November 16, 2012


Compassionate Conservatism Redux : Bush 43 was on to something important, and he got the votes to prove it. (Jonah Goldberg, 11/16/12, National Review)

He called his new approach to domestic policy "compassionate conservatism."

For years, I've criticized "compassionate conservatism" as an insult to traditional conservatism and an affront to all things libertarian. 

Bush liked to say that he was a "different kind of Republican," that he was a "compassionate conservative."

I hated -- and still hate -- that formulation. Imagine if someone said, "I'm a different kind of Catholic (or Jew, or American, etc.): I'm a compassionate Catholic." The insinuation was -- by my lights, at least -- that conservatives who disagreed with him and his "strong-government conservatism" were somehow lacking in compassion.

As a candidate, Bush distanced himself from the Gingrich "revolutionaries" of the 1994 Congress, and he criticized social conservatives such as Robert Bork, who had written an admittedly uncheery book, Slouching towards Gomorrah. He talked endlessly about what a tough job single mothers have and scolded his fellow conservatives for failing to see that "family values don't end at the Rio Grande." As president, he said that "when somebody hurts, government has got to move." According to compassionate conservatives, reflexive anti-statism on the right is foolish, for there are many important -- and conservative -- things the state can do right. that after millennia of poverty and hunger, just a few decades of the Second Way eliminated both.  Of course, the problem for the Second Way is that its economic model is unsustainable and it is morally enervating.   W was one in a line of Anglospheric advocates of the Third Way, which accepts that the social safety net has done much good and perfects capitalism, but seeks to place it on a sounder financial and social footing by replacing mere government handouts and dependency with personal savings and market driven mechanisms for increasing those savings over a lifetime.  The Right and the Left still think the struggle is between 1st and 2nd, when, in fact, it's just about who presides over the implementation of the Third.

Posted by at November 16, 2012 5:25 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus