Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jim DeMint Is Right: Fiscal Conservatism Needs Social Conservatism


Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is currently the talk of the blogosphere for saying that:
You can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative. A large part of the expansive government is to make up for a dysfunctional society because our culture’s falling apart. The family’s falling apart.
Taken as a statement of fact, DeMint is wrong—obviously, there are many people with conservative economic views but leftist social ones, and vice versa—but if we take the statement in the way I suspect he meant it, as a warning of sorts, DeMint is absolutely right.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the alleged distinction between “social conservatism” and “fiscal conservatism” is an imaginary contradiction based on either misunderstanding or selectively adhering to conservative first principles.  If American conservatism is fidelity to the values and wisdom of the Founding Fathers, then restoring the right to life and preserving civil marriage are every bit as much conservative imperatives as standing for the free market is. In this sense, DeMint is correct: if you truly and fully are a conservative, you’ll be one both fiscally and socially.

Further, DeMint’s absolutely right to warn that social negligence leads to economic and political disaster. As I’ve argued before, many on the Right are largely AWOL on the cultural front, and the results are more than cultural:
A culture that worships gratification (particularly sexual) without responsibility or constraints, that believes truth is personal and relativistic rather than grounded in permanent wisdom, that has been conditioned to expect everyone else to provide for their every need and clean up after their every mistake, that sneers at traditional morality and religious belief…these trends and attitudes cannot help but play into the Left’s hands.

Simply put, a narcissistic, relativistic, secular, ignorant culture will always be receptive to a political movement that promises to give them things paid for with other people’s money, affirms their “if it feels good, do it” mentality, and assures them that supporting statism and “environmental consciousness” are the only forms of morality or compassion they’ll ever really need.
Our Founders believed that, because no set of political mechanisms could fully account for man’s darker impulses, certain moral virtues and institutions, such as marriage, were necessary prerequisites for maintaining a free society. And the right to life’s importance is even clearer:
If we surrender on abortion, we might as well kiss goodbye the free market, or any chance of reforming the welfare state. Once society has accepted the proposition, I may take an innocent life if it benefits me to do so, why should we think twice about taking from our countrymen anything less vital—income, personal freedom, you name it—for the sake of interest? The rights to go without health insurance or allow smoking in your restaurant pale in comparison to the right not to be deliberately killed.  Surrender the right to life, and you’ve already as good as surrendered the others.
It’s not a coincidence that the more fiscally conservative a senator is, the more likely he is to be socially conservative as well. Conservatism is in desperate need of reunification, and Jim DeMint’s comments are a good start.

(Also see: Tim Andrews, “The Importance of Social Conservatism,” and Beregond, “Legislating Morality,” courtesy of the NRB Headlines)

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