It seems to be a common myth that conservatives are anti-government, but I’m not sure this is accurate. I might say that it’s more the case that liberals see the role of the government as a helpful one, while conservatives think it should be primarily punitive. As far as I can tell, the idea that conservatives are anti-government comes from how they think private industry can handle just about anything better than the government. For instance, some people will admit the health care system is terrible, but think the government would only make it worse. I really feel this attitude is kind of unfair, because while it’s true the government doesn’t do everything well, it has performed some of its functions successfully. To say that its track record is just one failure after another would be rather disingenuous. And my view on privatization is that it often results in exclusionary policies. I mean, private industries are going to want to appeal to consumers who have money, not those who don’t, right? As such, the people who can’t afford as much are likely to slip through the cracks. Some of that is bound to happen no matter who’s in charge, but I think the government has more of a responsibility to the less fortunate citizens. That’s why, to my mind, wanting to privatize everything amounts to wanting to keep out the poor people, even if it isn’t a conscious thought on the part of the people who hold that position.
Mind you, that’s mostly looking at a fiscal conservative position, which isn’t quite the same as that held by religious conservatives. The view of the Religious Right on government is something I’m not entirely sure about, and what I do know often seems contradictory. But then, the fundamentalist mindset is all about holding disparate opinions while condemning moral relativism. Anyway, it strikes me as largely a result of the marriage of the Republican Party to Christian fundamentalism that we get the strange and popular position that can be summed up as, “Keep the government out of my pocketbook, but in my bedroom!” Or in YOUR bedroom, anyway; it’s a very busybody sort of philosophy. I suppose the conservative viewpoint would be opposed to gay marriage on the grounds that it’s a pretty new idea and conservatives want to keep things basically the same, but the total hatred of homosexuality comes across as more of a religious thing. Same way with the anti-abortion stance. Since when are conservatives pro-life? Aren’t they more likely to favor war and the death penalty? Whether Christianity is even compatible with big-business capitalism is another question, and one that I might address in another post. Anyway, I think the fundamentalist viewpoint isn’t anti-government per se, but it’s more or less against the notion of government by the people and for the people. Rather, it favors a theocracy, with the role of the government being to enforce particular religious mores. What it would do when the fundamentalists themselves can’t agree on an issue isn’t clear, but I don’t know that the supporters of this idea think that far ahead.