Compassionate Conservatism

February 26, 2010 | NeW Staff

Has anyone ever told you that conservatives have no heart? That conservatives harbor no compassion for the weak?

Unfortunately, this is an accusation I have encountered during more then one ideological battle. I didn’t get the memo, but apparently because I happen to be a conservative I must not care about the homeless, discriminated, or poor right? Conservatives only care about big business. Therefore, conservatives must be elitist. Yet, I would argue liberal ideology is much more elitist then conservative doctrine. 

One of the core values of conservatism is limited government. Most importantly, limited federal government. Conservatives are much quicker to place power in the hands of individuals, or citizens, rather then place it with government officials. This is important because liberals believe society is best regulated by a large, all encompassing government. Thus, the government can decide what is best for you rather then leave it up to the individual. Rather then provide the freedom to the individual to decide what society needs, liberals opt to tax and spend citizen’s money for them. Gee, that kind of sounds like a philosophy that assumes ordinary, working Americans don’t have any idea how to take care of themselves. I don’t know about you, but that sounds about as elitist as you can get to me. 

This week I read on Huffington Post an article by Mike Lux. While I encourage you to read the article for yourself, (especially if you attended CPAC and heard Beck) the best part of Lux’s opinion piece was this blanket statement about conservatives:

In the conservative world view, each individual is on their own. The best society will be created if each of us goes our own way, with absolutely no help from anyone, and does exactly what we want to do, no matter who it hurts. Because that invisible hand of the marketplace makes individual greed a source of strength, and because if the weak are not “eaten,” society itself becomes weaker.

Lux claims that conservatives would essentially throw their women and children to the wolves (or lions, as Lux seems to prefer) to make society stronger. Among other things, he mocks free market systems, asserts conservatives don’t care about “abused sisters,” the elderly or those facing chronic illness. Essentially, any form of competition must be evil, in addition to individualism. According to Lux, a society which is “compassionate” must be one full of regulation, entitlements, and taxes. 

I disagree. I find that a society of regulation, entitlements, outrageous taxation and spending leads to stagnation, not compassion. It fosters comfort, impeding entrepreneurship, innovation and growth. Conservatives are not elitist, and do not lack compassion. As I conservative, I believe in the ability of the individual to recognize what is best for him/herself. I hardly think this is lacking compassion, rather it is recognizing the importance of individual freedom. Of course we should help those who cannot help themselves, yet when an individual can prosper more on disability then they would if they reentered the workplace after a chronic illness diagnosis, well, that’s a problem. Where’s the incentive for the individual living with a chronic illness to return to work? Where is the incentive for individuals in the workforce to support those who may not actually need to be supported on disability? Dilemmas like this do not equate lack of compassion, rather lack of respect for the individual. 

One of my favorite books is The Law, in which F. Bastiat asserts “competition is merely the absence of oppression.” I find large government oppressive, and elitist. Where do you stand, in this debate? Have you ever had a discussion about big government on your campuses before?

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