Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The problem with Compassionate Conservatism

John O'Sullivan has a great article in National Review. In the article he posits that President Bush is not a true conservative, nor a populist. That while there is a thread of conservatism on the issue of life, much of his governing stemmed from his own personal morality and not a core philosophical understanding of conservatism or freedom, or even of compassion.

Here's a portion.

To begin with, the idea that libertarian conservatism ignores or despises the poor is a libel. Some eccentric libertarians may do so, but the single most distinguished and influential libertarian conservative in our lifetime was the late Milton Friedman. His focus was on limiting government power — in everything from budgetary policy to narcotics regulation — but Friedman was also the inventor of the negative income tax, education vouchers, and a thousand other schemes to lift people out of poverty.

Second, there is nothing in compassionate conservatism to compel governments to prioritize. All the pressures in government are to finance new social projects (especially when opposing them is the sign of a hard heart). Without the restraint of a “small government” ideology, the easiest course is to choose them all. Overspending, inflation, spiraling deficits, and finally severe fiscal retrenchment are the results. But maybe that point need not be stressed just at present.

Third, compassionate conservatism is myopic. It responds to the victims in view but ignores the invisible victims of its generosity. Thus, the white-male victims of affirmative action are not considered in its debates about racial preferences. Bush’s proposed immigration reforms ignored the interests of low-paid, often minority, Americans. Prudent savers today are enduring the economic consequences of policies designed to help imprudent non-savers. And, of course, the taxpayer is the ultimate invisible victim of this cumulative warm-heartedness. As William Graham Sumner said, compassion is A getting together with B to decide what C shall do for X.

I'm afraid we're about to experience more compassionate something or other with our new President, minus the protection of the most innocent and vulnerable.

Kyrie, eleison.

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