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Small Government Conservative
How can you be in two places at once...?

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
March 7, 2010

Well, it turns out I'm a small government conservative.

I mean, who'da thunk it? Here all this time I thought I was a free-spending librul who wanted communism and free thinking.

But a fellow named Gary DeWaay on Usenet showed me that, in fact, I'm for small government. He gave me a list of things that, for some reason, Republicans and Teabaggers aren't real happy to see. Here's that list:

1. End all anti-abortion legislation

2. End all foreign war involvement

3. End the Patriot Act

4. End all wiretapping

5. End the death penalty

6. End the drug war

7. End all waterboarding

8. Release all prisoners convicted of victimless crimes.

9. End all government censorship

10. Allow gays to get married

11. End all anti-immigration legislation

12. Allow flag-burning

13. Restore full habeas corpus

14. Close Gitmo

15. Offer amnesty to illegal aliens

16. End all three-strikes legislation

17. Slash military spending

18. Start eliminating our nuclear weapons

19. Become isolationist in foreign policy

20. Legalize prostitution

21. Neutrality towards labor unions

22. Allow all stem cell research

I don't see anything there I can disagree with. There's some I would temporize on – I don't, for example, have a problem with wiretapping if permitted by a lawfully issued warrant in accordance with the law, and flag-burning already IS allowed. I wonder how many hundreds of billions of dollars we would save each year if we implemented all 22 items tomorrow?

Let's take a closer look (some, like 3 & 13, or 11 & 15, overlap, so I'll only respond once on those:

On abortions, Freakonomics put forth the notion that it was the liberalization of abortion laws in the 60s that led to the drop in crime rates in the 80s. Unwanted children tend to be more likely to get involved in crime and drug abuse and end up in abusive family relations. For those who think abortions are immoral, I have a simple suggestion: don't have one.

The US has no business in Iraq, or Afghanistan. They are illegal occupations, and they are costing the country hundreds of billions. The US death toll in Afghanistan recently passed 1,000, and of course, there are thousands more maimed who will require care for decades to come. It also makes little sense that the US should have over 700 bases overseas. Just who is America supposedly protecting Germany from these days?

The Patriot Act gives the government terrifying power to simply make people disappear. All it really takes is for the government to suppose that their intended victim is a terrorist. After that, they need only pay scant attention to the bill of rights. Obama and the Democrats disgraced themselves this week by renewing it for another year.

Wiretapping: with a lawful warrant, sure.

End the death penalty. Study after study shows that it has no deterrent value, and there are over 100 people who were tried and sentenced to death in a court of law who are walking free today, after subsequent evidence showed they were, in fact, innocent. In Texas, where justice is a savage joke little better than that to be found in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, they actually take pride in executing innocent people. Government should never have the power to take life, other than in war.

Ending the drug war would save tens of billions, and treating drug addiction as a medical problem rather than a crime billions more. Up to one third of the prisoners in the country could be pardoned of drug offenses, saving more and perhaps making American prisons a bit less vile.

The government has no business in torturing anyone. It is immoral, and doesn't work. The US should have a holiday in which they burn Dick Cheney and George w. Bush in effigy once a year to show their contempt for these vile, vicious little men.

Ending government censorship might not result in better TV, but it would open the door for people to try. It's worth noting that the best TV shows are all on the uncensored premium channels.

Gay marriage is a matter of basic civil rights, and more and more, looks like it will be the law of the land soon enough. Government should stop calling what they do “marriage” – that's a religious term. The governments of the states issue civil unions, legal contracts. If a business can't refuse to honor a contract with someone who is gay, then nobody has any business disputing the contract of anyone who is gay.

Immigration: the US has the right to secure its borders, but it does not have the right to lure people in and then say they are entitled to no rights. Immigration built America, and today, some of the most gifted and productive people are immigrants. Treat them fairly.

Three strikes legislation was a bad idea to begin with, and the way it was implemented by politicians wanting to look “tough on crime” has been hideous. From “three violent felonies”, it went to “two felonies and a third crime of any kind”, and was applied to single events where multiple charges could be brought. D.A.s are always happy to pile extra charges on if it will help secure a conviction. This results in people getting 25 to life for stealing a bicycle, or a slice of pizza. I would add eliminating mandatory sentencing; the role of a judge is to balance justice and the law, and a mandated sentence often thwarts that. Given the severity of such, juries are often reluctant to convict in cases where some one committed a relatively minor crime and faces life in jail as a result.

Military spending: the biggest single source of government waste is the military. Many contractors are nothing less than criminal, and the recent legislation the Republicans put through in their misguided effort to strip ACORN of funding should be used to eliminate a lot of those criminal contractors, and give the government a stick to threaten others into at least keeping their contractual obligations.

Nuclear weapons: given that the US can lob a nuclear weapon with pin-point accuracy anywhere in the world, how many does the US really need?

The repressive role of government on behalf of big business is fairly evident, and not least of that is the usually hostile attitude toward labor. If workers had a completely unlimited right to unionize, a right upheld by the government, there would be no need for minimum wage laws, or 40-hour work weeks, or any of that. Give workers a level playing field, and watch the society grow immensely strong and wealthy, the way it did after the war.

One item Gary didn't have on his list was the one where government is its most repressive and overbearing: means-testing. Anyone who has had to apply for assistance can tell you nightmare stories of having to reveal all assets, and having workers snoop to ensure they aren't trying to pull a fast one, and being required to “spend down” – divest assets – in order to receive badly needed medical care or child care. People find it degrading and even humiliating, and it exists only because Republicans want to stigmatize aid, in the mistaken belief that it saves money. Tales of government spending billions to eliminate millions in fraud are rife. Public option would eliminate health-related means testing right away, and should be eased for other kinds of assistance. People should be able to get help when they need it without having to bare their lives to gimlet-eyed government bureaucrats.

Now, I still consider myself a liberal. But if those views make me a small government conservative, well, by gosh, I guess that's what I am!

Posted: March 12, 2010

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