I’ve been struck recently by the similar responses conservatives/Libertarians have given to a number of crises and pressing policy questions. Essentially, all of them reveal one common feature of conservative philosophy:
You’re on your own.
Here are a few of the situations that triggered this insight:
Healthcare – Not a right, or something the government should help with. We’re looking out for our interests, not yours. Can’t afford it? You’re on your own.
Puerto Rico – Sorry about that storm. Not our fault, so we don’t care. And by the way, you’re both broke and brown, so we don’t care even more. You’re on your own.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Conservative approach to governing, being lived out in Puerto Rico: You’re on your own.[/tweet_box]
Environment – Don’t like getting cancer from chemical plants? Don’t live near one. But don’t expect the EPA to help you with this; we’re here to protect the interests of the companies, not you. You’re on your own.
Education – We really don’t like funding education, so we’re going to let the free market pay for it, and make a killing while they do. Your kids go to a public school where they can’t afford basic supplies? Too bad you can’t afford a private school. You’re on your own.
Pensions – Yeah, you’ve put in decades of work at low pay, because at the end of your career was a halfway-decent pension and a halfway-decent retirement. But we stole your money by not paying into the plans like we should, and now we’re going to move you into a 401k so our buddies can get more fees, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. When it comes to retirement, you’re on your own.
There is a legitimate discussion to be had about the balance between the government’s responsibility and the individual’s responsibility. The problem, of course, is that for many conservatives and libertarians, they start from a base of “all government is bad,” which makes rational policy discussion impossible. They also often use the “everything can be solved through individual responsibility” argument … which falls apart when faced by things like hurricanes.
One final note: the feeble response to the Puerto Rico humanitarian crisis is one result of this philosophy. When you think all government action is bad, and should be cut as far as possible, you get a government that cannot function when needed. That’s what we’re seeing in Puerto Rico: the logical outcome of a “you’re on your own” approach to governing.