In the wake of Douthat’s column [NYT] noting that “today’s Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas,” Matt K. Lewis pushes back against the trend of radical individualism, which he sees more as a result of reflexive anti-Obamaism than of sound moral reasoning:
Our founders believed self-imposed responsibility was essential to the preservation of freedom. An immoral majority will eventually discover that they can vote “themselves largess from the public treasury.” But a nation’s elite must also be moral — which is to say, not greedy. As Ed Morrissey noted, “Any society with a large class of exploited poor will have no end of social difficulties and instability, the costs of which in a properly ordered system would far exceed the assistance extended.” That’s the invisible hand at work.
Compassion isn’t just right. It’s also a matter of self-preservation.
But is compassion the right word? Why not “one-nation” conservatism instead? Or inclusive conservatism? Morrissey maintains that the pragmatism is the key to the conservative future:
Instead of reaching back to the past and “compassionate conservatism,” though, Republicans need to start considering an advent of practical conservatism. In practical terms, the entitlement programs we have cannot be dismantled, as Randian purists would prefer. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are too popular for repeal, and more importantly, deliver a level of living standards on which millions of Americans rely — standards that would plummet in these programs’ absence. Instead of denying that, practical conservatism would embrace that — because on the trajectory of current policy, these programs will utterly collapse at some point. There is, after all, nothing compassionate about a default, or about sticking succeeding generations with the bill for benefits we enjoy in the present. …
The “Catholic center” still exists, ready to be claimed. Republicans need to learn from the past, and the present, to grasp that opportunity.
Justin Green cautions:
Morrissey should be careful to distinguish between Social Security, which only needs modest reforms, and Medicare/Medicaid, which will bring serious problems in the medium term. The GOP will give itself credibility by shoring up the program that works and seriously attempting to fix the one that doesn’t.
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