The Myth of “Fiscally Conservative, but Socially Liberal”

Identify in this manner, and you’re a liberal.  You just don’t know it yet.

A friend of mine, a longtime-professed conservative, recently described himself as fiscally conservative, but more and more a liberal when it comes to the so-called social issues.

“We (Republicans) must move the party into more of a big tent,” he said, “and not isolate those voters who might otherwise vote Republican if not for the party position on social issues.”

He was echoing an idea that has been gaining traction of late in some Republican circles – especially among those panicked at having lost two in a row to Barack Obama.  It seemed my friend had bought the idea hook, line and sinker.

Intrigued, I wondered if it were even possible for such a hybrid political creature to co-exist within itself, let alone exist at all.  Was it an exercise in delusion?  Sure, some professional politicians – John McCain comes to mind, have made a career of it by other descriptions, such as “political maverick.”  So, I examined it from a perspective of which persuasion would become most prevalent over the long haul.

I concluded that an approach of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” would trend to “exclusively liberal” and here’s why:  social spending programs, especially those for which government funding holds a built-in automatic mandate, hold sway over economic policy – not the other way around.

The implementation and maintenance of liberal social spending programs, in particular those which address “need” (the presumptive basis upon which nearly all these programs are conceived) demands loose fiscal policy, not only to exist, but to expand in scope and participation rates – and expand, they do.  USDA Spanish-radio ads encouraging food stamp enrollment, anyone?

Think about it:  has there ever been a social need program which shrunk from its original funding mandate, or was so effective at addressing its target need that it self-eliminated any future requirement of its existence?  It just doesn’t happen!

Let’s apply it to a hot-button topic which is rooted not so much in public need but in “social justice:”  the immigration issue.  Many Republicans are given over to a belief that an amnesty approach to citizenship will bring new voters into the tent.  Yet, the administrative costs required to document and enforce provision compliance of an immigration bill would be staggering;  and that doesn’t begin to address the larger issues enveloping the topic, such as added burdens to an already strapped public welfare system – a certainty given an influx of millions of newly eligible citizens.  Fiscally conservative?  Hardly.

Want a more recent example of this folly?  The Department of Education, conceived and championed as the liberal sacred cow for which it remains, was created as a political payoff by then-president Jimmy Carter in return for support from the teacher’s unions.  It enjoyed some of its most dramatic funding increases (read: expansion of government) under Republican president George W Bush, he of “compassionate conservatism” credentials.

Whether you self-identify as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” or as a “compassionate conservative,” the path leads to a purely liberal destination.  The conservative moniker is a selling point cleverly designed to impart credibility – window dressing.  Identify in this manner, and you’re a liberal.  You just don’t know it yet.

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2 comments to The Myth of “Fiscally Conservative, but Socially Liberal”

  • Anonymous

    For someone who claims to be ‘Intellectual’, you are certainly falling into the same old lie about Liberalism. As a true 19th Century Liberal, I am constantly bemused by the intellectual laziness of those who are supposed to be on the political Right.

    So here’s a Fact that you are totally unaware. The definition of Liberal was hijacked in the 1932 election by you-know-who. That’s right FDR, who was really a Progressive, but needed to hide himself under the coat of a respected ideology that had fallen into disuse. And that ideology was Liberalism.

    And that, as they say it, is history. But its still untrue, dishonest, and those who are too lazy to know differently should not be acting like they are ‘Intelligent’,…..or whatever.

    And guess what? Today Beck stepped up to the plate, and laid all this out for everyone to take in. I’ve been listening to him now for some time, and he is finally starting to come around. So, when are you going to get with the truth?

    A Liberal is Right Wing!!! A Liberal believes passionately in Liberty!! A Liberal believes passionately in Limited Self-Government!! A Liberal believes passionately in Responsible Individualism!! A Liberal believes passionately in Free Trade!! Sort of sounds like Libertarianism, doesn’t it? In all of your Intellectual endeavours, did you ever think that perhaps Libertarianism really is Liberalism that some are afraid to give credit?

    Look, its time for you, and that radio person, who claims to be the ‘Truth Detector’ to actually come out and tell the truth. Those Leftists are not in any way Liberal, except in their liberal use of their mouth. The ‘Truth Detector’ knows the truth, but chooses not to be truthful.

    Those Leftists are PROGRESIVES, not Liberals, and there is a world of difference. Now, my assignment to you is for you to go and educate yourself, so as to be honest when you label yourself ‘intellectual’.

    Go forth and sin no more.

    John L

    NOTE: I accidentially posted this in the wrong article. Please delete it, but keep it here.

  • Anonymous

    Fiscally conservative, socially liberal here. And the 2 can go together just fine. All you have to do is step out of the tangled web of false dichotomies constantly forwarded by the 2 parties that try to shoe horn everyone into their voting block.
    Socially liberal does not automatically mean I support all government programs, or how they are run. The right’s obsession with military spending very much mirrors the left’s obsession with government programs to “help” the poor. Both things are needed, neither should cost this country the amount of money that it does.
    The US could say that it believes in free markets and the individual’s right to choose how to take care of their health by legalizing medical marijuana. But the right’s obsessive fear of people being allowed to choose a plant for medicine is slowing it down. Why? Because apparently they are afraid kids are all going to get stoned and get the munchies. That should have ZERO bearing on my right to choose medical marijuana to treat a debilitating auto-immune disorder instead of taking far more dangerous, totally acceptable practice of prescribing opiate based pharmaceuticals, the standard medical treatment that kills more people per year and addicts more people per year than marijuana ever has.
    Also, gay marriage. As a social liberal, I just don’t believe its government’s business who does what with who.
    So called conservatives seem to turn into big fans of big government when it comes to having armed officers kicking in doors over a natural plant being grown for medicine. Even if it was being grown for recreation, its less dangerous than alcohol. Ask a cop if they would rather be called by someone who smells a lot of marijuana smoke coming from their neighbors house or someone calling about drunk neighbors arguing.
    When it comes to individual liberty, suddenly big government is just fine with conservatives when it comes to saying who can marry who.
    When it comes to lawsuits, conservatives are fine with big government legislating regulations on the courtroom and taking decisions on compensation away from judges and juries.
    When it comes to individual liberty, the right to keep and bear arms has been turned into the right to buy guns and donate to the NRA. Make a gunpowder bomb for fun on the fourth of July? The ATF will charge you with federal charges if they find out. Last time I read the constitution, the word guns didn’t appear. Arms was the word used by our founding fathers because they believed the citizenry should be able to form a formidable army to challenge an oppressive regime. Good luck with your AR 15’s vs a tank. Good luck with your concealed weapon vs. a bazooka. Probably less than .0001% truly believe the right to keep and bear ALL arms should not be restrained. Big government wouldn’t be taking people into custody over pipe bombs if we actually believed the 2nd ammendment as it is written. The Boston bomber would have been fully legal until the moment he sat his bomb filled bag on the sidewalk and walked away.

    When it comes to social programs to help the needy, we absolutely need something in place. In the real world, if it was truly doing its job, the budget for it would grow sometimes when times are tough and drop back down when times are better. Its possible to support these programs without thinking the current approach of unlimited long term spending increases on these programs is acceptable.

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