As the Republican Party continues its post-election soul-searching, party officials and commentators have offered any number of explanations how they lost to a president under conditions highly unfavorable to reelection. One possible explanation, however, might lie in a simple quip: Liberalism is easy, conservatism is hard.
In the past, I recall several commentators saying something like, “being a liberal is easy—all you have to do is care.” It seems to make sense. Modern liberal/progressive politicians believe in collective charity. That means that their voters can pass the buck on charitable matters. All they have to do, really, is to care and vote for a third party to do the giving for them.
With conservatism, the onus for charity would fall more, though not entirely, on private individuals and groups. This would require individuals to take their own time and spend their own money helping the downtrodden; thus, it’s easier to care if you are a liberal.
In recent years, collective charity has expanded well beyond the traditional definition of charity. Now, the government provides an ever-broadening number of services, most of which individuals would ordinarily perform themselves. More Americans draw food stamps than ever before. If you can’t find an acceptable job, you get to draw unemployment for 99 weeks or more. When broadcast television technology changed, the government gave you a voucher to buy a special antenna.
While both parties have, to varying degrees, passed out these benefits, the expansion of the size and scope of the federal government is generally associated with liberalism/progressivism. And let’s face the fact: it is easier to be a liberal. After all, even conservatives took up the government’s antenna voucher (under the premise that they paid for it, of course).
Americans are (were, perhaps) a ruggedly individualistic people, pulling off all of these tasks on their own or through voluntary associations. Somehow, it became the mark of a progressing Western civilization to pass off many responsibilities to the government. That, too, makes some sense: after all, why should a few people suffer when the state can lend a hand?
Yes, it is easy to be a liberal. Just care, vote for Democrats, lean on them to take resources from the haves and give them to the have-nots in your stead. On the contrary, conservatism promises the opportunity to make something of yourself with your liberty. The problem with that is the “make something” part, which means work, and risk. In other words, with conservatism, you have to do it yourself and you might struggle, and that’s hard, even for the people who succeed beyond imagination.
The downfall of the easy road is the unintended consequences. If the easier road gets too easy, too many people take advantage of it. Eventually, the folks doing the hard work, seeing that they get ever-shrinking pieces of the pies they bake, either stop baking or they do it elsewhere. At that point, the masses suddenly have to do what they might not know how to do—and that might be harder.