How I Became a Conservative
This is a companion to my testimony, where I describe how I became a Christian. It isn't as dramatic as Whittaker Chamber's journey from communism to Christianity and conservatism, but it might be interesting to some of you. I should note that I became a conservative before becoming a Christian, though I was on a parallel path to both for some time.
I grew up in a liberal household. My dad was a college professor (chemistry) and ours was a university town and hence very liberal. What is interesting is that while my mom and dad were very liberal politically, they were quite conservative in their personal values and hence in the values they passed on to me - the values of hard work, of honesty and personal responsibility, of respect and courtesy to others, etc. We as a family were very active in the Civil Rights movement. In fact, I (as a 6th grader) was the plaintiff in the lawsuit to desegregate our public schools. My parents voted Democrat as did the parents of almost all my friends - who were mostly children of college professors.
There are two major factors that contributed to my ongoing liberalness. The first was that while I considered myself to be very open-minded, the fact was that I limited my exposure to non-liberal views by the magazines and newspapers I chose to read. The fact that almost all my high school teachers and college professors were liberal didn't help. I simply was never exposed to conservative ideas. The second factor was the liberal notion that people who were not liberal were somehow bad people - driven by selfish motives rather than trying to do good for the benefit of all. I and my liberal friends thought we were enlightened and understood far better than others the way things should be. If everyone were like us, the world would be a great place.
The key to my becoming a conservative was that I considered myself to be open-minded, even though I had never actually put it to the test. It bothered me a lot that students would shout down conservative speakers on campus. I thought that if you were in the right, it shouldn't bother you to hear the other side. Not that I actually went and listened to conservative speakers. But in 1979, I learned that PBS was putting on a 10-part series by Milton Friedman called Free to Choose. All I knew was that Friedman was a right-wing monetarist who did not go along with the Keynesian economics that everyone knew to be true. But hey, this was on PBS and I was open-minded. I decided to watch and see what Friedman had to say. It changed my life.
My liberal views did not even last the first episode. It seemed that everything that Friedman said about economics - but really about human nature - conformed to what I actually viewed in people as opposed to my notion of the way that people "should be." I suddenly realized that I could learn a lot from people like Friedman as well as a lot of those dead white guys. I looked back at some of the liberal writings I had previously read and considered to be nonsense (Charles Reich's The Greening of America comes to mind). Why had such books not persuaded me that maybe liberalism was not what I thought - or perhaps hoped? In any case, after 10 episodes I was a changed man.
Although I didn't fully realize it at the time, the conservative worldview is very much a biblical worldview - based on the biblical view of human nature. Man is born in sin, is by nature a sinner and our government and laws need to reflect that. In particular, conservatives do not want to give government too much power. Government is made up of men and men simply cannot be trusted with such power. Liberals tend to view man as in some sense perfectible. Liberals consider themselves well down the road to perfection. I should know since as a liberal I certainly thought that way. The problem, as they see it, is that not everyone else agrees. Liberals see the need to have a strong government in order to compel others to toe the line. We need a government run by experts - liberal ones of course - to help direct us into a better future. If you look at conservative vs. liberal in American politics today, does this not explain almost all the differences?
I discovered that our founding fathers really, really knew what they were doing. America was truly blessed with having such a collection of great men and great intellects at that time. They understood the nature of man and designed a government that took that into account. It is of deep concern to me today that we have discarded most of their genius. Be sure to check out our America's foundation page.
It is highly unlikely that any liberals will be reading this, but if there are I'd like to issue a challenge. Prove your open-mindedness that you love to claim. Look at the case conservatives make on various issues. Ask yourself whose policies and prescriptions conform themselves best to human nature. Not human nature as you think it should be, but human nature as you can actually observe and confirm.
Note: in searching for an image to include with this post, there were many that included liberal vs. conservative comparisons. Almost all would favor one view or the other, depending on who put it together. The image I selected is the fairest representation I can find. Edit: Not all liberals are willing to concede that conservatives even want some things, like alleviating poverty, having the best health care possible, etc. They actually believe that conservatives are greedy and want to let children and old folks starve just so they can keep more of their ill-gotten gains.
Update (04/11/17): I just realized that Free to Choose episodes are available on YouTube. Here is that first episode that turned me into a conservative: Episode 1.