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As Citizens, We Must Expect Less From Government and More From Ourselves

I have the honor of leading the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational and research institution which has championed free markets, limited government, and strong families for over 30 years.

When you look back at our state’s major policy discussions, you will most likely find that API was right there in the midst of the battle. We do not take lightly the task we have been given to work for good government which leads to flourishing and opportunity for all Alabamians.

Today we find our state at a crossroads.

We must decide whether we are going to govern and live by the principles we say we believe in, or whether we are going to say one thing and do another.

The word “conservative” gets tossed around freely these days and it is difficult to land on a definition that everyone can agree on.

Often times it is used in terms of culture.

How you dress or get your hair cut, whether you have a beard or are clean-shaven. If you take your coffee black or order a latte, drive a truck or Prius.

Other times it is used to define a candidate in a race with criteria that has been set by the political elite.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, whether we know it quickly or in a month, we are going to have to come together as conservatives and agree that government is not the answer. Government cannot and should not be the default solution for the problems we face.

Having spent eight years in Washington D.C. working at the highest levels of government I can assure you that government is not the answer.

So, what is the answer? What does conservative mean? Faith and church, family, civic institutions and community are the answer. Personal responsibility is the answer.

Men and women, families, working to make this state, our nation, and our world a better place through hard work and ingenuity is the answer, not government dictates.

That’s conservatism.

I often hear the refrain that government should mandate certain things or make laws because people cannot be trusted with that responsibility, nor can individuals be trusted to do the “right thing.”

Yet, the role of government in this nation was intentionally limited from the start.

With this view of conservatism, then, what we should expect from our elected officials is less, not more.

When we, as individuals and communities, ignore the problems of society and leave them to the government to address, we take the responsibility to offer solutions off of ourselves. At best, that’s lazy, and at worst it’s an act of cowardice.

When we constantly defer to the government, as if it is the great healer of all that ails us, society is then missing out on the individual and communal ingenuity that is necessary to tackle all forms of challenges. As a result, we are left with a one-size-fits-all approach forced on us by government bureaucrats and out of touch, and often disingenuous, politicians.

Government solutions will always be centralized, monolithic, and conforming. We need decentralized, diverse and dynamic solutions that can only come outside of the public option.

I was shaped by this truth at an early age when my mom started the first Save-A-Life center in Jackson, Alabama, the small town that I grew up in. She saw a need and stepped up. And I saw firsthand what happens when neighbors help neighbors by offering a local solution to a local problem.

We live in a broken world with broken people. So allowing free people to order society and choose outcomes for themselves will always be risky, and it is not without faults.

But we can’t medicate ourselves with government.

As a society we have lost our sense that life is full of risk and reward.

The temporary risk is worth the growth that comes from the process and is realized in the final result. You can’t have the ups without the downs.

This is where API is headed and where we hope to help lead our state toward. To help and hold accountable our government. To not have government do more, but less. To call all Alabamians to expect less from their government, while giving more of themselves to tackle the challenges that face our state and country.

We must be willing to take the risk that comes with self-reliance and limited government, as that is where the beauty and solutions will be found.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.

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