Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Essay Contest Submission by Joseph Cieslewicz

"How do Conservative principles impact the happiness and prosperity of all Americans?"

by Joseph Cieslewicz
             How do Conservative principles impact the happiness and prosperity of all Americans? This question is best answered with the principles upon which the founding fathers built our nation. “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.”[1] Conservative principles protect and promote these rights, ensuring the opportunity of happiness and prosperity. Conservative principles promote American happiness and prosperity by ensuring the freedoms of individual happiness, morality, and self-government.

            Conservative Principles protect the idea of individual pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence says that government exists to allow the people to pursue happiness. Every person has his or her own way of pursuing happiness, and the state cannot find a uniform way to create happiness. Jon Huntsman laid out the kind of government that conservatives try to create: “A state that is sincerely civil and respectful of each individual's pathway toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”[2] Not only is it wrong to deny individual pursuit of happiness, it is impossible to replace it. Governments that try to make their people happy always fail because the citizenry is unhappy.

            With the pursuit of happiness comes the principle of self-reliance. People who work to create their own life feel much more satisfied with that life. It is far better to act than to sit idly by and hope that the government can provide for you. Self-reliance and owning property are incentives to work harder, bringing greater prosperity to the individual and the society. When you are self-reliant, you are happier and more prosperous. This is why Ronald Reagan said that “The best social program is a productive job for anyone who’s willing to work.”[3]Socialist countries can never hope to have productive economies unless they allow capitalist principles. It is impossible to make everyone equal, but it is possible to give everyone equal opportunity. It is then up to individuals to use opportunity to pursue happiness.

            The economic prowess of America can be attributed to individuals’ willing to take risk along the path that pursues happiness and prosperity. Risks are never taken unless there is some kind of potential reward. Russell Kirk listed the incentives for prosperity and productivity in a free market: “To be able to retain the fruits of one’s labor; to be able to see one’s work made permanent; to be able to bequeath one’s property to one’s posterity; to be able to rise from the natural condition of grinding poverty to the security of enduring accomplishment; to have something that is really one’s own—these are advantages difficult to deny.”[4] By denying these rights, a government will be overthrown or find itself without any industrial, moral citizenry to govern and profit by. The principles of conservatism protect America from this fate.

            The first of Russell Kirk’s “Principles of Conservatism” is the belief in an enduring moral order. Conservatives proscribe smaller government because they believe that man can govern himself. There is such a thing as good and evil in the world, but each of us has a conscience to lead us to good. Some governments are established on the principle that man has no morality, and that government should fill that role. However, it is by operating on this presumption that the people actually lose their morality. Why? Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House,explained that "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet."[5] If you take away the inner power that rules man, you must replace it with a harsh ruling force. There is no question that people are happier when ruled by themselves. Everyone has a God-given right to choose right from wrong. This is a right that the state cannot deprive us of, and everyone becomes unhappy when the state tries.

            By trusting in human nature and allowing men to rule themselves through morals, you create a moral society. This is the type of society described by Jon Huntsman, where civility and respect protect the freedoms of all. Furthermore, this moral order that we all possess drives us to do good to others. This should relieve government of many of the pressures of caring for the populace. It also creates a society where people are happier. Plato taught that the inner harmony of the soul was important to the outer harmony of the commonwealth.[6]This “inner harmony” can be achieved through moral freedom and encouragement, but not by force.

            The beauty of conservatism is that while ensuring moral freedom, it provides a safeguard against those who make ill use of this freedom. Conservatives strongly support the common defense, without which a nation does not last long. Similarly, conservative principles support the right of each citizen to protect himself and his family. The right to bear arms is one of the principle American freedoms, guaranteed by the Constitution. Conservatism continues to protect this freedom and others against the forces of radical change.

            Conservative principles protect the American form of self-government. The constitution established a system that has held true for over two centuries. The Roman Republic likewise ruled peaceably for almost five centuries, balancing well the interests of the “common” plebeians and the “noble” patricians. However, the Roman Republic fell in a few short years because of those who thought quick change would bring about a better form of government. In reality, the new government took away the right of self-government and rarely served the true interests of anyone but the emperor and a handful of patricians.[7] This story provides a warning to all future republics. Russell Kirk voiced the conservative opinion on this matter when he said, “Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.”[8] Our system of government and social order in America have ensured prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. Change is an enormous risk with no clear benefit. Conservative principles protect the American people from the forces of radical change and preserve American self-government.

            Despite opposition, conservative principles continue to allow the happiness and prosperity of Americans today. America continues to be the land of economic opportunity and civil liberties. It is the land where all men and women can pursue happiness in their own way.However, these freedoms are not guaranteed. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[9] Man will be ruled by his Bible or by a bayonet. Conservatives contend that man can and should be ruled by his own morals instead of by the force of another.

            Conservative principles impact the happiness and prosperity of all Americans by insuring the freedoms of individual happiness, morality, and self-government. In short, conservatism is the protection of those very freedoms for which this nation was formed. Without conservative principles, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness could not exist in America. It is impossible for the government to make people be happy and prosperous. Only individuals can do that for themselves.

[3] Ronald Reagan (July 1982) Remarks at a luncheon with local elected officials, Baltimore, Maryland as found here.
[4] Russell Kirk, “Ten Conservative Principles,”
[6] Plato, as explained here and here.
[7], “The Roman Republic,”
[8] Russell Kirk, “Ten Conservative Principles,”

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