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  • The Morality of Conservatism

    Liberals often appeal to morality in policy debates with conservatives—with much success. But conservatives should not cede the moral high ground. In fact, a strong case for conservatism can be made on the basis of morality.

    Consider why shrinking government is moral. The more the federal government provides for people, the more it deprives them not only of their dignity, but of one of the most sacred rights, penned by Thomas Jefferson: the right to pursue happiness. Why? Because fulfilling happiness comes from earned success, not from unearned handouts.

    Think about the person we all knew growing up whose parents spoiled him or her. Even if that person wasn’t unhappy at the time (though chances are he or she was unhappy), it teaches that individual to expect handouts, which will likely result in an unhappy adulthood. Sewing the seeds of entitlement is a recipe for misery.

    During the recent recession, unemployment benefits were extended from six months to nearly two years . Does not an extension of such length send the message to people who receive them that they can depend on government? How dignifying is that?

    Certainly in tough times people may need help, but the tragedy of governmental aid is that it crowds out assistance from families, private charities and local communities, which is much more personal, not to mention much more effective. Jonathan Gruber, an economist from MIT, conducted a study of the New Deal government in the 1930s, and concluded that private charity spending “fell by 30% in response to the New Deal, and that government relief spending can explain virtually all of the decline in charitable church activity observed between 1933 and 1939.”

    Private charities are able to make distinctions between people who truly need help and those who do not, as well as between those who need material assistance and those who need moral refocus, personal counseling, relationship repair or spiritual commitment. Government, no matter how well-intentioned, does not and cannot make such distinctions. In fact, the more ubiquitous government programs become, the less needed families and communities are to help those who require it.

    Though well-intentioned, leftism’s commitment to government undermines both the individual pursuit of happiness, which results from earned success, and private charity of families and communities who can best provide it to those experiencing hardship. Conservatism, on the other hand, is committed to both, and is precisely why moving the country to the right is moral.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to The Morality of Conservatism

    1. Stirling says:

      Well put.. the difference in bettween Liberal "Morality" and Conservative "Moralty" comes down to Individual Freedom. Also Conservative "Morality" in most cases centers on God's natural rights, and not the Liberal center of government (without God).

    2. John G says:

      It's interesting that in a post about conservatism and morality there's no mention of the morality of gov't when it comes to social issues that conservatives generally support like the morality of the drug war or denying equal rights to same-sex couples. In those instances it is conservatives who come across like the statists they accuse liberals of being on economic issues.

    3. Bobbie says:

      …and another way to look at morality is respecting each other with acceptance and tolerance of the definitions of words that doesn't take government involvement. Conservatives don't believe its up to government to belittle people for attention or people to belittle the dignified role of government for their attention. Conservatives know as every life should, that any government outside ones own with what appears to be "morality" is a disguise for the set up of people to wilt into the government control system…

      Patriotic Americans have faith and respect in the human qualities of their fellow mankind not to be ruled by, but to rule ones own and where it has now come, America's government shows only faith in itself with no respect for the will of free people and an obsession to rule over them.

      People have equal rights, putting a name to describe ones "people" is asking for more than equal rights. Those rights you handle under "freedom" and with your "people"/ "kind" however you want to put it. Like a culture has rights within their own "culture." Within civil "freedom." NO "rights" are suppose to be written as law that doesn't apply to all for equal benefit. No "racism, discrimination" can be under equal rights. Unfortunately, America's government in past and present control undermine and supersede the constitution of the "peoples' rights and equal protections" unconstitutionally.

      "people" have equal rights. "gay people" want special, extra, discriminating, intrusive, more rights! Get it? Rights to reflect their sexual ways, bringing for the first time in history in the late 20th century, an enormous amount of world wide bad attention and to blaspheme the Catholic faith just for cost and trouble sake only, to force your will on them when there are means that support your trouble!!

      It's just, I don't know how you can sleep whenever you do? Just unfortunate this is what you have to show for your freedom. selfishness! Although there are plenty of instigators who are the guilty at heart, you can repel their instigation…

    4. Steven A. Sylwester says:

      It is interesting to note that the words moral, morality, immoral, and immorality are not found in the King James Version of The Holy Bible, which was completed in 1611. The etymology of the adjective "moral" dates from the mid-14th century when "pertaining to character or temperament" (good or bad), and the meaning "morally good, conforming to moral rules," is first recorded in the late 14th century of stories, and in the 1630s of persons. The word "morality" regarding "moral qualities" dates from the late 14th century, and usage with the meaning "goodness" is attested from the 1590s.

      God seems to get thrown into the concept of morality quite frequently. Sometimes the God connection is plainly stated, and sometimes it is alluded to as David Weinberger has done in his using terms such as "most sacred rights" and "charitable church activity" and "spiritual commitment" leading up to his conclusion: "Conservatism, on the other hand, is committed to both (the individual pursuit of happiness and private charity of families and communities), and is precisely why moving the country to the right is moral." — that is: the word "moral" being defined as "morally good," even the very essence of "goodness."

      If God be in that, then consider the words of Jesus from the King James Version of Luke 18:18-25:
      And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
      And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
      Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
      And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
      Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
      And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
      And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
      For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

      * * *

      Ouch! If "none is good, save one, that is, God," then so much for morality of any sort, be it liberal or conservative. False claims are false claims, no matter how they are prettied up.

      How about this instead: speak plainly about world-view comparisons — sell conservatism like you sell a car by objectively describing its features, performance, comfort, safety, economy, and superior craftsmanship in contrast to the competition. Liberalism is friendly and well meaning, but is it well made — will it safely and reliably transport you to your destinations in good weather and bad?

