February 12th, 2014

A kinder, gentler-sounding conservatism?

Conservative “social justice,” from Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute.

What do you think?

And extra credit if, before you read the article (and without Googling it), you can identify the source of this quote:

The burden on the Federal Government has grown with great rapidity. We have here a human as well as an economic problem…The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon [welfare] induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out [welfare] in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.

23 Responses to “A kinder, gentler-sounding conservatism?”

  1. Mac Says:

    Heh. I guessed, and it was only a guess, but it was not far off. Have to wait till later to read the Brooks piece.

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    That social justice would have a lot of ropes hanging from trees.

    The Left’s preferred solution to problem is:

    no people, no problem.

  3. Surellin Says:

    ” Faith, family, community, and work”. All pretty much under siege.

  4. parker Says:

    I guessed the quote belonged to Pat Moynihan; FDR as the source surprised me. IMO charity begins at the local/state level and stays at the local/state level. Conservatives give more to charities because they have a sense of personal responsibility to assist those who truly are in need. Liberals in general ‘care’ in an abstract sense because its a badge of honor to ‘care’, but they really don’t want to pony up from their own pocket and instead turn to big nanny.

  5. Matt_SE Says:

    tl;dr.

    I made it into the “Conservatives and Poverty” part before I got tired of the straw man arguments.

    Mr. Brooks claims that the summary of conservative positions is “you’re on your own.”
    The real summary is, “this isn’t any of the government’s business. It should be taken care of at the local level.”

    This idea that we conservatives are responsible for “fixing” the world is buying into the statist narrative. When you buy into the statist narrative, bad things follow.

  6. Matt_SE Says:

    To cite another example:

    There were 30 million (or so) uninsured in America. While not a “perfect” situation, conservatives thought the system wasn’t horrible either.

    But that wasn’t good enough for Obama (assuming you take him at his word that he was actually concerned for the well-being of his fellow Americans, and this wasn’t just a power-grab).

    Now, we have MORE uninsured than when we started.

    This is what happens when you tinker with complex systems. But apparently, epistemological humility is a concept foreign to Mr. Brooks.

    Three words: LEAVE. IT. ALONE.

  7. parker Says:

    The solution to the perceived health care crisis is get the Feds out of health care and go to a state based voucher system that gives the truly needy a voucher to purchase catastrophic insurance, then leave it alone.

  8. jvermeer Says:

    “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.” It is necessary to keeping large portions of the American populace separate, scared and dependent so they vote 90% Democrat.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I find Brook’s analysis to be seriously flawed because he ignores the heart of the matter. His central premise that, “As one digs deeper into the data, four transformational values prove to be concentric to a well-ordered, successful, and happy life: faith, family, community, and work.” fails to explicate the roots of those values.

    Which are positive parental role models, cultural values and ‘transcendent’ values. Positive parental role models both male and female are necessary to a child’s healthy psychological development. Cultural values, i.e. a culture’s embrace of four specific values; education, familial obligations and loyalty, a strong work ethic and acceptance of individual responsibility and accountability… determine both individual and group socioeconomic success.

    Transcendent values presuppose principles that transcend mere opinion. Whether Judeo/Christian principles and/or objective truth as revealed by reason and logic and/or the proposition that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”…all rest upon the premise that these principles obtain from a beneficent creator, placing them above mere human opinion.

    From the limited standpoint of individual and cultural success, it isn’t important whether there actually is a beneficent all knowing creator. What is important is that we act on the assumption that there is one because it optimizes individual behavior and social interactions.

    I also find questionable Brook’s assertion that, “In high-income, high-education America, these institutions (faith, family, community, and work) are abundant.” Faith is abundant among the high income? Family perhaps but community ties (outside their own social class) are strong among the high income? I’m fairly certain that there is considerable empirical evidence to dispute that claim.

    I make a point of mentioning it because I find Brook’s identification of those values to be somewhat shallow and misleading.

    What is important for conservatives is identifying the factors that lead to success in America. Empirically proven with minority and ethnic success in America closely tracking that particular culture’s embrace of positive parental role models, the four cultural values of education, familial obligations and loyalty, a strong work ethic and acceptance of individual responsibility and accountability and, the embrace of ‘transcendent’ values.

    And then presenting the poor with those propositional values and then confronting the poor with the societal position that, we will give them a fish when needed, as long as they demonstrate the willingness to learn how to fish. That they act so as to demonstrate that they wish to contribute and not merely take from others.

  10. Nick Says:

    Geoffrey – Your transcendent values, family, education, and work/responsibility aren’t much different from Brooks’s “faith, family, community, and work”. As a practical matter, there’s no way in a pluralistic society we can say which transcendent values are best suited to success, even if we all know which (whicheo-whichian) are.

  11. Nick Says:

    I haven’t read Murray’s latest book, but as I understand it, he makes the argument that “in high-income, high-education America, these institutions (faith, family, community, and work) are abundant.”

  12. DNW Says:

    From the linked article: a categorical statement probably meant to be taken almost categorically,

    “By now, everyone acknowledges that poverty in America is often intertwined with social pathologies.”

    Really? Even given the weasel term and phrase “intertwined” and “social pathologies” as opposed to “caused by” and “personal pathologies”, or “behavioral dysfunctions”, I doubt very much that everyone agrees.

    “In the late 1990s, scholars at the Urban Institute estimated that up to 37 percent of individuals enrolled in Aid to Families with Dependent Children abused drugs or alcohol. Similar findings connect poverty with criminality, domestic violence, and other problems.”

    I stopped reading here. But I am sure that if he did not anticipate it himself and preemptively attempt to respond further on, he will nonetheless get the vibe when lefties start screaming that correlation is not causality and that inequality is the real cause of the “pathology” of the victim.

    Ok I forced myself to read more. And there in the very next paragraph his arm goes up to fend off the blow he knows is coming.

    “Whether these problems are a product of poverty or mutually causal, common sense and the testimony of the poor themselves say that moral intervention must precede economic intervention for the latter to be truly effective.”

    and around and around and around we go …

    ” There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

    —Deuteronomy 15:11″

    I guess Brooks figures that with a conservative quasi-religious audience he can set the boundaries of discussion with a quote from God to the people of Israel concerning the fate of their less fortunate fellow believers in the laws of Yahweh.

    Wonder how that actuating premise would sell in Liberal Land.

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Nick @ 5:25,

    I’m not so much disagreeing with Brooks as pointing out that without specifying the source of the values he promotes; i.e. a “culture’s embrace of positive parental role models, the four cultural values of education, familial obligations and loyalty, a strong work ethic and acceptance of individual responsibility and accountability and, the embrace of ‘transcendent’ values” they will be insufficiently persuasive as a conservative alternative.

    “As a practical matter, there’s no way in a pluralistic society we can say which transcendent values are best suited to success”

    I would argue that history alone proves that to be untrue. In virtually every category, American society is the most successful in history. This country was founded upon and until relatively recently, honored and promoted a synthesis of transcendent Judeo/Christian tenets, Greco/Roman logic and reason (the premise that objective truth transcends subjective opinion) and the transcendent premise that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Pluralism not only accommodates those values, it thrives in them. We could never have been known as ‘the melting pot’ were that not true.

  14. chuck Says:

    Ha, I guessed the speaker after the first two sentences, the cadence and word choice brought the sound of his voice into my head. Then I wondered, can that be right?

  15. NeoConScum Says:

    PLEASE OUTLAW the Left Loving Term, “Social Justice.”

    Thank you.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    NeoConScum:

    I hate the term.

    But appropriating it and redefining it in conservative terms is not such a terrible idea.

  17. Exeter mom Says:

    ha! Knew immediately who the author was, though shame on me if I hadn’t. keep up the good work, Jaybean.

  18. J.J. Says:

    Though I was barely two when he gave his address to Congress, I recognized it. I heard many of his speeches over the radio until he died. Unmistakable cadence.

    The term “social justice” presumes that there is a crime that needs to be set right. When people are born with differing talents and abilities it may be unfair, but it’s not a crime. It’s a fact of human nature. When people are not all the same in their willingness/desire to work hard, it’s not a crime. It’s a fact of human nature. When not all people are equally able to restrain their impulses that can lead to failure, it’s not a crime. It’s a fact of human nature.

    The progs want to believe that they can change the nature of human beings. Give them enough power and they will fit everyone into a magic mold that will create a society where all the parents are above average and all their children are smart and good-looking. They also want to blame unequal economic results on discrimination. Women, blacks, Latinos, etc. are, in their books, all highly discriminated against. Give them enough power and they will legislate that away. (Cough, cough, haven’t they already done that?) Schools are not providing equal education to ALL children. Give them enough money and they will transform the schools. (Cough, cough, hasn’t that already been tried?)

    Any human who has worked for a few years knows that, even in successful companies, there is a range of abilities and ambitions from low to high. If it’s well managed, the various workers are positioned in the organization in accordance with there abilities and contributions.

    It would be wonderful if every employable human could have a job and that it would allow him/her to maximize their potential. But the jobs have to be created first. Profit making enterprises cannot just hire people out of the goodness of their hearts. There has to be a market for their product or service. That is why an economy that is growing (3%/annum or more is better) can provide jobs for most anyone who really wants to work. There are some who want a pay check but don’t want to work, who will always be in and out of the work force. Then there will always be the unemployables – the disabled, the addicted, the mentally ill, etc.

    The best “social justice” is provided by a growing economy that provides jobs and opportunity. The government can only provide the environment in which businesses feel confident in the tax structure and even-handed regulation. Progressive government doesn’t do that.

    The poor and unemployed will always be with us. A locally managed safety net should be provided. Churches and other charitable organizations always do a better job than huge, centrally managed Federal programs. The closer it is to the people, the less fraud and waste there would be. Yes, fraud would still exist – just not at the level of a nationally managed safety net.

  19. ErisGuy Says:

    So FDR perfected the strategy of telling lies to mollify his enemies while enacting legislation that contradicted his every word. Duh.

  20. ErisGuy Says:

    Mr. Brooks claims that the summary of conservative positions is “you’re on your own.”

    Having destroyed families, churches, voluntary organizations, charities, et. al., under the Obama-Brooks regime, this is absolutely correct. It was Brooks’ goal all long.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Deception is the primary ingredient of warfare. Deceive the enemy, so that they cannot marshal their strength to resist the invasion.

  22. NeoConScum Says:

    Neo… I assumed(correctly) that you loath the term too. And, I’m a large fan of Brooks and his evil crew at AEI. Just gives me a rash to think of conservatives using the term. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… But, I’m a ‘Coot and PO’d at much in our contemporary insipid culture. (-:

  23. Nick Says:

    I saw a bit of an interview with Senator Rubio on PBS a couple of days ago. Quite a few direct references to Brooks’s article.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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