Is there such a thing as compassionate conservatism?
Feb 26th, 2010
Why am I conservative. Is that biblical? What does it mean to be conservative?
In Worthychat, there are often passionate debates that arise out of the differences between what are broadly assumed to be conservative and liberal values. The terms are not easy to define, and I suspect each person has his/her own idea of what the terms mean. I will not attemp to define them, because of those reasons. What I will attempt to do, is to communicate the values and beliefs through which I filter competing social and political ideas and problems. For example:
I beleive that God has called me to love my neighbor. This means to me, that I am to seek his well being, treat him in a way that gives him help, helps him help himself, things along that line. Most who would call themselves liberals, would agree with this ideal I believe.
I believe that God has called me to provide a living for myself, and to support my family, in other words I have personal responsibilities to try not to require help from others – this is another form of loving my neighbor – self sufficiency, rather than burdening others.
I believe that God expects me to raise my children in the best ways, training them to be Godly and to also love their neighbors.
I believe that I have responsibilities to try to make the world a better place. That means to me, that I need to try to be part of a solution, and less of a problem. This translated into decisions that I make regarding voting issues, volunteerism, charity and countless other oportunities to affect peoples lives in a positive way, in the family, in the church, in the neighborhood, in the world at large.
I doubt many who name themselves liberals, would disagree much with my goal and principles to this point.
However, where they often do disagree, is how best to accomplish these ideals.
So, where do I part company with liberals philosophically? I will answer that, but please keep in mind, that I will be using generalities, there may well be many liberals who do not think that they are as I am going to discribe them, if you are a liberal, or a conservative, do not think that I am talking about you, I am talking about my perception of liberals and conservative in the U.S., the country in which I live and with which I am most familiar.
In my observation, there are some fundamental differances in the way the conservative mind and the liberal mind think. I am not going to say that one is superior to the other, but here is my attemp to explain what I see as differences in general.
The conservative thinks more in terms of individual responsibility, he/she sees obligation to act on a personal level, while the liberal tends to think in terms of what government should do to help people. That is probably not going to go unchallenged here, but it is what I believe. Perhaps it would be good to give an example to illustrate my contention.
A conservative is likely to want to see government welfare programs reformed, reduced, or possibly elliminated. He believes that charity, is the job of individuals and charitable orgnizations. He will not generally approve of government attempts at charity, because he realizes that they have not demonstrated themselve to be efficient (only allowing 30 cents of every dollar spent to reach the beneficiary), are fraught with fraud, lack accountability, and get their funding by confiscating money from those who have it. He believes it is better to to have people giving willingly out of love or compassion, than to have his elected officials deciding for him the best way to accomplish charity.
By contrast, a liberal is likely to assume that need is so great, that volunteerism will be insufficient to meet people’s needs, that those who have money, will not be generous enough to cover the needs of the needy, so therefore we need government to step in, take money from some individuals to give it to others.
I have a theory about why liberals have so little faith in voluntary charity. Liberals are not going to like it though, but please, this is about generalities, not any individual
My theory is this. We see the world through the prism of our own world views, and that creates a kind of predjudice. If we do not give much of our own substance away, we are likely to conclude that many or most others, are like us. Therefore, if we are not giving much, probably others are not giving much either. Is this a theory that I can prove? No, not in the slightest. However, what can be demonstrated, is that in general, conservatives give more away than liberals. Now some will be thinking, that is not true, conservatives are likely to be more careful with their money, wealthier also, and there fore either the conservative will be stingy, or he is only giving more because he can easily affort it.
That notion is, of course, also a theory. However, there are massive amounts of data available to show that conservatives give more, regardless of their economic level. Poor conservatives give more than poor liberals, rich conservatives gove more that rich liberals. Now, I can hear someone thinking, that that may be true, but conservatives are more likely to be religious, so that explains that. I am happy to inform you however, that non religious conservatives still give more, and that those who attend church, and give there, are also more likely to give more in addition to that giving, even to non religious causes. The fact is, conservative on the whole, are more compassionate in deeds, than liberals are in the United States at least.
