Monday, September 19, 2005

The State of Conservativism

Cross-posted from the Moderate Republican:

Andrew Sullivan links to some good posts today about what conservatism really is and how the Bush administration has abandoned those tenets.

Jack Balkin notes how cold and heartless conservatism has become in that it has to add the qualifier "Compassionate" before the word conservative. He quotes F.A. Heyek, which has been considered one of the fathers of conservatism. Many have seen him as anti-government, but Balkin quotes the Austrian who wrote The Road to Serfdom tended to see a role for government in free societies:

[T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody...

Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance...the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong....

To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state's rendering assistance to the victims of such "acts of God" as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.

I think some who call themselves conservatives today would wonder if this really was Hayek talking. But as someone who considers himself progressively conservative, it does. One doesn't have to be a socialist to support some minimal standards to ensure people have proper housing, medical care and food. To not care about whether people have these doesn't make someone a conservative in my book, but a heartless...well, this is a family blog, so I will just say a heartless person.

For some reason, conservatives have started to believe the small government means a government that buys into some sort of economic darwinism; continually cutting taxes for the well off, cutting services for the less fortunate and piling up debt for the next generation. People like Grover Norquist talks about some kind of anti-government utopia, but to me it seems more like something out of
Lord of the Flies.

Republicans doesn't have to develop large government programs as Democrats have (save President Clinton) to tackle poverty. But we do need to find ways to bring economic freedom to the poor. The poor can't simply do it on themselves when they are faced with poor education and crime.

My liberal friends talk about social justice and for some conservatives, it brings up this image of the bloated welfare states found in Europe. But for me, social justice means setting things right for the poor; giving them a chance to get out of poverty. It comes from the Bible where we are reminded to care for those less fortunate. Conservatives don't have to become liberals in order to deal with these issues, but they have to have a heart about this.

There needs to be a wholesale intellectual revolution within conservatism. It starts by doing this: Republicans need to start reading your Bibles, beyond the few scattered verese that talk about homosexuality. The Bible is filled with verses about caring for the poor, so it seems that God is a bit more concerned with people being well-fed, than with two guys holding hands.

If the father of conservatism can see the importance of helping the poor, maybe other conservatives need to take notice.


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