Left and Right

Learning to Love Small Government Again

What do you get when neocons try to pose as throne and altar reactionaries? You get “national conservatism.”

By Michael Warren Davis, The American Conservatism

The false “small government” of classical liberalism is a state with less authority but more power.

Destruction of Leviathan, 1866 engraving by Gustave Doré. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Presumably, God sent Covid as a rebuke to the so-called illiberal right.

You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? National conservatives, Catholic integralists, and the like. They read Patrick Deneen and Adrian Vermeule. They fantasize about a Hawley/Vance ticket in 2028. They pine for a strong, right-wing regime—one that will uphold traditional values, revive our national industry, and restore American greatness. Their ideal leader is a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Charlemagne.

Folks like me.

We’ve spilled a lot of ink talking about the “common good” and other high-minded ideals. We’ve scorned the old alliance between Christian conservatives, civil libertarians, and free-marketeers. Sunday trading and porn would be outlawed again. No-fault divorce would be abolished and child tax credits multiplied. We’ve even talked about raising the minimum wage to a family wage.

Then came the pandemic. Churches that didn’t voluntarily suspend services were usually shut down by the government. In-person commerce was halted around the world by government fiat. Parents were forced to play teacher’s assistant for their kiddos’ Zoom classes. Local officials like Andrew Cuomo sent Covid patients back to their nursing homes and then forced the old folks to “shelter in place,” killing untold thousands. And, of course, citizens were forced to wear face masks whenever they dared to leave their homes.

Our great cities were left looking like Hell in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce: “Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering. And just as the evening never advanced to night, so my walking had never brought me to the better parts of the town.”

Now the Biden administration has imposed a vaccine mandate for the military and wants companies with more than 100 employees to force their workers to get the jab. (For reference, a small Walmart has over 200 employees.) This, despite the fact that many Christians have moral reservations about the vaccines.

And it’s all being done in the name of the common good.

It’s a rude reminder of why older conservatives are so down on Big Government. We probably should have paid them mind.


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