As a side note, the citizens of the United State pay for many types of government programs through their tax system which have goals to help those in need; I am pleased to state they also manage to give away voluntarily, enough of their assets to charity, to amound to 8% of their gross domestic product, about 1 trillion dollar of charitible giving per year. I would like you to think about that number. It means that the average American, gives over $3000 to charitable causes each year, in addition to what is taken from him/her through taxation for similar purposes. Mind you, that number is an average taking into account every man, woman, child, and baby. These statments are based on the latest data I can find, in early 2010, If we adjusted those numbers to reflect only those people with assets and income, we would see that those who are able to give, do so generously without the goverment forcing them to do so. I am sure this is true for many other countries as well. Is this related to conservatism? I have no way of knowing, but when American are polled about the values they believe in and hold, America turns out to mostly moderate to conservative, with a little over 20% being categorized as liberals. While Americals political leadership tends to be to the left, it’s citizens tend to be to the right. However, the trend seems to be moving more to the left, so who knows what the future holds.
I believe that both liberals and conservatives are true to their world view. Conservatives beleive in individual giving, and do so, while liberals believe that charity is largely a government responsibility, and consider that they have given already through taxes, and of course that is true. The difference is, that the conservative is more likely to ”give” both ways.
Now, I do not have an answer to the question of what motivates a conservative to give more. When one considers that it is not religiousity, or income level, I am at a loss to explain it. However, I am happy to dismiss the stereotype that liberals are more compassionate, the facts do not seem to bear that out under examination.
I would like to point out another idea that ties in with this. Four times in U.S. History, that I am aware of, income taxes have been reduced. Liberals feared that this would result in a loss of income to the federal government, and that programs would have to be cut. In each of the four times, when taxes where cut, the governments revenue increased. How is this possible? It is not only possible, it is predictable. When you cut taxes on businesses, businesses have more money to invest in growth, give raises, hire new people etc. When a business buys more equipment, supplies, and raw materials, some one else who sold these items, is making more money. When some one makes more money from those investments, or from getting a raise or a new job, that new money becomes part of an income base, that is in turn taxed, producing more money for the government while at the same time, reducing the governments outlay for welware programs, unemployment insurance benefits, and the like. Also, there is probably another factor at work, the less abused a person feels by the tax system, the more likely he is to pay his taxes, instead of finding ways to cheat or to “loophole” his way out of them.
Lower taxes are one of those rare things, where everybody wins. So why don’t we lower taxes and keep them lower? Ask liberal politicians that question. It is hard to figure out to be sure. Historically in the U.S., it has been conservatives that fight the for reducing taxes and slowing tax growth. I can think of no good reason to burden people with more taxes in order to grow the government in ways that are not necessary, or to fund more inefficient programs that the private sector can handle better. Now, while lowering taxes provides more jobs and higher incomes and more revenue to the governmet, there is another side effect that is worth noting. When people’s net income goes up, charitable income goes up also.
Now, with these things all in mind, which is more loving of these two models:
More jobs, more income, more money for govt programs, more charitable giving
less jobs, less income, less money for govt programs and less charitable giving?
There is no rocket science here, conservatism is more compassionate in practice, than liberalism is. I could go on with scores of other examples. Liberals who are passionate, could respond with their counterpoints, but I see no benefit in dragging this out to that degree. Instead, I want to bring this to a conclusion to what I think the real problem is, one which I cannot fix, but one which any individual can, in his or her own life.
Liberals are truly compassionate people at the heart level, where God looks. So I am not going to call into question their devotion to God or good intentions. But as I see it, the liberal tends to think with his heart, he feels his way to decisions. He believes that government can be a good force to help people, and that therefore, more government equals more help. The reasoning is not too bad, it all sounds logical and feels right.
By contrast, the conservative analyzes results, he observes that government is too often in the way of helping people, it lowers the standard of living in many ways, lowering the quality of live and the ability to help others. The conservative is not usually ready to try bold new ideas without a lot of examination and forethought as to consequences. Where the liberal sees the world through eyes that examine the way things ought to be, the conservate examines the world through an examination of what works and what doesn’t. Now, I know many will take exception with that analysis, and I admit that I cannot see into the minds of others to see how they tick. But with a world of evidence around us, and that information being more available than ever, it is not hard to find out what works and what does not, what has succeeded and what has failed.
