THE MYTH OF THE FISCAL CONSERVATIVE

When I got a confused comment from Eric the 1/2 troll (here), I decided it might be worthwhile to explain the uselessness of any Fiscal Conservative who is not also a Social Conservative. Then it occurred to me that many would find both expressions hard to define. So let’s begin by defining our terms. Here is the gobbledygook you get out of Wikipedia.

Fiscal conservatism is a political term used to describe a fiscal policy that advocates avoiding deficit spending. Fiscal conservatives often consider reduction of overall government spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget of paramount importance. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes, and other conservative policies are also often but not necessarily affiliated with fiscal conservatism. (from here)

Social conservatism is a political or moral ideology that believes that government has a role in encouraging or enforcing what they consider traditional values or behaviors. A second meaning of the term social conservatism developed in the Nordic countries and continental Europe. There it refers to liberal conservatives supporting modern European welfare states. Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism which focuses on cultural aspects of the issues, such as protecting one’s culture, although there are some overlaps. (from here)

The problem with Wikipedia’s definitions is that the terms don’t seem to mean much of anything. For example, in Howard Dean called a ‘fiscal conservative’, The Daily Caller reports that Howard Dean, a former Chairman of the Democratic Party did not mind being called a Fiscal Conservative. And why not? Who would oppose (in theory, at least) reducing government spending and balancing the budget?

SourceWatch, referring to what might be an older version of Wikipedia’s definition, defines Social Conservatism this way.

A social conservative believes in “traditional morality and social mores and the desire to preserve these in present day society, often through civil law or regulation. Social change is generally regarded as suspect, while social values based on tradition are generally regarded as tried, tested and true. It is a view commonly associated with conservative religious groups, militarism and nationalism.” [1]

“One who favors social policies based on a particular reading of Judeo-Christian values, generally in favor of public prayer and the right to own guns, and opposed to abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the teaching of evolution in public schools.” [2]

SourceWatch, of course, does not see itself as Socially Conservative, and Howard Dean, obviously, would take offense if he were called a Social Conservative. Why? What actually is a Social Conservative? Why that hostile definition from SourceWatch?

SourceWatch will have to explain own biases, but once we tone it down to something less extreme, its definition of Social Conservative sort of makes sense.  Social Conservatives generally point to the people who founded this nation as their role models. Many fashion themselves as Constitutionalists. They uphold traditional American values as stated in the Declaration of Independence and as embodied by the original, intended meaning of The United States Constitution.

Social Conservatives are pro-American, but they not rabidly militaristic and nationalistic. Social Conservatives generally favor a strong defense, but they favor such a defense only as a means of avoiding warfare, not for conquest. Didn’t anyone noticed what President George Bush did when he took down Saddam Hussein’s regime? Bush never once suggested stealing Iraq’s oil, and he gave Iraq back to its people.

So where is the source of conflict? I think it arises over how the religious values of Social Conservatives, their traditional Judeo-Christian values, conflicts with Socialism.

Socialists want extensive government control over our People, and they have largely succeeded in implementing this sort of control.

  • Government has expanded its tentacles into our health, our education, the welfare of our poor and aged, and every aspect of business.
  • We increasingly contend with all-encompassing environmental “protections” and consumer advocacy programs that leaves both businesses and buyers bewildered.
  • We suffer a tax burden grown in size far beyond anything envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Our huge Federal Government stands in stark contrast to America’s traditional Judeo-Christian values. The Founders believed government exists to protect the God-given rights of the individual. Hence, when overreaching politicians look for philosophy to justify what the have done, they turn to Secularism. They denigrate traditional Judeo-Christian values and those who uphold such values as “extreme”.

Fiscal Conservatism? Balancing the budget? Once they have solved all our other problems – and government owns everything – surely Socialists can surely aspire to that goal too.

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I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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12 Responses to THE MYTH OF THE FISCAL CONSERVATIVE

  1. Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Social Conservatives generally point to the people who founded this nation as their role models. Many fashion themselves as Constitutionalists. They uphold traditional American values as stated in the Declaration of Independence and as embodied by the original, intended meaning of The United States Constitution.”

