During one of my morning drives to school, I asked my 12 year old son what he thought the role of government was. This question pulled him out of his Star Wars reverie and he replied “to protect people.” I suspected he had been listening to my rants about government debt and spending. I had asked him a question fundamental to a person’s political belief. His answer told me that he already leans conservative. Had he answered “to provide every American a basic income” I would have choked on my Bojangles biscuit.
Now that campaign season has started, every voter’s mailbox will be filled with mailers from candidates bearing bullet points and platform statements of political belief. These are effective though sometimes too vague. Asking a candidate to define in detail the role of government may be the most revealing question a voter could ask during this election season.
As I am currently a Republican candidate standing for re-election to the South Carolina House to represent District 18, I offer you my understanding of the role of government and how that understanding has directed my votes in the past.
Role of Government
My political conservatism derives from my belief that government was created to protect the “life, liberty and property” of each of us. Government was not created to redistribute wealth or give us benefits from cradle to grave but to provide us with a stable society that encourages opportunity and individual prosperity.
Modern political conservatism has a long history dating back to Edmund Burke, the British political philosopher and Member of Parliament who supported the American colonists tax protests. He believed in the individual’s right of property ownership and the societal stability that developed with it. He witnessed it in the American colonies where private property ownership elevated ordinary people into citizens who had a stake in building a stable society in which to prosper.
Burke was a traditionalist. He once said, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” He was a conservative incrementalist. Living during the time of the French Revolution, he was horrified at the carnage caused by radical political change and believed that small political reforms accomplished more and harmed less in the long run.
John Locke, the Scottish political philosopher who drafted the first colonial constitution of the Carolinas went further and said that the role of government was to protect our “life, liberty and property.” Both men strongly supported freedom of speech and broad religious tolerance.
Thomas Jefferson, under the influence of Burke, Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers, wrote America’s foundational statement of liberty, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In these words and those that followed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, Jefferson created a uniquely American worldview that represented the truths derived or reaffirmed during the Age of Enlightenment.
These are not dead words from a faded past as some on the new post-truth Left would have us believe. They are anti-traditionalists who give credence to the peddlers of fake news and deniers of historical fact. It is best to remember where we came from.
I believe in the sanctity, dignity and individuality of human life, from conception until our last day. During my time in the South Carolina House, I have voted consistently to protect the lives of unborn children. I believe that an unborn child’s right to life is unalienable starting at conception. I also equally believe in the same right to life for mothers.
Beyond my voting record supporting life, I have required audits of our state agencies that oversee abortion clinics to ensure that these agencies are following state law. I am a member of the House Legislative Oversight Committee that reviewed these audits and South Carolina’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. The audits revealed various problems that needed correction. The corrections were made and the agencies in question remain under the Committee’s oversight. Reducing the number of abortions in South Carolina can be directly attributed to Burke’s strategy of small incremental reforms.
I believe in individual liberty. I strongly support our right to speak our opinions openly, to assemble and protest peaceably, and to practice religion however we may wish. I have voted consistently to protect our 2nd Amendment right to arm ourselves as we see fit. I believe that the 2nd Amendment is the Constitutional guarantor of the 1st Amendment and the first line defender of our individual life and property.
I believe that citizens deserve a small limited efficient government in exchange for the taxes that are demanded of them. As a member of the House Legislative Oversight Committee, we examine the spending habits of state agencies. Our audits have found waste and inefficiencies and we have started the reform of these agencies as needed.
I spent a good part of the last decade introducing tax reform bills to eliminate sales tax loopholes, flatten income tax rates, and lower property tax rates. Since our state tax laws are tied to federal tax laws, tax reform can be difficult to achieve. South Carolina’s working middle class bears the brunt of tax payments to state government. They received a much needed income tax break from Congress this year. Our Republican controlled General Assembly must ensure that the federal income tax break continues to flow through to our workers on the state level in the years to come. I will actively participate in that oversight.
I have consistently supported the parents right to decide how to educate their children. As a member of the House Education and Public Works Committee, I have supported school choice legislation, voted to expand charter schools and pushed for increased opportunities for home-schooling children. At the same time, I have not ignored our public school system. I have voted for overdue reforms in our educational processes, accountability and financial administration of school districts.
Conservatism in politics goes far beyond a few votes cast. Conservatism requires, as William F. Buckley, Jr. observed, the courage to act as “someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
Stop does not mean to refuse to find a workable compromise to get past a viable political problem. Stop means slowing down the legislative process so that citizens and their representatives fully understand what the legislation contains. In other words, conservatives yell Stop then asks how much will it cost, who benefits from it and why.
Most importantly, conservatives ask if the law is needed at all. Most times, the answer is no.