Liberalism has sought to take from the rich and give to the poor, yet in spite of the fact that liberals are more often in control of the country than conservatives, one can reasonably wonder, why has the number of poor people not been reduced or elliminated by now. We have been growing income taxes for over 100 years in the U.S. We have created more social welfare programs than one can shake a stick at over the last 70 years, yet the ratio of poor people to not poor people has not improved, what we have received for those efforts, is a large group of individuals who feel entitled to be provided for, instead of feeling the need to improve their own condition. But it is worse than that.
In one sector our population, our poor black communities to be specific, we have managed to convert a people who were once very family oriented, to a subculture of people where 7 out of 10 black children are born out of wedlock (with some estimates at 9 out of 10), many of whom have no idea who there daddy is, because they cannot ever remember seeing him. Our government pays the mother money, to help support her child, but pays her more if she does not have a man living in the house, so we have rewarded women by paying them more to have dad gone. Is there something wrong with this picture? We also pay them more money, the more cildren they have. The more you pay for something, the more something you can buy. Pay people to reaise shildren out of wedlock, and you will get more of that. It then becomes nearly impossible, for these women, to ever get off welfare, because too often they are under-educated, and if they could find a job, it would likely pay less than the goverment check. This then, becomes a way of life, often for multiple generations in these families. \
Now, lest someone accuse me of racial stereotyping here, I will quickly point out, that more white people are on welfare, than black people are. I am just using this example to point out how devestating welfare programs have been to some of our minority communities, the communities that many liberals with their well intentioned hearts, claim to want to help.
Speaking of blacks, I wish I knew more of them, the few that I do know cannot explain their allegiance to the Democrat Party. This question though, is more about party allegiance than conservative/liberal ideology. For those who are not aware, in the U.S. we have two major political parties, and dozens of minor ones. The Democrat Party, is largely liberal, while the Republican Party, is more conservative, though only slightly at times. The Democratic party and the Whig party, were the major parties a bit prior to our civil war. It was the Republican Party, that opposed slavery and won freedom for slaves. In the early civil rights movement, Republicans by ratio, outnumbered Democrats in inacting civil rights reforms. The Democrats, for the most part, have created a welfare situation which has kept many black people who would rather work, dependant on the welfare system, penalyzing them if they try to better their position in life through personal effort for financial gain. Is it any wonder that drugs and prostitution is big business in these areas, since they seem to be the only way many see to make decent incomes without being worse off employed, than if on welfare?
We have a very Racial focused ‘hate group’ in America, thankfully it is not very large. You may have heard of them, they are called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Most of them, profess to be Democrats. Senator Robert Byrd, sometimes referred to as the conscience of the Democrat part, was at one time a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. That Blacks show special allegiance to the Democrat Party, baffles me. Just a random thought.
I am beginning to realize that I could continue in this vein for perhaps days, because the number of problems that liberals have helped bring about through their good intentions is staggering, the current economic crises comes to mind. Their opposition to solving problems with solutions that actually help, is mind blowing.
Where does the common notion come from, that the rich are greedy and made there money off the backs of the poor? Or that corporations are only out to cheat, steal, and destroy the environment. You know the kinds of notions I am talking about here, I will ask you, are they more common among liberals or among conservatives?
Having anwsered that, would you like to be rich yourself, given the choice? How many times has a poor person offered you employment? Since most corporations are owned by the stock holders, don’t the officers of a company have an obligation to try to make the company profitable. Almost half of American houshold own shares of stock, if companies where not “so greedy” many of these stock portfolios would not perform as well as a savings account, and savings accounts lose value in terms of buying power, every year.
Do you really beleive that some lawyer or a person who has never held a normal job or run a business, is the best sort of person to put in charge of running our lives? Why do we keep electing them? That is not a liberal/conservative question, that is for everyone.
If I continue, I am going to work myself into a state where I think my country is no good. I have focused here on a lot of problems that I see, but the truth is, that we have it pretty good, I just want to keep it that way – that is what conservatism is, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”!
