The democratic process in the US is quite broken and tilted towards Republicans (gerrymandering, voter suppression, Electoral College, the Citizens United decision, the vast sums of money flowing into political campaigns, the never-ending nature of those campaigns owing to the constant need to raise money, Trump’s enlisting of help from foreign adversaries). The established split between rural and urban areas maintains a status quo of divided representation in Congress which prevents any radical change such as a constitutional amendment. Liberals would have to uproot themselves in huge numbers, leave the big cities, and move to backwoods rural areas so that Democrats could compete in the “red states.” They would have to sacrifice their higher living standard to fix their government.
To prevent the country from sliding all the way into a Third World culture, which is the culture that conservatives want, liberal judges interpret the law in a progressive way, to compensate for the dysfunction of the American political system. Moreover, the conservative Supreme Court judges’ insistence on confining themselves to the original intent of the founders is obscene, since the founders thought only white men were people. According to the founders, women and African-Americans could be the property of white men.
Of course, modern conservative judges legislate from the bench when it suits them, as in their expansive interpretation of the second amendment and the 2000 Supreme Court decision to stop the counting of votes in Florida, which awarded Bush the presidency. The conservatives’ pretense that they’re the only ones in favour of playing strictly by the rules is hilarious, when we see Mitch McConnell denying Obama the right to appoint Garland to the Supreme Court. Where in the Constitution does it say a president’s term is really only three rather than four years, when the nomination of a judge to the Supreme Court is at stake? Where does it say Congress should bend over backwards to protect a lawless president like Trump who uses the Constitution for toilet paper?
You say, “It’s not the government’s job to improve people’s lives, it’s the government’s job to stop being an impediment to people improving their own lives.”
That’s the libertarian mindset of the pioneer who settled the Great Plains, a mindset that’s comparable also to the narrow-mindedness of the nomadic hunter-gatherer. For hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors stagnated because of that prehistoric fear of mass cooperation, because they assumed that progress was impossible. At most, they thought each clan or tribe should take care of itself, which maintained the anarchical status quo.
The difference, mind you, is that libertarians have been corrupted by capitalist greed, whereas hunter-gatherers shared their resources within their small groups, out of necessity (because they were nomadic and couldn’t horde wealth). Libertarians are content with social Darwinism, insisting that the losers and the weak forfeit their rights and should fend for themselves with no welfare state, or at best should depend on charitable whims. Libertarians want something like a regression to jungle law or to a Wild West scenario, to the kind of pseudo-society found in undeveloped countries in the Third World.
I wonder how the libertarian can stomach looking at himself in the mirror, then, without vomiting in disgust when faced with his naked hypocrisy. In every social democracy the government has improved the lives of its citizens in foundational ways, based on obvious socialist (not communist) principles: instead of everyone acting entirely on their own willy-nilly, you pool your resources and elect representatives to dispose of those resources for the group’s benefit. That’s how taxes work and that’s how the roads were built; it’s how the internet was created and it’s how all kinds of science is funded that businesses rely on; it’s how health care is provided in civilized countries.
A rugged pioneer who had to tame the wilderness and a colonist who established a settlement with slave labour could be expected to harbor the smug, ungrateful attitude of a social Darwinian like Ayn Rand. In so far as that “conservatism” runs counter to the elementary principle of cooperation for common benefit via governmental representatives, a principle that’s been instrumental to social progress since at least the Neolithic Revolution, the libertarian mindset can safely be considered anti-human, not just anti-liberal. That’s because this mindset would run counter to what anthropologists call “behavioural modernity,” to the cognitive advances needed for large-scale planning. I’ve written here and here about this wildly-regressive heart of “conservative philosophy.”
This “conservative” likes to hold up the free market as the source of all progress. The “invisible hand” is supposed to come to the rescue when everyone acts selfishly, since that struggle for profit drives innovation. But when capitalism proves to be unsustainable, as in the boom and bust cycles that produced the Great Depression and the 2008 Great Recession, the hand that comes to the rescue is the visible one of the government which bails out the economy with tax dollars. Left to itself, “free market,” anarchical capitalism produces monopolies which concentrate wealth to capture the would-be democratic republic, turning the government into an effective plutocracy. Again, that’s as the conservative wants it, because that’s a return to jungle law, to the dominance hierarchy that oppresses most creatures throughout the animal kingdom. It’s up to less inhuman citizens to sustain the social progress that makes people different from animals.