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Restoring Self-Government


Individual self-government, made possible by traditional American institutions like family and church, has always been fundamental to America. Liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and private property are essential components for self-government. However, self-government does not mean isolated government. Institutions like state governments, families, and churches provide order and instill Americans with self-discipline that makes ordered liberty possible. Without these institutions, liberty would corrode into licentiousness, liberty without constraints. Something that many of the Founding Fathers feared.


Recently, as conservatives like Yoram Hazony have pointed out, liberalism has torn down traditional institutions. In the name of reason, equality, and liberty, liberals have attacked institutions like family and purged religion and patriotism from schools. This assault has threatened self-government. For example, liberal policies like no-fault divorce have resulted in a tragic increase in divorce rates and broken families. Weak drug policies have trapped whole communities in drug addiction. Removing American nationalism and Christian ethics from the classroom has produced a younger generation who love America less than their grandparent's generation does. Thanks to these sorts of liberal policies, families are broken, tens of millions are on welfare, mental illness and suicides are increasing, and young Americans are tearing down statues of their Founding Fathers. Self-government is fading into chaos, and big government is filling in the gaps. Conservatives, not libertarians or reactionaries, offer the best route to reviving traditional institutions and restoring self-government.


Liberalism has not brought liberty. Instead, it has perverted liberty into licentiousness by destroying the institutions that provided liberty’s prudential restraints. John Adams identified that institutions like religion were necessary for America's constitutional society. As liberals tore down traditional institutions, self-government shrunk, and progressives ensured that government grew. George Washington warned against this in a 1783 address to the young country, "Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” The progressive effort to fix the problems created by liberalism by the dictate of bureaucratic experts have proved President Washington right. Without constraints, self-government is impossible, and big government is inevitable.


Conservatives should examine how they can use government power to strengthen vital institutions like the family. The libertarian-minded conservative might object saying that if conservatives use the government to strengthen essential institutions, then the left could use the government to weaken those institutions further. However, the left is already using the full force of government to crush traditional institutions. Furthermore, in removing conservative government influence from all social issues, conservatives would assist rather than counter their progressive opponents. Without Republicans pushing back when in power, the left will continue to destroy institutions and grow government. Conservatives cannot defend American values and institutions when both the government and culture are against them. A neutral government, like the one advocated by the modern Republican Party establishment, has not preserved American values or fostered self-discipline. If conservatives wish to restore self-government and restrain big-government, they must use the Federal and State government to protect traditional institutions.


Several policies exist that can aid in restoring institutions. Conservatives look at public policy from the standpoint of the family. Family, not the individual, is the foundational building block of American society. Conservatives should advocate for a pro-family platform that would help strengthen the nuclear family. This platform should include abolishing no-fault divorce, cleaning up drug-ridden communities, provide economic incentives for families, strengthen obscenity laws against pornography, and advance pro-life causes. Encouraging religion and promoting American nationalism in the schools would cultivate citizens who love their country and uphold traditional values. Taking on big tech, aiding American manufacturing, and backing small businesses would also support working-class families over wealthy liberal elites. Conservative policies like these would strengthen vital institutions and take back the culture.


The old Republican establishment of neutral government and gradual concession has failed to protect the foundations of the Republic. For conservatives to revive self-government, they must use every resource, including the government, to their advantage. Only then do conservatives have a chance at conserving the Republic.