Friday, November 14, 2008

Economically conservative social liberals?

Great, and I mean truly great, column from Jonah Goldberg today, analyzing the great question of our time (or at least for this month), what to do with the Republican Party?

The comparison of economically conservative social liberals to "Jackelopes" is an apt one. I have heard people describe themselves as this, but usually when the string is pulled, they are either A) not fiscally conservative at all or B) not necessarily social liberals, but more properly considered, they are social libertarians. This forms the basis of my deviation from Goldberg's analysis.

Economic conservatism and social liberalism forms what nuclear physicists call an "unstable isotope". A being cannot remain long in this state. Either one comes to realize their liberalism is unaffordable, or they chuck the economic conservatism in favor of being just plain liberal. Economic conservatism and social libertarianism IS however, a very stable isotope, and this is where the party ought to be aiming.

Social libertarianism basically says that the same government we seek to limit in the spheres of the economy and the market ought be limited in the social also. While morally repellent, abortion is a choice made by many women--and a social libertarian would say the government ought to stay out of it. A social libertarian does not surrender the right to criticize the conduct of another, and they do not surrender their right to be morally repulsed by the actions of another. A social libertarian sees the need for helmets on children bicycling, sees the need for seat belt use, and sees the need for car seats for children--they simply cringe at the thought of the government FORCING these behaviors on people. A social libertarian might not buy lottery tickets, but the thought that lotteries should be abolished because they entrap predominately poor people strikes them as loony. A point of clarification libertarians are not strict libertarians. In the case of the lottery, a libertarian might say the government has no right or role in sponsoring lotteries. The social libertarian sees them as features of modern life and holds no real objection to them. A social libertarian would suggest that it probably is not a bad thing that the US government sought ways to make home loans more widely available to promote ownership--but they would also think that the government swooping in to save people from themselves is also wrong.

Let me know if you think I'm onto something here.


Dan said...

I think you are onto something -- another name for the social libertarian you describe is "Mom" or more specifically, "June Cleaver."

Goldwater's Ghost said...

Anthony Randazzo has a similar piece up over at Reason (

It's an interesting take, and one fairly consistent in reasoning (limited intervention of government in both fiscal and social policy) which I like.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

I like mine better :)

Goldwater's Ghost said...

*sigh* Yes, CW, yours was much better.

Newer Post Older Post Home