‘Fiscal’ Conservatism Needs ‘Social’ Conservatism

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.

  • jazzdrums

    While we mostly agree with Dennis, he is a bit overrated notwithstanding popularity on the air waves. he seems to suffer from the same ego problems seen in charlie rose and bill oreilly..that their interviews solely live on their pulling agreement with their opinion or knowledge their guest/panel…and also that when something new is proffered by a guest, they make a remark by either interuppting like rose does with “I Know” or “Exactly” or prager preamble..I want to see if you agree with my thoughts…egos are good but let the guess talk… as a music teacher, I never play more than 5 total minutes out of a 40 minute lesson to demonstrate…think about it.

  • Debdeb

    Dennis, I like your definitions and details.

    You have a “Catch 22” as soon as you state, “Judeo-Christian religions are its vehicle”. Freedom of religion essentially means there is no one vehicle.

    So here is my question. Going forward, what is social conservatism’s plan for defining, preserving and teaching the core cultural values that made us historically strong while at the same time blending and protecting each individual’s right to choose their own vehicle to worship freely? We already know the social liberal’s plan – redefine the past, divide people into arbitrary face based categories and force one state ideology on all.

    • Wheels55

      Religion, gay marriage, etc. are redefining our country. Perhaps for the better – time will tell. But government’s nanny state ways and push away from personal responsibility is what is breaking us down. Pray the way you want, marry who you want – but take care of yourself and your family.

  • Wheels55

    I read where no society has lasted more than 200 years. First comes the formation, with whatever efforts that takes. Then comes the hard work to build a strong society. Then comes fat and happy. Then comes too much fat and happy, leading to the demise of the once strong society. The Greeks, Romans, English, now us. Have we run our 200 years? If so, it is because of what Dennis writes here.

  • GlenFS

    I consider myself a fiscal conservative, not because I don’t share the social values, but because I see how they play with the independent voters who swing elections. In short, they don’t. You may be correct, and if so, we’re already a lost cause. What do you suggest? Evangelism? Can we replace people’s (culture’s) eroded values? I don’t know beyond a total crash of society how this happens.

    Had we selected a more socially focused conservative candidate, I believe we’d have had no chance whatsoever of winning. He would have played into every media stereotype.

    Provocative piece, John. You are very good.

    • G. Daylan

      You have it right Glen – an evangelist will turn off the independents that are necessary to win an election.

    • GlenFS

      Sorry, Dennis for calling you John. I enjoy your work.