Will we miss our opportunity to show Conservatism in practice?

Posted by on September 26, 2014
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An article out this week by Tim Carney references a Mississippi success story in how one woman overcame protectionist government regulations here to inspire a new industry. The story is about Melanie Armstrong from Tupelo, Mississippi and Conservatives should take notice.

Carney writes:

If you peer even further into the interesting nooks of the non-corporate economy, you see people engaging in business who probably wouldn’t even call themselves self-employed. The stay-at-home mom who runs a small day care out of her home — really babysitting three kids — may not think of herself as a businesswoman, but rather a mom who hustles to make ends meet. Same with the hobby photographer who shoots weddings to fill the family’s vacation fund. Or the single mom on welfare who paints postcards to calm her nerves, and then sells them.

These people might not fit your definition of entrepreneurs, and they’re not the standard image of small businesspeople. And again, they may not even think of themselves as “self-employed.”

But these are people trying to improve their own lot, or their own family’s lot through independent hard work. Conservatives concerned with helping people ought to think about these people more.

I thought of all of these matters because of this infuriating story by Melanie Armstrong, who took up African hair-braiding, only to run into insane regulations that politicians claim are for consumer-protection, but are instead for protecting incumbent businesses.

Mississippi finally changed the law to allow hair-braiding without the insane regulations. Armstrong overcame them and expanded, like a true entrepreneur. It’s an awesome American dream capitalism story. But we shouldn’t stop at thinking about her. This was the part that struck me:

Since 2005, I have trained more than 125 women who have gone on to earn a living as natural hair braiders. In addition, my shop in Tupelo has provided jobs for 25 women, affording them the dignity and pride of a regular paycheck.

Most of those 125 women she has trained won’t become hair-braiding moguls. Many will be content to braid on their own back deck, never getting a storefront. They won’t be job creators. But there are many more of them than there are Melanie Armstrongs.

These are the stories of survival and community we should be striving to tell. This is how putting people first and inspiring them to fight for their dreams to create their own opportunities works. This is what reducing big government in favor of people does.

Kevin Williamson probably describes the progressive’s failures best:

“Progressives spent a generation imposing taxes and other expenses on urban populations as though the taxpaying middle class would not relocate. They protected the defective cartel system of public education, and the union money and votes associated with it, as though middle-class parents would not move to places that had better schools. They imposed burdens on businesses, in exchange for more union money and votes, as though businesses would not shift production elsewhere. They imposed policies that disincentivized stable family arrangements as though doing so would have no social cost.

And they did so while adhering to a political philosophy that holds that the state, not the family or the market, is the central actor in our lives, that the interests of private parties — be they taxpayers or businesses — can and indeed must be subordinated to the state’s interests, as though individuals and families were nothing more than gears in the great machine of politics.”

Melanie’s story is one of thousands around us that show that Conservatism in practice is the solution to the failures of progressive policies. Reality over rhetoric is what relates these facts better than any political game.

Watch a video about Melanie’s story.

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Keith Plunkett

Keith Plunkett

Keith Plunkett is a journalist and policy writer for ANM News. He is sought after in his home state of Mississippi as a political consultant for his skills as a communications strategist. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits for nearly 15 years. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations.

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