Being a conservative ranks as more than a state of mind. Conservatism is a lifestyle.

Once, being and acting conservatively brought with it a certain degree of respect. Today, that respect has, in many instances, changed to fear and contempt. The reason for this has nothing to do with conservatives acting any differently than before, as the conservative philosophy has not changed.

What happened is various segments of society have begun demanding that their own interests take priority over all else. And these groups view conservatism as outmoded and ill-conceived. But it was conservatives and conservatism that built the country.

Conservatives believe that people are capable of making their own decisions, while big government feels that it knows better than the people.

Conservatives believe that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “The government that governs least governs best.” That was always true and remains true today. Conservatives also believe in keeping taxes low. We believe that when governments, either town, state or federal, wish to raise taxes, they should first consider what can be done to achieve their goal without placing an extra burden upon taxpayers.

Taxes and big government go hand-in-hand and, so often, some group of people will find themselves paying taxes on things that do not benefit them or that go against their beliefs. And that breeds discontent.

Conservatives know that government gets its money from taxpayers. Government does not make money itself. Any non-tax money government gets also comes, indirectly, from the citizens. Consider the great amount of government-owned property. Much of the American West consists of federal land and the government derives income from timber cutting, oil leases and grazing rights on that land.

But, whereas we, the people, are the government, it is we who really own all that federal real estate. And that means that, in charging money for consumptive use of such lands, the government is in fact imposing taxes on people using what amounts to their own land. These are called “fees,” rather than taxes, but they are one and the same as taxes.

Tax rebellions

The American Revolution was in a small part a rebuttal of unjust taxes. And the taxes imposed by the British were insignificant compared to what our own government imposes upon us today. And just because the American Revolution occurred hundreds of years ago, conservatives realize that something similar can happen today. Consider the “Yellow Vest” rebellion in France.

French President Macron imposed a massive tax on diesel fuel in order to phase out the use of fossil fuel and pave the way for all-electric vehicles as a measure to limit climate change. Macron was convinced that the ends justified the means. But the French government never considered that much of France is rural and people living in such areas are not served by bus lines or railroad trains. They must use their private vehicles, and in France, most vehicles run on diesel. And while the wealthy can easily afford to pay $7 per gallon for fuel, working people cannot.

So the people rebelled. This was a rebellion of the afflicted and not a rebellion for some “social justice” cause, as is so often the case in America. The country was in turmoil, to the degree that President Macron finally capitulated, saying that no tax was worth subjecting the country to such disorder.

The same can happen anywhere, although it is less likely it would happen in the United States because conservatives are more interested in changing bad, needless or Draconian laws using lawful, accepted methods rather than demonstrating in the streets.

Government, of course, is absolutely necessary for any country to exist. But the bloated, self-serving bureaucracy of today in no way resembles the minimal government envisioned by the founders. Our leaders are becoming more oriented toward socialism than ever before. But conservatives realize that socialism never works. Just ask Venezuela how they are faring under a socialist regime. Unfortunately, many in government feel compelled to promote social programs.

There’s even talk of a guaranteed income program. This, if enacted, would take money from those who earned it and give it to others who did not earn it. And it flies in the face of the single enterprise that built this country and that is capitalism.

Conservatives know that capitalism, free enterprise, is the backbone of any successful country. Even those who seek to dismantle our capitalist system first made their millions through capitalism, a stark irony.

In the end, conservatives believe that America really does have the best system in the world and the challenge going forward is to keep that system intact. Our lives and our futures depend upon it.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.