxes, to not only lower rates to spur economic opportunity, but to eliminate tax discrimination against parents and families.

It is time for a new approach to education, to break up the special-interest cartels that hold back our young children, and our young adults. Education is opportunity, and government has no business telling students where they can and can’t go to get it.

It is time for a new approach to transportation. New roads mean new neighborhoods, new communities, new jobs, new families, and new opportunities.

Yet today, infrastructure money states could be spending on those opportunities, Washington instead spends on bureaucratic waste and special-interest giveaways.

It is time to rethink a dysfunctional welfare system that holds poor families down. And to reform a corrupt corporate welfare system that props big businesses up.

We need to find new ways – conservative ways that rely on free enterprise and civil society — to help young couples: get married, afford a home, raise and educate their kids, get good health care, take care of their elderly parents, and retire with security themselves.

Our movement has always identified with those Americans who through hard work and determination have climbed the ladder of success. And we always should.

But our ideals demand we identify even more with those Americans still on the bottom rungs, where the climbing is harder, dangerous, and lonely.

We need to stand up for those Americans no one else will: for the unborn child in the womb; for the poor student caught in the failing school; for the reformed father languishing in prison and the fatherless son facing alone the dangers of the street; for the single mom working two jobs but still ensnared in big-government poverty traps; for the elderly and the disabled, dehumanized by bureaucracy; and for the splintering neighborhoods that desperately need them all.

These families, these moms and dads and grandparents and kids: they’re waiting for us. They know more government isn’t the answer. They know government only divides them.

But they also know that too often our party has ignored them. That has to change.

And it has to change today – right now – because every hour, every day, big government leaves more and more American families behind. It is time for conservatives to remember those forgotten families. In word and deed, in our hearts and in our agenda.

It is time to remember that the most audacious entrepreneurs in America are not high-tech CEOs in Silicon Valley … they’re a young couple at a church back home, saying “I do.”

It is time to remember that the most important investments in our nation’s future are not issued on Wall Street, but are sleeping in their mothers’ arms at the maternity unit of your local hospital.

To be truly pro-growth and pro-opportunity, our agenda must be truly pro-family. Not just on some issues, but all of them.

I believe if conservatives look anew at the challenges facing the family, we will quickly discover opportunities to meet – united and undaunted – the challenges facing our movement, our economy, and our nation.

Building a new conservative agenda of reform around these moms and dads and kids – remembering America’s forgotten families – is the “Road to Majority.”

And if – at long last – conservatives finally take that road less traveled, it will make all the difference.

Thank you for everything you do. Keep the faith. And may God bless you all.

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  • Dalene

    Oh, sure Mike Lee get’s it all right!! Buy a house, quit job to run for the Senate, sell $780 thousand dollar house to a friend at about a $200 thousand dollar loss, rent a house from same friend a couple of blocks away!!! And that is the American way, right?? Good luck all you “poor” suckers out their getting a deal like that!! See, Mero not all of us are as well connected as all of you!! You people have no idea how the real world work’s. Your stuck in the Religious fantasy land, not somewhere everyone wants to be!!

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