To gain a good sense of how conservatives view the federal government, all one has to do is examine the words that conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson directed toward David Ray Griffin, an author who has claimed that the federal government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of whether one sides with Griffin or believes (as I do) that foreign terrorists committed the 9/11 attacks in retaliation for U.S. foreign policy, Carlson’s words reveal the important role that the federal government plays in the conservative mindset.
Carlson told Griffin that his criticism of the federal government was “wrong, blasphemous, and sinful.”
Why would Carlson use those words? Because long ago conservatives came to view the federal government as their other god, a god that not only takes care of people’s retirement, education, healthcare, food, and other necessities but also is the only thing standing between the citizenry and such bad guys as terrorists and drug dealers.
Now, that’s not to say that conservatives don’t also believe in God. In fact, they’ll openly proclaim how religious they are, oftentimes proudly wearing their religion on their sleeves.
But the truth is that that conservatives have two gods — their federal god and their religious God, both of whom conservatives think are equally worthy of people’s respect and support.
God’s system is one in which people are expected to take responsibility for sustaining their lives and those of their family. Ordinarily, this responsibility is fulfilled through labor—i.e., hard work.
For those who are unable to take care of themselves, God expects people to use some of the fruits of their labor to help them out. God doesn’t force anyone to do this; He just asks and expects people to do so voluntarily.
Obviously, there are risks in God’s system. Some people make what others consider are wrongful, irresponsible choices in life. For example, some people are lazy; they don’t work hard. Some are selfish; they won’t help others. Some don’t care about education. Others won’t help their parents or the poor. Some don’t attend church. Some let others do the donating to worthy causes.
In the conservative mind, God simply made a mistake by entrusting people with too much freedom. If God had known that people were going to be so untrustworthy, so selfish, and so irresponsible, He would never have given them such a wide ambit of free will.
That’s where the federal god enters the picture. With such federal programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, subsidies, the drug war, and foreign aid, no one need concern himself about those who make the wrong choices. The federal god ensures that everyone makes the right choices, primarily with the “contributions” that people make to the IRS.
What about God’s commandment regarding false idols? For conservatives, that commandment must be construed in light of the thousands of commandments issued by their federal god. After all, what better way to enforce God’s laws of responsibility and charity than to employ the federal god’s rules, regulations, orders, laws, fines, and jails?
The next time you hear a conservative expressing thanks, listen carefully to whether he says, “Thank gods.”
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.