    The same can be said of Libertarians, Tom. Are you suggesting that all Libertarians are actually Social Conservatives? I could point to several positions which would say you are wrong. Your attempt to label all Conservatives as good and pious and all Liberals as bad, heathen, socialists fails at the very first test. Try again, perhaps…

  2. Indiviual liberty is the cornerstone of our founding documents. Sometimes the concept of indiviual liberty aligns nicely with social conservatisim, in other areas, not so much. But the two idealisms (and I include libertarians in that, as well) have every reason (and need) to work together now to restore our country to our roots of freedom and force our government to use the constituion as their guide. We’ve gone so far off track it will take all of us working together to bring it even part of the way back. After that occurs, then we can debate the differences.
    Interesting post.

  3. Interesting read.
    Technically a liberal can embrace fiscal conservatism, but being a foreign policy dove and socially liberal, remain a liberal. Mark Steyn made an argument, though, that it’s impossible to embrace the entire socially liberal agenda and remain a fiscal conservative because liberal social agenda entails government intervention in the workplace (maternity leaves, etc) and individual autonomy (lightbulbs) that are impossible to reconcile with fiscal conservatism.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      Agreed.

      Isn’t odd how Socialists tend to portray Social Conservatives as religious busybodies, yet in practice Socialist spend much more energy trying to run other people’s lives. What I fear the problem comes down to is two thing: the arrogance of power and the psychology of spending other people’s money. Nevertheless, I doubt Socialists are necessarily more evil than Conservatives. They may even have better intentions. They have just missed something of the most fundamental import. To change the world for the better, we must change ourselves, not somebody else.

      • “yet in practice Socialists spend much more energy trying to run other people’s lives.”

        bingo.

        “they may even have better intentions.”

        hey, isn’t there a saying about this? Something about a road?

        LOL thanks for my welcome back link, my friend

        Linda.

  4. Citizen Tom says:

    Eric —

    Your attempt to label all Conservatives as good and pious and all Liberals as bad, heathen, socialists fails at the very first test.

    I did that? Really?

    Admittedly, labels have their limits, but we are stuck with using them or speaking and writing without the benefit of nouns.

    Are you suggesting that all Libertarians are actually Social Conservatives?

    Since I would have such a hard time topping Freedom, by the way response, I think it best just to enjoy it and work on something else.

  5. Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Admittedly, labels have their limits, but we are stuck with using them or speaking and writing without the benefit of nouns.”

    Tom, you have suggested this twice now so I think it bears examining. Labels are not the same as nouns. More like adjectives. The biggest difference between labels and nouns is that nouns are factual – all flowers are indeed flowers. Labels are not facutal but attempts to generalize and categorize as uniform characteristics/opinions held by individuals. They are in short non-factual. IMO, this is what makes politics such a argumentative part of our existence. You might say, Liberals (by which is implied ALL Liberals) believe that the government is the answer to all our problems. The use of the implied and stated absolutes makes this a label, ignores our individuality (i.e., our humanity), discounts opinions as invalid (conveniently), often attempts to vilify the target of the label, and creates a defensive reaction – the need to point out the the exceptions to your rule rather than one’s opinion on the issue being discussed – on the part of the one being labelled. Far from assisting our discussions, labels hinder our communications and the free exchange of ideas.

    I will give you an example. You like to interexchange the term Liberal and Socialist as labels. I tend to lean to the left (although I hold some very conservative viewpoints) so I am often labelled a Liberal. I sometimes have issue with this as I do not hold the same viewpoint as many other people who are self-identified as Liberal and the implication is that I DO. I certainly never considered myself a Socialist although there are SOME Socialist positions I agree with – in a similar way that I certainly do not consider my self a Conservative or Libertarian yet I embrace SOME of the positions people who DO self-identify as such.

    I think it best to just discuss the issues as issues – each individually and do our best to respect the opinion of others without trying to put everybody in categories where the use of those categories is counter-productive and not reflective of our individuality/humanity.

  6. Citizen Tom says:

    Eric – All flowers are flowers? :roll:

    Why don’t you try to define the word flower? Then look it up. Google the word. Consider the perspectives of a florist, a farmer, a botanist… How many are the professions that involve flowers? Do the people in these different professions think of flowers the same way? Do they use the same words to describe flowers? No. Of course, they don’t. Review all the different and ever so numerous varieties of flowers, and you will begin to understand why.

