My roommate (green party) summed it up this way. Liberals believe in the theoretical and the conceptual ideas. Conservatives focus on the practical.
So he says, “we should do X because X is a good thing. People will not do X, however, so the government should do it for us.”
My response is, “while X is a good thing, that is not what people want. If people wanted X, they would do X.”
He talks about should’s, I talk about do’s.
It’s simplistic, but I think it has some base in truth. You can see this in all sorts of other areas. For example, my friend supports wealth distribution because not everyone is born equal. I say that even with wealth distribution people are not going to be born equal and that such an act will just create disincentives for people to work. You can do this with a number of things.
As for government, there are a lot of forces that come into play and explain why government is not the optimal choice. First and foremost, it is because, unlike private entities which have incentives to be efficient, government has an incentive to be wasteful.
Why Government Is Inefficient
This is a classic economics example, which I think works well here. Imagine 10 people living in a land with 1,000 trees that belong to everyone (government). If you cut down one of the trees (use a government service), it costs you 1/1000th of your community. At the same time, you gain a full tree. Your net benefit is 999/1000th. As an individual, you have incentive to use as many of those trees as possible.
Under this model, everyone has incentives to cut as many of the trees as possible, since if you don’t someone else will. Furthermore, you might as well act ineffciently, since even if you only get 1/2 of a tree out of cutting one down, you are still better off by 499/1000th.
Now, let’s say that instead of community (government) ownership of the trees (service), they are monitored by individuals (private sector). Now, I own 100 trees. It is now in my best interests to use these trees as efficiently as possible, since I bear the direct costs.
This is an extremely simplified model, but I think that’s what happens with government. There are disincentives for government to act efficiently or to spend wisely. Government spends someone else’s money. Imagine I gave you my checkbook and told you to do something - you have no incentive to spend wisely. But imagine you had to compete with other people. Then you would.
And that is why I don’t trust government - in a very, very simplified example.
Why the Morals?
One of your questions was why does government/conservatives insist on morals. Before you can ask this question, you need to realize your viewpoint. If you view the world under one paradigm, then it looks as if conservatives are reacting. If you look from another, then it is LIBERALS who are enforcing a moral standard.
Let me explain. You cite homosexual marriage as one area where conservatives are pushing an agenda. Okay, from your paradigm (nothing wrong with homosexuality), it would appear that conservatives are imposing morals. If, however, you stand with a conservative paradigm (homosexuality is wrong), telling people to not say anything disparaging of homosexuality is just like telling people not to say that lying is wrong.
So who’s right? Which paradigm is correct? In some ways, neither. Both are simply assertions that one side is trying to get the other to accept. You can articulate reasons why this one or that one is better, but ultimately, how can you prove that homosexuality is right or wrong. You can’t. One side points to the Bible, one side points to some philospher. Does that mean that one side is better. Not really.
So while you sit there and ask why Conservatives have the lock on the moral high road, I must retort by asking why Liberals have the monopoloy on the nomrmative assertions/paradigms? Why isn’t homosexuality wrong? Because people are born that way? Even if you accept that (which has never been shown to be factual), does that mean that you can’t tell someone who’s excessively violent that they are wrong (since they were born that way)?
This demonstrates the problem with your argument. [u]You complain that Conservatives see the world as black and white, but implicit in that statement is an assertion that is very black and white itself.[/u] You reject a binary view (call it black) in favor of a spectrum (white). Furthermore, there are still a number of things which are viewed by liberals as black-white (anything from homosexuality to things we all agree on, such as torture being wrong). Your sort of rhetoric is just that - rhetoric.