By Carly Fiorina
Conservatism, an optimism grounded in great faith in each individual, rests on the fundamental principle that people will make better choices for themselves and their families than others can make for them.
It is the belief that we can trust individuals to make better decisions about how to spend and invest their own money than any far-away government bureaucrat or professional politician can.
Conservatism is really about a return to the basics that every responsible family understands. Don’t spend what we can’t afford; make the tough priority calls about spending and keep track of where the dollars go; invest in the security and unlimited potential of our children; don’t burden them with our debts.
Conservatism is about an uncomplicated agenda focused on opportunity for every citizen and accountability for every dollar spent or action taken by government. The radical idea that animated our Founding Fathers was that “all men are created equal” and should have the opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Over generations, we have continually improved on this idea to recognize that we mean every citizen — regardless of race, station, nation of birth, sex or religion — should also have these same opportunities.
Our Founding Fathers knew that to protect individuals’ “inalienable rights” it was also necessary to restrain the power of a centralized and potentially heavy-handed government. Decisions made by the people’s representatives should be made as close to the people as possible. Ours should be a citizen government, not one populated only by professional politicians and bureaucrats. “By, for and of the people” is the foundation of modern conservatism and sets the highest possible bar for both transparency and accountability of government to the people.
I started out as a medieval history major, a law school dropout and a full-time receptionist. Only in America could a woman like me rise to become the chief executive of one of the largest American companies in the world. Only in America can any individual rise from any walk of life and with an education and the opportunity to do meaningful work, achieve their full potential.
The American Dream is precious, but it is also perishable. Unchecked government spending, fueled by ever-increasing taxation, does not create opportunity — it cripples our economy. What’s going on in California proves this beyond rebuttal. And bigger government doesn’t deliver better service. California proves this as the quality of our education and infrastructure continues to deteriorate.
And so conservatism must first be about restoring fiscal accountability and transparency. Washington has a spending problem, so we should do what every responsible family does when a teenager has a spending problem — we stop giving them more of our money.
We should hold government accountable for every one of our dollars spent. Technology can help. All proposed legislation should be posted on the internet for every citizen to view — before, not after, votes are cast. Every agency budget should likewise be available for common sense scrutiny — before the appropriation is passed.
I have managed budgets worth billions of dollars for my entire career. And I know from experience that if a billion dollars is being spent without scrutiny or accountability, then millions of dollars are being wasted, misdirected, or misappropriated.
Conservatism is not about saying no — rather conservatism is about the political courage and political will to choose our spending priorities and to recognize that tax dollars belong to the people, not to the government, and are not an unlimited source of funds.
Conservatism is about opportunity, not opposition. We must encourage the potential of as many people as possible by ensuring they have the tools of education.
We must focus on job creation by encouraging the engine of growth — small business — and rein in the unwarranted taxation and regulation that cripples small business. We must provide incentives for those who most fuel the American dream — innovators and entrepreneurs. We must recognize that the power of choice and competition makes everything from health care to education to procurement more effective and efficient.
Does conservatism need reinvention? Our Founding Fathers declared that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” I don’t think we can improve on that. Conservatism requires only re-engagement by citizens willing to remind Washington who is really in charge.