Conservatives are cursed with an unyielding need for Individual Accountability as illustrated by three basic principles: (1) Every-thing affects something else; (2) Everything has to go somewhere; and (3) There is no such thing as a free lunch. These three precepts point to the solution for "The Law of Unintended Consequences."
Somewhere around the age of 8, my older brother needled me so much that I picked up a large rock and, "justifiably," threw it at him. He ducked, and the missile, launched with the noblest of intentions, hit my best friend resulting in 26 stitches to sew up the resulting gash and, as this incident occurred before the American Civil Liberties Union set out to destroy the American family unit, quite a sore bottom for yours truly.
Why do I bare my soul and expose a character fault that manifested itself so many years ago? Well, my father was a conservative and believed that you should be judged by what you did, not by what you intended to do. I am not suggesting I would have been home free had I been more accurate and split my brother's head instead of my friend's, I am merely pointing out that my brother's artful dodge did not exonerate me from the unintended consequence of my actions. The dodge was entirely foreseeable.
Shamefully, our liberal press has given a free pass to the left for more than fifty years by judging them not by what they have done but by their "good" intentions. It is the failure of liberals, to think through and recognize the inevitable, unintended consequences of their programs that have resulted in tragic consequences to the very groups they purport to protect.
To illustrate, let us look at affirmative action. Has it really helped minorities? Unfortunately, the limited but much touted successes have been dwarfed by evidence that these programs actually hurt the intended beneficiaries. A disproportionate number of affirmative action students fail or drop out of "elite" institutions as they are not prepared to meet the demands placed upon them. Even worse, those who are able to perform are burdened with the stigma of not having gained admission on their own merits. Sadly, liberals continue to support these failed race-based programs because good intentions are more important than bad results.
The liberal attempt to "close the gap" between rich and poor by increasingly taxing achievement offers a similar example. These efforts weaken the economy and job creation, thereby hurting the wage earners that the liberals purport to champion. So, the next time you see a "sock it to the rich" program, ask yourself, "How many jobs have I ever got from a poor person?"
It is the concept of Individual Accountability that separates Conservatives from Liberals. Mac Johnson, summarizing the basic argument of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, beautifully sums it up: "If one cares about the common good of society, one should, paradoxically, let people worry mostly about themselves, within some obvious limits, since each person has a better understanding of his own needs than some more distant person, however benevolent. If citizens are allowed to establish non-coerced economic relationships with one another, an arrangement will be arrived at that benefits both sides of every trade - otherwise one side would not voluntarily agree to the trade. Such a need to please others to have them trade with you encourages innovation and specialization and motivates an attention to detail that you don't get in institutions that do not have to compete for customers that are free to choose other options - such as public schools."
Paul Epley is a long-time Routt County conservative activist, holds a PhD in biology from the University of Southern California and is a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.