The Right Opinion

'Fiscal' Conservatism Needs 'Social' Conservatism

By Dennis Prager · Jan. 22, 2013

For some years now, we have been told about a major division within American conservatism: fiscal conservatives vs. social conservatives.

This division is hurting conservatism and hurting America – because the survival of American values depends on both fiscal and social conservatism. Furthermore, the division is logically and morally untenable. A conservative conserves all American values, not just economic ones.

By “social conservatism,” I am referring to the second and third components of what I call the American Trinity – liberty, “In God We Trust” and “E Pluribus Unum.”

It is worth noting that a similar bifurcation does not exist on the left. One never hears the term “fiscal liberals.” Why not? Because those who consider themselves liberals are liberal across the board – fiscally and socially.

The left understands that values are a package. Apparently, many conservatives – libertarians, for example – do not. They think that we can sustain liberty while ignoring God and religion and ignoring American nationalism and exceptionalism.

It is true that small government and liberty are at the heart of the American experiment. But they are dependent on two other values: a God-based religious vigor in the society and the melting pot ideal.

Or, to put it another way, small government and fiscal conservatism will not survive the victory of social leftism.

The Founding Fathers made clear that liberty is dependent upon not only small government but also society's affirming God-based values. Not having imbibed the Enlightenment foolishness that people are basically good, the founders understood that in order for a society to prosper without big government, its citizens have to hold themselves accountable to something other than – higher than – the brute force of the state. That something is God and the Judeo-Christian religions that are its vehicle.

Those who believe in a small state – fiscal conservatives – need to know that a small state is dependent on a big God and, therefore, on a God-centered population. Look at Europe for confirmation. As secularism expands, so does the state. And that is what is happening in America.

Fiscal conservatives, such as libertarians, don't make this connection. They view small government as an achievable end in and of itself, divorced from the social/religious values the American people hold.

Western and Chinese apologists for the Communist Chinese regime argue the same thing – that economic freedom is divisible from other values.

I am in no way morally equating American libertarians and other fiscal conservatives to Chinese Communists. Libertarians hate communism. I am only pointing out that they agree on the separation of economic and social values, on the dispensability of God and religion, on the idea that America should not interfere in other nations – no matter how great the evil – and more.

Fiscal conservatives who consider themselves conservative need to imagine what type of America they will bequeath to future generations if the only conservative value that survives is fiscal conservatism.

Do you really want to live in an America that is godless, where liberty derives from the state and where moral values derive from each individual's heart? In an America that ignores genocides abroad? In an America that so radically redefines marriage – the union of anyone who loves anyone – that it no longer has a moral justification to prohibit polygamy or incest? In an America that has no moral opinion on abortion, even if performed solely, let us say, for reasons of the fetus's gender? In an America that embraces multiculturalism rather than the melting pot ideal?

My goal here is not to expel from the conservative movement those who are conservative only with regard to fiscal matters. May God bless them (even those who do not believe in him), and may they long vote Republican. My goal is to bring them to social conservatism.

Because a conservative conserves. And not just money.



Bruce R Pierce in Owensboro, Ky said:

You made a good point until you started separating Libertarians from other "conservatives" what you are doing is no better than progressives. You can't lump people into groups and then hang name tags on them without being divisive, are you trying to help the progressives get their way?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

I believe he was trying to make the point that whether we are Libertarians or Conservatives we have to work together to get this country back to the values that made us a great nation. It will not work if we can't reach some understanding between us and show a united front against the liberals.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 11:15 AM

PH in DE said:

"The best part about it? - The useful idiots that voted for this POS traitor will suffer the most."

I don't think that is likely. They will be held up to the last penny of taxpayers' money and assets, and then they will crash along with the rest of us. The rest of us will suffer more first.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Joe in Texas said:

I want to spring an idea here that I heard on a local talk radio program...maybe I'm playing devil's advocate:

By social conservatism, are we talking about solely judeo-christian values? If so, we need to understand that we lost the small business/immigrant vote to Obama. I'm talking about Indians and Asians. They hold strong traditions and have great faith and family values. They work very hard and many come here seeking oportunity and start their own business. But they're not Christian.

When asked why they vote Obama, even though it hurts their bottom line, many say, "Republicans only care if you're Christian." That may or may not be true. I don't think it is. But it's something to think about. That's one reason many Jews still don't vote Republican. Because, they're mostly urban/liberal, but also the GOP carries the Christian banner.

So, do we label ourselves for judeo-christian values? Or do we say we need social conservatives, which include those with strong faith and family values, no matter what religion? Would this help?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

George "W" used to say, repeatedly, that "He supports Faith-Based initiatives"---but he turned into a big spender, and certainly NOT conservative enough!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Phill Spence in Pottstown, PA said:

Not speaking for other Libertarians, but the reason I do not go along with social conservatism is not because I don't believe in the core principals, but I do not agree that its the role of government (particularly federal) to espouse Christian virtues. That is the job for individual citizens and churches to accomplish without government interference. You cannot legislate morality, but social cons continue to try. Much like liberals thinking that if we just throw more money at the problem we can "fix it", social cons think that one more law or prohibition will make people be nice to each other or "turn to Jesus". God gives us all the choice to turn to Him or sin. Social cons say "By God, I'm not gonna give them the option!" What arrogance.

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Jake in Carlsbad, CA said:

I think conservatives are missing the point. Liberals, especially those who view the Constitution as a living, breathing document that is out of date, believe that the Constitution was written by a bunch of rich, old, white men who didn't consider minorities when writing the Constitution. They believe that the Constitution does not apply to Blacks, HIspanics, The Muslims, etc, and that is why people like Obama want to change it. The Constitution, in their minds, was written by white people for white people.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:13 PM

JeFtFotF in Virginia said:

The American experiment presupposes and depends upon a healthy Scriptural / Spiritual understanding of human nature and self-control. Conservatives seek to conserve and preserve these and other permanent things.
"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
-- George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
-- John Adams, Address to the Military, 1798

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 11:31 PM