The Essence of a Conservative

The following is from an enewsletter that I get about every day. I am publishing it here, intact, as per the author’s instructions:

by Chuck Muth
March 13, 2005

So I’m listening to talk radio recently during the hellish commute to our nation’s capital, and I hear caller after caller start out by saying, “I’m a conservative, except…” The issue was over a proposed new government-mandated smoking ban in bars and restaurants. And the callers – so-called “conservatives” – were all for it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying smoking is good. And I’m not saying smoking isn’t offensive to a lot of people, especially while dining. What I AM saying is that the proper, consistent conservative position is that the decision whether or not to allow smoking in a privately-owned bar or restaurant should be up to the OWNER of the bar or restaurant – not the government.
If the bar or restaurant allows smoking – and you don’t like smoking – don’t go there! There is no “right” for you to eat in someone else’s kitchen. I’m not saying conservatives need to defend smoking. I’m saying true conservatives need to defend individual liberty; to defend the private property owner’s rights over government power and coercion. If government can tell a business owner how to run his business, how long before that same government begins mandating healthy meals in your own home – for the good of the children, of course?
I’ve found over recent years that more and more so-called conservatives find “exceptions” to their limited-government principles on a host of issues. I’ve started calling them “ex-cons” – exception conservatives – and they are far more dangerous to the limited-government movement than the so-called “neo-cons.” See if you haven’t run across an “ex-con” in your political travels recently…
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to tobacco. Government shouldn’t raise taxes, except on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. That’s OK.”
* “I’m a conservative…except for delivering the mail. The government should continue to ban private companies from competing with the post office.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to advertising by drug companies. The government should force them to cut back on their advertising so that their products would be cheaper.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to McDonalds and Burger King. The government should stop them from advertising during kids’ shows.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to snack machines in high schools. Those machines should be banned to protect the children.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to Howard Stern. The government should ban him from the airwaves…even on satellite radio.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to Budweiser and Coors commercials during college football and basketball games. The government should ban those ads.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to Microsoft. The government was right to prosecute them for being so much better at selling their products than their competitors. Bill Gates was being fair.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to terminally ill patients using marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. The government should prohibit pot smoking in the privacy of your own home no matter what the circumstances.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to home-schoolers. Those people should have to report to the government.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to driving safety. The government is absolutely right to require people to wear motorcycle helmets and seat belts.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to wages. The government should determine the minimum wage a private employer has to pay to his or her employees.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to air travel. The government has every right to randomly search people and their luggage without probably cause. It’s for our own good.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to health care. Health care is a “right” and the government should make sure everyone gets it. For free.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to retirement. The government should provide everyone with a comfortable retirement.”
* “I’m a conservative…except when it comes to gun rights. It’s OK for the government to require that people get gun licenses and ban the sale of guns at gun shows. Otherwise, a ‘bad’ guy might get one.”
And on and on and on. One “except” after another. THIS is the biggest problem with the conservative movement today. If so-called conservative voters are willing to constantly make exceptions to their own philosophical beliefs, is it any wonder that pandering politicians are so schizophrenic in their voting? If we, as true conservative voters and activists can’t or won’t be consistent in our positions, how can we expect our elected representatives to be any better?
We have met the enemy, and it’s us. Conservatives, heal thyselves.
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Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at
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Copyright 2005 Chuck Muth. All rights reserved. “Muth’s Truths” may be republished providing the column is copied intact, and full credit is given. Talk show producers interested in scheduling an interview with Mr. Muth should call (410) 391-7408.