I apologize if that all seemed less than coherant. I know I went off topic a few times. This was not some well thought out thesis, this was just me rambling and ranting. I hope that at least one of three things happend while reading this. I hope that you at least saw your own thoughts crystalized, or, that you thought “Hmm, that is interesting, I never thought of it like that”, or that you got good and mad and feel motivated to prove me wrong. If your responce is a complacent yawn, I apologize for taking your time, maybe you can go find some professional wrestling on tv to watch, or maybe a good sitcom to stimulate your mind. Enjoy!
I realize, that if you think of yourself as a liberal, that you may feel that I have attacked you. Please do not! I know your intentions are good, I would just like you to rethink your ideas and examine if they are producing the good results that you expect. If not, why not look at the world of ideas out there, and find solutions that are working, and join in with them, and not feel an obligation so side with any group by label. This is for all people, all parties and philosphies. Any solution proposed by any group, party, or individual, which does not work, is not a solution, and does not need to be grown. Such ’solutions’ need to be modfied or replaced. The world is not perfect, and problems are complex, therefore no simple solution will likely be perfect or capable of wholly fixing a complex problem, but we can chose the better solutions, and we should. Do your best to do your homework, and think things through.
May 8th, 2010 at 1:32 am
I think this is pretty spot on. It really cleared it up for me.
May 11th, 2010 at 9:28 am
Yeap! I Understand And Agree
In My Navy And Post-Navy (College) Days When I Could, I Would Read Day And Night.
Among Other Things I Would Ponder The Different “Ways” Of Life (Philosophies)
I Very Well Understood Marxism As The Soviets Practiced It And Had The Experience Of Facing Off Directly With Their Guns In The Mediterranean, The Black Sea And The Caribbean (Cold War). But I Had To Spend Real Time Reading And Pondering Ayn Rand’s Objectivism (I Subscribed To Her “The Objectivist Newsletter”) Before I Realized Communism And Objectivism Were Two Faces On The Same Coin. With Men As god On One Side Of “The Coin Of Mankind” And Man As god On The Flip Side.
Additionally On And Off Since 1952, I’d Volunteered As A Precinct Worker For Both Republican And Democratic Conservative Candidates.
My Direct Observation Is The Two Main-Line Parties Often Act As Two Sides Of The Same Rope-A-Dope Coin And Together They Often Take The Peoples Money For A Merry Ride As They Pay Back Election Contributions And Such While Increasing Income Taxes (Democrat) And Excise Taxes (Republican). Both Often Spend With Little Direct Improvement To The Public Commonwealth. In Fact, Lately There Has Been A Rush By Members Of Both Parities To Push Through Massive Sell Offs Of Public Capital Assets And Defense Contracts To Foreign Powers Who Do Not Value Freedom, The LORD Jesus Christ Or Israel.
There Are Notable Exceptions Like – Harry “The Bomb” Truman – General Ike “Get That Military-Industrial Complex Pig Out Of My Pocket” Eisenhower – Ronald The Gipper “Nancy Their Spending Like Drunken Sailors On My Watch Again” Reagan.
So I Have Come To The Firm Conclusion These Two Scriptures Are The Only Valid Philosophy Needed To Measure Value In Government
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.”
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.”
And I Believe This Is God’s Design For Economic Endeavors Which I Think Cannot Truly Exist Until KING Jesus Is Seated In Jerusalem
“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.”
Gotta Love That Hebrew Cowboy!
Just Another Take On The Mess Before The Son-Rise!
