A road map for conservatives

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Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all:

● The recent welfare state riots in Great Britain offer America a glimpse of our future — unless we reverse course, which is, really, the struggle between two distinctly different views of the role of government playing out in the 2012 presidential election. Well beyond the elections, though, conservatives have to rethink how we approach government and turn this nation.

● Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the riots. “We have been unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong. We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said, about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy … Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control. Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged — sometimes even incentivized — by a state and its agencies than in parts have become literally demoralized.” Britain’s damaged society, he said, has been one that “incites laziness, that excuses bad behavior, that erodes self-discipline, that discourages hard work.”

● Reversing that trend here is the challenge for conservatives. How? Here’s a start: Conservatives need to found or convert at least one university in every state with the specific objective of training coming generations of public officials and journalists — those who will implement or influence public policy.

● It’s not enough to elect conservatives to public office. They come and go. They grow frustrated or they succumb to the perks of power or the allure of the courtiers and lose their bearings. They get co-opted. Conservatives in office need aides and bureaucrats who understand what they’re trying to do and are thus able to design programs to gradually wean people from dependency and rebuild their sense of personal responsibility. That need to wean extends to business, which is beginning to believe that taxpayers should develop their plants, and even their offices, and train their people.

● Conservatives simply must rehabilitate the image of government employees if we are to change its direction. Creating universities to train them in the administration of public policies from a conservative perspective is essential. President Barack Obama just declared that the rule of law is negotiable on illegal immigration. It’ll pick and choose how the law’s applied — something, frankly, that government’s done with regularity. Public officials can’t undermine the rule of law and then expect the underclass to respect it.

● The need to make “the bureaucracy” attractive to young conservatives and to entice them into public service is not just to make the programs work more honestly and more effectively. It’s to bring their perspective to proposed actions of government. The left has learned that if you can’t sell your ideas to voters, the next best place is where the rules are made that flesh out the vague language of law. The Environmental Protection Agency. The Labor Department. Health and Human Services. Obamacare agencies. Zealots can have a field day — and greater power to affect public policy than they ever dreamed. Conservatives need to be there, too.

● Finally, conservatives need to educate generations of journalists to look at the world differently. We are now enablers and promoters of big government. We do it in two notable ways. One is that we represent government as the remedy to all social problems. The second way will be seen more fully when Obama leaves office. His regulatory agencies will push the agendas of the hard-core left to the fullest extent possible up until the day he leaves office. His successor will, necessarily, attempt to make those regulations more practical and attainable. As he does, count the number of times those efforts will be described as “gutting” or “weakening” or in some emotionally charged terms reducing our safety or protections.

Jim Wooten, an Opinion columnist, writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at wooten.jim@gmail.com.

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