Sixty years ago this September, 100 young conservatives launched Young Americans for Freedom at William F. Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut. There they wrote the Sharon Statement, the new organization’s founding document, which has been described by the New York Times as the “seminal document” of the Conservative Movement. The principles that it puts forth still ring true 60 years later. Today, the Sharon Statement serves as the foundational document for more than 500 YAF chapters nationwide.
In this series, “We As Young Conservatives Believe”, we will break down the Sharon Statement and look more closely at how it continues to speak to young Americans today.
“We as young conservatives believe…”
“That when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;”
The U.S. federal government has never been as large or intrusive to the daily lives of Americans as it is today. It has gone far past the limited role that America’s Founding Fathers had intended for it. While the federal government’s size and influence has grown, it has reduced its ability to effectively maintain order and defend individual liberty.
One of the ways in which the government’s bloat manifests itself is the prevalence of lobbying, where corporations try to influence how new regulations are drawn up in their favor. YAF’s polling shows that young Americans are concerned that our economic system is rigged in favor of the powerful, and they have good reason to be concerned. The more the government expands, the more it piles on rules and regulations. This leads to more lobbying from businesses and other entities that desire for those regulations to be designed in such a way that benefits them.
A more complicated and convoluted regulatory system actually helps larger, more established companies at the expense of startups and small businesses. This is because more powerful companies can afford the accountants and lawyers to help them navigate this maze. In this way, extensive government regulations benefit the powers that be and hurt their up-and-coming competitors. This limits the ability of entrepreneurs to create new products and new opportunities for Americans.
Or take Supreme Court nominations, for another example. Before judicial activism, where justices would base their rulings on what was a good result rather than ruling based on the U.S. Constitution, was commonplace, the Supreme Court nominations were more bipartisan. However, as the Court has become more powerful, the confirmation process has become starkly partisan, starting with Robert Bork back in the 1980s, during which time he was smeared as an extremist in a process now known as Borking, and continuing through today. As with the federal government, the accumulated power of the Court has heightened the stakes of any division among Americans.
On campus, a great example of government overreach is the “Dear Colleague” letter that the Obama administration publicized back in 2011. It trampled on students’ rights of free speech and due process during sexual harassment claims, and threatened colleges that didn’t follow it with potential loss of funding. Fortunately, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has reformed the process and protected student’s rights on campus once again.
The vast expansion of the federal government has diminished America’s individual rights. As it grows, Americans will fight harder to make sure that their side comes out on top, as we can see in the increased intensity of Supreme Court nominations. This creates a worrisome long-term trend, unless we can change course and reduce the size and scope of the federal government. As President Reagan warned in his farewell address, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”
To read the previous post in this series, click here.
To read the next post in this series, click here.
Karl Stahlfeld is the associate director of YAF’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise.