One of the worst ideas of the decade: Compassionate Conservatism

( – promoted by DD4RP)

Perhaps Compassionate Conservatism was a bad idea because it rested on a faulty premise: that to energize conservatism, one had to soften it, to remove from the vagaries of life the hard edge and the lessons of failure.

Compassionate conservatism downplayed the libertarian strain on the right in favor of mass marketing and touchy feely sentimentality. It gained currency with the so-called “Religious Right” which resulted in the Mike Huckabee Presidential campaign of 2008.

In 2000, Bush did not rise above the bad taste of the Clinton presidency and the misguided thrust of Republican inquisitors at the time. Instead he made conservatism malleable. Without freedom to fail in the economic marketplace, we got “too big to fail.” We got government in the business of promoting home-ownership, Medicare Part D and Kennedy-stylized No Child Left Behind. What did happen to the laboratories of democracy that allowed states to find the best pedagogy?

A well-intended philosophical experiment in helping individuals find their way in the grind of the market, compassionate conservatism became an excuse for gutting federalism and coddling the riff-raff addicted to corporate welfare.

Reihan Salam explains:

The essential problem was that compassionate conservatism was an unstable amalgam of two very different ideas, one good and one very bad. The good idea, encouraging self-help and grass-roots entrepreneurship, was largely abandoned in favor of the bad idea, namely the embrace of central planning to raise K-12 test scores and homeownership rates, as though artificially pumping up mortgage finance bore any resemblance to encouraging real prosperity. Bailouts of Detroit and Wall Street would follow the same logic.

While compassionate conservatism elected a Republican president, it may have set the stage for an era of crony capitalism in which real entrepreneurship and growth are snuffed out for a generation.

About Karl Marx

Left wing libertarian conservative.