Monday, June 30, 2008

Return of Compassionate Conservatism

This morning's Washington Post contains a snippet about the return of "compassionate conservatism." Ugh. I've never liked that phrase, not one bit. Conservatism on its own was quite passionate enough, thank you. By compassionate conservatism, President Bush means (among other things) removing some of the legal and administrative burdens placed on faith-based organizations in doing what they do best...delivering human compassion to others. I'm all for that, as it fits in nicely with specialization, division of labor, and all those nice economic ideas. But the use of the phrase "compassionate conservatism" has always played nicely into the hands of those who consider conservatism to be "mean" or "uncaring". "Oh", they say, "so before compassionate conservatism, you really were mean and uncaring". I think it is mean and uncaring to trap people into repeatable cycles of dependence on government, something liberal social policy did quite well in the 20th Century. Conservatism has always had as a central idea the notion that individual human beings can in fact, improve themselves and their situation...and they do so better without the interference of government.

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