Be Blessed Beloved Of The KING
Love, Your Brother Joe
May 11th, 2010 at 4:30 pm
Sounds like someone already forgot our former president… i see no point in this “rant”. you make it a point to say that your argument is made on generalizations, which is like saying “all Mexican-Americans are illegal”. Your highlighting a portion of the democratic party and comparing it to all the good qualities of republicans… i can do the same thing and say republicans are bigoted hicks. its not entirely true, however such a faction exists in the GOP. the real problem which i think you fail to see, is that the leaders of this country: are idiots. the smart ones are the ones who realize what a B.S. job politics are and stay out of it.
herb pritchard Says:
May 18th, 2010 at 11:57 am
Hi. You seem to have made an honest effort to be fair. But I don’t know where you get your facts. I suspect it is from Fox “news”. I have spent years volunteering my time in psych wards, hospice and battered women’s shelters. I have met hundreds of caring, loving, voulnteers following Christ as best they knew how. I believe very few of them were politically conservitive. It MAY be true that conservitives give more money, I have no idea. But these people are not present where the suffering is. I believe your idea of liberal and conservitive is limited to the focus of the political landscape of the last several years. The words accually refer to mind sets, not to current issues which result from the mind sets. Think of the differences between nurses and accountants, or artists and engineers. Guess which is which. I surely hope you can. God loves us all. Love, Herb
P.S. Take a course in economics. Truely, you will probably enjoy it.
Omegaman 2.0 Says:
May 20th, 2010 at 4:57 am
In response to Herb Pritchard:
Thank you for giving me the benefit of a doubt on my effort to be honest and fair. I do not get my facts from Fox News however, I do not even watch television.
I do not doubt your volunteer experience might have indicated that there are few conservatives in the trenches. That might be true in general, I do not know, but your personal experience is limited to a handful of people, relatively, and anecdotal evidence is a poor way to build a case for your point.
Your are correct about my focus being the political landscape, but not so much the last few years, more the track record of 60-70 years. My gripe is not with people, who consider themselves to be liberal, but with people in the media and politics, who constantly are harping on conservatives, comparing them to Nazis, calling them “mean spirited”, scaremongering with ideas like “if conservatives get their way, your granny will have to get by on dog food”. These notions are foolishness, and it you have not seen them, then you are not paying attention. I find it hypocritical to cast conservatives in that light, while the programs and ideologies of self proclaimed liberals, perpetuate poverty and they preside over programs that trap people in a cycle of despair and dependancy. Please note, I am not talking about individuals, I am referring to a system put in place and maintained by a few in power, and those in the media who are their cheering section, who seem to have an eliteist atitude, that the government is needed to take care of people, because they are too stupid to run their own lives. What is wrong with giving people a hand up, instead of a hand out?
By the way, my sources are places like the Census Bureau, The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, etc. I get a lot of my ideas from various reporters and commentators, but I always check their facts, I am quite the skeptic. As far as an economics course, I have taken one (got 4.0, not that that matters) and I did enjoy it. Additionally, I have numerous books on the economy and the effects of political systems and theories upon economic systems, and have researched beyond even that. I have, and have read, research papers and reports on these topics, the pile is probably 3 inches thick, single spaced double sided, 8-1/2 by 11. I don’t think I am ill informed or underinformed.
In response to Vince:
I have not forgotten our former president, I assume you mean George W. Bush. Bush had a lot of flaws, and he was not the man I wanted to see the Republican party offer as a candidate. In fact, he sort of coined the term “compassionate conservative”. That is part of what the rant was about. Bush implied with that self description, that he was a different kind of conservative, one who cared. That goes to demonstrate how effective the media has been in creating the image of conservatives as not compassionate. Bush was true to his word, and was a different kind of conservative, spending more on government entitlements than his predescessors, and that, is NOT conservatism, that is just irresponsible spending, nothing compassionate about it. While Bush was a huge spender, our new president, Barack Obama, will have spent more in two years, than Bush did in eight years. We may never recover from that, and a financially weak America, is not in the best position to be able to help those in need.
You seem to be leveling an accusation that I am praising Republican and criticising Democrats. For the most part, I do not see this as a problem of partisanship, there a liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. It is not the parties that is the issue, but the ideaologies.
I do not share your opinion, that the leaders of this country, are idiots. I find that to be a mean and offensive word. I will agree that there are a few who could stand to be brighter, but the problem is not that they have low inteligence, or insufficient knowledge.
I believe a person of average intelligencs and knowledge, is plenty capable of running the country, provided that they surround thenselves with expertise and can abandon thier pride and personal ambition long enough to serve as statesmen, not politicians. But I won’t be holding my breath.
Thanks to both of you for reading my blog, and offering your opinions.