"The facts of life are conservative." - Margaret Thatcher
Whenever I hear that, I have a gut sense it is true, but I've been unable to explain why. The following is my attempt at clarity and argument.
Usually when we speak of the facts of life (FOL), we're talking about sex. Shhh...you know, explaining procreative sex to a pre-adolescent child. And as any good liberal knows, that isn't something one should entrust to conservatives! No, that's strictly a task for liberal establishment education. So, how can the FOL have any relationship to conservatism?
#1. Behavior has consequences.
The behavior may feel good, like sex, but it doesn't necessarily do good. Take the welfare state for instance. Liberals claim a monopoly on compassion. They want the state to help the poor and educate the ignorant and save the planet, blah, blah, blah. But, where the nanny state has prevailed, liberal policies have destroyed the character and culture of the people. For example, liberals couldn't have damaged black families in America any more than if they had set fire to their homes. Rising rates of out-of-wedlock births, abortions, black-on-black crime, incarceration, hip hop misogyny and more can all be attributed to liberal compassion. Compassion is the rationale for the reduction of standards applied to liberalism's victim groups. With friends like that...
Here's a consequence for you. The American value system, based on Judeo-Christian values of human worth and liberty, has created the most prosperous, freedom-loving, generous and moral nation the world has ever known. Just look at those white stars and crosses carpeting northern France as an example of American morality and generosity. But liberals don't promote American values. In many cases they oppose them. They want to take God off the coinage and are passionate about equality, which is inherently in tension with America's founding value of liberty. Culturally, we're reaping what liberals have sown because, out of their compassion, they try to mitigate against natural consequences and therefore fail to improve society or individuals.
#2. Life is not fair.
It isn't. And no amount of progressive government is going to fix it. This comes as a shock to the collectivists who read the Declaration of Independence ("...all men are created equal...") and think it calls for material equality. God creates us unequal, though all are of infinite worth as made in God's image. The two are apparent contradictions which our faith holds as simultaneously true. It is what the deist Thomas Jefferson meant, as Marxism hadn't been invented yet.
I can hear the liberal retort now. "But, life should be fair and we should do everything we can to make it so." There are two major arguments against this. The first is, in the process of being "fair" to one person, we almost always are unjust to someone else. For example, the Ricci case in which a white dyslexic firefighter studied hard and spent his money on tutoring and other aids to pass the test for promotion. He passed, but because no black candidates did, the city denied his promotion out of fear of lawsuits. The argument on behalf of the black candidates is that they tend to come from poor neighborhoods with inadequate schools. That isn't fair (and it can also be blamed on progressive governance), but it is also unjust to deny Ricci the promotion he earned. We're never going to fix injustice in the world with more injustice.
The second argument against "doing everything we can" is it is government's role is to secure our God-given liberties, not to equalize the outcomes. The black firefighters were free to have chosen Ricci's route - to have studied hard and sought help, but apparently they didn't as none of them passed the test.
At one time, this all would have been common sense, which leads to the third FOL.
#3. Common sense is indispensable
The indispensability of common sense shouldn't require explanation - it should be - um... common sense. Without it, people tend to act stupidly... even ivy league educated intellectuals. Perhaps, especially ivy league educated intellectuals. Foolishness is the product dispensed with most university diplomas. "I got my BA in Womens' Studies"; "I earned my Masters in Social Work"; "I have a degree in Environmental Architecture." Just fill in the blank with "Foolishness"and then try to get a job which doesn't include counting members of a frog species... in a swamp... at night. As college enrollments increase - common sense becomes increasingly uncommon.
There are enough examples of the lack of common sense these days to fill a large book. Examples of stupidity range from a family story about the hotel clerk who knocked on the door to a newlywed couple's suite at 2:00 a.m because she had mistakenly given them the wrong suite - to the current administration believing a debt crisis can be solved by spending trillions of borrowed dollars.
I confess, I feel my own common sense is impaired. Our society is like the proverbial frog in a pot of warm water and I admit, I'm having trouble determining when to jump. Of course, a large part of the problem is there is no obvious country of choice for a safe liberty-loving landing.
#4. There's no such thing as a free lunch -Milton Friedman.
Oh yeah... this is the one. This is the fact of life which completely baffles the Left. All together now... EVERYTHING HAS A COST! It is both a fact of life and codified in the conservation laws of physics.
I knew some granola hippie types who got turned onto a newfangled Scandinavian burial technique involving plastic bags and some sort of gas. It was supposed to be environmentally correct. I asked them, "Where does the gas come from?" After a few moments of awkward silence, we laughed it off and they decided their fall-back position was to try to get a permit to be buried in their compost pile instead.
The "no free lunch" FOL is essential to wisdom. It spans everything we know or are able to know about life from the most mundane to the most transcendent. It is timeless. It is Biblical. From Genesis, it is the lesson that the price for disobedience to God is death. For Adam, it is having to scratch sustenance out of unyielding earth rather than picking low-hanging fruit from trees in the Garden. For Eve, it is pain in childbirth. From the New Testament, the lesson is Christ the Redeemer. We do not have to live in condemnation anymore because Jesus went to the Cross and paid the Price for us. Amen!
And yet, listen to progressives. Some people believe - or pretend to believe - in "free" health care and "free" wind or solar energy and "free" college tuition... What they refuse to acknowledge is that the productive people working to provide "free" everything to everyone are going to stop being productive at some point and hop on the dole-wagon. And then everyone will pay the price. The Left is enamored with the idea of “sustainability.” Try this bumper sticker on them... Socialism is Unsustainable!
#5. Human nature is fallen.
This is probably the bottom line. The dark side of human nature is mean, greedy, controlling, lustful, lazy and selfish. It makes us want something for nothing. When we give into our dark nature, it makes us want everything for nothing. And progressive government is the serpent with the apple. Progressivism promises perfectibility at a bargain basement price. We can be as gods if we just eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. It is all so easy and our eyes will be opened.
Sure, there have been many millions of people who have transcended their basest human nature. Among the greatest were the Founding Fathers who recognized that, because man is fallen, no man can be entrusted with the unconstrained power of government over free citizens. They knew that man and society are not perfectible and so the role of government is necessarily limited to protecting individual liberty. This is the essence of the conservative facts of life.
#1. Behavior has consequences (and attempts to mitigate against them are ultimately cruel),
#2. Life is not fair (and nothing tried by progressive government makes it so),
#3. Common sense is indispensible (and increasingly uncommon),
#4. There is no such thing as a free lunch (ever - period),
#5. Human nature is fallen (which necessitates the weakest government possible while maintaining the rule of law and the sovereignty of free citizens).