      Know this: when the "sacred right" called "the individual pursuit of happiness" manifests as greed in a capitalist economic system, true evil can result. Strangely, that evil smiles happiness on its face while leaving misery and sorrow in its wake: it can be a most wicked monster. Conservatism should never feed that monster, nor should it ever embrace evil and call it good.

      A Bible story: Matthew 22:35-40 NIV:
      One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

      Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

      In Luke 6:27-36 NIV, Jesus said:
      “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

      “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

      * * *

      My advice: Do not make morality claims unless you are willing to measure yourself by God's standards.

      Also, consider: bit.ly/zPQ2MV

      Steven A. Sylwester

    5. Hance says:

      Yep, people know the kind of government but the system within it wasn't. It's a good to write this kind of article so that society will know and be informed. I'm studying about the different kind of political system specially the conservatism (starting on ancient time, the haddington era; Thomas Earl Hamilton Marsden)

    6. pete s says:

      The morality of modern 'liberalism' justifies theft to promote fairness.

    7. Shelly Arens says:

      Give a man a fish and he eats today (liberal viewpoint)
      Teach a man to fish and he eats every day (conservative viewpoint)

    8. John Lofton says:

      Modern "conservatism" in the political arena has no "moral high ground" because it has been, de facto, operationally, Godless and Christless. It has totally ignored the Bible, ignored what God's Word says about civil government. More than 150 years ago the great Christian theologian R.L. Dabney — "Stonewall" Jackson's chief-of-staff — said of the secular, bread-alone, God-ignoring "conservatism" of his day:

      ?”[It] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

      "American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."


      "Conservatism" will not save us. Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

      ?John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
      Recovering Republican

    9. Joe Steel says:

      Claiming a benefit as a right of citizenship is far more dignified than begging a charity for a handout.

      • rhcrest says:

        The thinking that you are "entitled" to a portion of someone else's hard earned paycheck and that you have the "right" to a portion of that person's paycheck as a "benefit" because you are a citizen is utterly reprehensible. The money taken out of that person's paycheck is not charity by any stretch of the imagination. It is taken by force, at the point of a gun if need be. And just because the recipient "needs' the money, does not justify its theft. The government has now the middleman in the theft process. No longer do these recipients need to mug someone mugging down the street. No. The gov't does the mugging and then turns around and gives this money to the person who did not earn it.

        • rhcrest says:

          No longer do these recipients need to mug someone mugging down the street. No. The gov't does the mugging and then turns around and gives this money to the person who did not earn it. Welfare, food stamps, section 8 rental payments etc are all forms of legalized theft. Also, the recipient of this money just takes it automatically in the form of a check each week and because of this they do not see the person on the other side of that equation who had to bust their hump to earn that money. The entire process is impersonal and this leads to its abuse. There should be shame felt on the part of the recipients and this should motivate them to get themselves out of the situation. Communities and charities are always willing to step up and help people who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. You see this over and over such as when someone loses their home in a fire. There are always fundraisers and people climbing over each other to help as it should be.

          • rhcrest says:

            But when the person sits around all day relaxing just expecting that gov't check, then help should not be forthcoming. And please don't tell me this is a stereotype. I see it all the time with my husband's line of work. He manages apt buildings and sees this first hand so don't even go there. And when people are so bogged down by taxes, they are less inclined to give to charities. This is because they can't afford it and also because they feel that they have given at the office so to speak. I know there are lots of charitiies i would love to give to but can't.

    10. Sondra says:

      I am a long term Heritage member and enjoy reading the various articles at The Foundry which make the case for Conservatism. In my view, Conservatism and education go hand in hand which is why Conservatives write correctly and write well. A small point — Mr. Weinberger brought out my inner English teacher in the last sentence of his third paragraph in an otherwise well written piece; "Sewing the seeds…". The fact that it should be "sowing" was most likely an oversight.

    11. Gerald Artman says:

      I think you miss the point about happiness. It is not about money or wealth. If we are all given talents and are expected to use them for good, then anything that inhibits the use of them prevents us from fulfilling our path. Hence a right cannot impose a duty on another. Under Sylvester's take, we would all be poor and have no possessions. This of course would mean we would all be dependent upon others for life. I wonder if he believes in such if he has a house, a job, a family? How can loving one's neighbor be reconciled is depending on them for existence? Is you demand from them in order to exist failing to respect their talents and ability to follow the path He has laid for them? Lastly, how does Sylvester reconcile love with the one who invested and grew his master's wealth instead of burying it with giving everything away? Doesn't love mean trust in the loved one, respect, honor. None of that would seem to be supported if we all lived as dependents wasting our talents.

    12. Just says:

      OK, yeah fine, in a perfect world where there are jobs and everyone has enough to eat….people can't find jobs so they rely on unemployment and assistance for help, so, let's let them starve because THAT is certainly less demeaning than using food stamps. And, let's NOT extend unemployment benefits because there are no jobs, and let them starve because it is more dignified. And lets not let the federal government INVEST in creating jobs so these people will not HAVE to rely on unemployment and assistance, why? Because our "moral" is greed, and our priority is to keep all of our money, and do nothing to help the less fortunate (if we are uber rich in the form of a higher tax rate). And lest we forget "private" charities are hurting right now, because people don't have enough to contribute to them in the way of private funding, and a lot of charitable organizations rely on some sort of government funding, which of course is being cut because it is a "handout". So, let's just let them starve, it's the moral thing to do.

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