The Morality of Conservatism

David Weinberger via The Foundry
June 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

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.” READ MORE

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Professor Jonathan Haidt has mapped out liberals’ and conservatives’ competing ethical universes in hopes they can learn to peacefully coexist despite the fact that they conceive of morality in decidedly different ways. (Eliot Crowley)

Morals Authority

Jonathan Haidt is hardly a road-rage kind of guy, but he does get irritated by self-righteous bumper stickers. The soft-spoken psychologist is acutely annoyed by certain smug slogans that adorn the cars of fellow liberals: “Support our troops: Bring them home” and “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

“No conservative reads those bumper stickers and thinks, ‘Hmm — so liberals are patriotic!’” he says, in a sarcastic tone of voice that jarringly contrasts with his usual subdued sincerity. “We liberals are universalists and humanists; it’s not part of our morality to highly value nations. So to claim dissent is patriotic — or that we’re supporting the troops, when in fact we’re opposing the war — is disingenuous.
“It just pisses people off.” … READ MORE

This is about WHY we believe what we do, the motivational thoughts behind our morality. Both sides want to help those in need. The difference is in …

  • what constitutes NEED? and
  • how to help those in need
  • It’s been decades since most Americans recognized the difference between NEED and WANT. Our advertisers make sure we WANT many things, from Big Macs to hair color (men & women!). But what do we really need? Many have attempted to analyze and theorize about this human question and arrived at different answers.

    We NEED food, clothing, & shelter, but do we NEED a pc with internet access? Do we NEED cable TV on 42 in flat screen? We NEED, at least most places, fuel for heat, but do we NEED A/C? Is education a NEED or a WANT? What about safety? Is safety/security a NEED? I’d say YES, but does that mean I NEED a weapon?

    These are the very basic issues we must discuss and figure out as a nation. It requires civil discourse, but that seems out of the question at the moment. Hopefully, we will get there soon.