    Botanists regard a flower as only a modified stem. Yet the variety of our political labels does not begin to compare to the full range the different modified stems we call flowers. Yet you say all flowers are the same.

  7. Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    Tom,

    The point is that there IS a definition of what a flower is (regardless of what some people CONSIDER to be flowers). It is defined and exact. And you fixing on my metaphor intentioanlly (apparently) ignores the point of my post.

    Political labels are NOT nouns and are simply categories attempting to eliminate the individual from the political discussion. If you are not willing to consider this fact, I can only assume that you agree with that goal and willing participate to that end. It does, after all, benefit those on the political fringe to label people, thereby artificially bolstering their numbers and alienating those in middle from each other. Labels help the fringe, individuality helps the moderate middle. It makes sense why you wish to destroy political individuality – it undermines your cause.

  8. Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Yet you say all flowers are the same.”

    No, I said all flowers are flowers not all flowers are the same. That is how a noun works. All liberals are not always liberals. All conservatives are not always conservatives. Probably the most famous example of this is Churchill. Now if you start to consider the idea of WHO is doing the labeling (i.e., you might consider me a liberal while a greenpeace progressive might very well consider me to be conservative) and things like relative terms (i.e., I am likely MORE liberal than you but MORE conservative than say Al Gore) it SHOULD dawn on you that what I say is true. Just look at the word forms – an object can not be MORE flower than another. Flower is a noun – poltical labels are better described as adjectives – but generally they are just lies – convenient lies.

  9. Citizen Tom says:

    Eric — What are you actually saying about political labels that we did not already know?

    We use the words Liberal, Socialist, Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, rose, orchid, tree, house, cars and so forth because these words all actually do mean something. Nonetheless, when someone uses the word “Liberal”, they do not (and cannot) comprehensively describe every Liberal who ever lived. That’s not the point.

    Every word suffers imperfections, but each means something. The main functional difference between “Nazi” and “car” is that the word “Nazi” strikes powerful emotional chords.

    Consider that a similar problem exists with the words “Liberal” and “rose”. Over time the meaning of the words have changed (see http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=liberal and http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=rose). Moreover, there are lots of different type of roses.

    So why do I have to explain any of this to you? Admittedly, you have already proven you know little about flowers, but you do appear to realize that not all Liberals are the same. Is the problem that you would rather debate my right to have any opinion that differs from your own?

  10. Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “We use the words Liberal, Socialist, Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, rose, orchid, tree, house, cars and so forth because these words all actually do mean something.”

    Again, you mix many ttypes of terms and suggest they are equals. They simply are not. Political terms are relative terms and not even remotely defined with any consensus. Religious terms are based on many variations of belief but with a pretty basic agreemtn as to what it means – although I personally know people who readily use the term “Real Christian” or “Real Catholic”, etc. You wouldn’t do such a thing, Tom, I am sure.

    But rose, orchard, tree, house, car are easily and universally defined (even scientifically defined) with no real controversy as to their meanings of degrees of category – again you never see some one saying that something is MORE tree than something else. There is no relativity in those terms.

    Just look at the word forms. Tree is never used as an adjective but certainly one can have a liberal or conservative position (note the use of the word as an adjective). Again these words can easily be further modified with the words “more” or “less”. They are NOT simple nouns with readily agreed upon definitions – they are simply NOT appropriate as labels.

    You apparently think I am quibbling but I am not. There is a reason that labels are thrown around (by everybody) and it is to avoid open debate of a subject NOT engage in open debate. I presented my logic on this subject earlier so I will not reiterate.

    “…but you do appear to realize that not all Liberals are the same.”

    But if you ignore this fact in pursuit of your point, you invalidate your argument, imo.

    “Is the problem that you would rather debate my right to have any opinion that differs from your own?”

    Irony, Tom? I mean considering that you own a blog on which you regularly state your opinion and are free to get rid of me whenever you want, this seems a little disingenuous. Further, if you consider that I come here of my own volition to read and comment, you should conclude that I am actually interested in your opinion – although admittedly I do not oft agree with them.

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