Skip to comments.When Christian Socialists Attack
Posted on 01/14/2007 4:13:46 AM PST by cinives
Michael Gerson helped create compassionate conservatism. Now hes attacking the small-government idealand inadvertently highlighting Americas need to learn from Europe.
In what may be the most aggressive attack on small-government conservatism in years, highly influential former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson writes: What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing. What achievement would it contribute to racial healing and the unity of our country? No achievement at all. Anti-government conservatism turns out to be a strange kind of idealisman idealism that strangles mercy. Gersons arguments, though flawed to the core, present a grave threat to the philosophical underpinnings of limited government conservatism and the legacy of Reagan in the Republican Party. At heart, Gersons arguments are old Christian Socialist arguments, falsely presented as being conservative.
If one believes, as Ralph Nader does, that a society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity, then seeing the civil society weaken as the state expands is not a problem.
Contrary to Gersons claim, small-government conservatism has a great deal to offer inner-city neighborhoods. By providing security against crime, good schools and good education through vouchers, plentiful jobs, rising wages and benefits through an economic climate which encourages investment, and good retirement savings through personal accounts (nest eggs with cumulative interest that can be passed on, unlike current Social Security savings), small-government conservatism has much more to offer people in inner-city neighborhoods than the well-intended but failed policies it has gradually, happily, begun to replace.
Gerson claims he is concerned about compassion and charitable benevolence. If he is, let him look at the glowing dynamism and strength of the American civil society, which is so strong only because the U.S. government (unlike European governments) is still relatively small. The civil society is the social glue that holds a society with individualist economic policies together: it is the informal network of neighborhood associations, churches, charities, and philanthropic institutions that help good causes and those in need. The strength of American civil society, worth more than $260 billion in 2005 (about $500 billion if you include the estimated dollar value of volunteer time), shows us that compassion and human kindness do not vanish in a free-market system.
Washington 3 by Flickr user XeronesGerson claims that the government can strengthen civil society, but as Europe shows, he has it backwards: it is the state, and not individualism, that destroys civil society and societal compassion. In France, Germany, Italy, or the Netherlands, though a vigorous civil society is as necessary today as ever before, it has been severely weakened by decades of compassionate welfare state policies.
If one believes, as Ralph Nader does, that a society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity, seeing the civil society weaken as the state expands is not a problem. But theres an ominous catch: the warmth and effectiveness of the civil society cannot be effectively replaced by the state. When the government takes on compassionate social roles formerly fulfilled by the civil society, justice does not increase. Rather, voluntary giving is replaced with coercion, warm human charity with cold handouts, sincere compassion with bureaucratic redistribution, and even, as in Germany, church donations with a government tax for believers.
How vibrant is Europes civil society? How healthy are the networks of European churches, neighborhood associations and charities? It is not a pretty picture. For Gerson to favor that state of affairs when American civil society has proven to be such an extraordinary force for human goodso much better than the government could ever beis deeply saddening.
Gerson writes that small-government conservatism is "a political movement that elevates abstract antigovernment ideology above human needs. In assuming that human needs will go unmet but for government intervention, Gerson falls victim to an old socialist fallacy. Frederic Bastiat, the great French free-market economist, wrote about this philosophical fallacy in 1850:
Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the Statethen we are against education altogether We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.
And so, if small government conservatives object to massive philanthropy being undertaken by the federal government, people like Gerson conclude that small government conservatives are opposed to charity and philanthropybut they are not. They are opposed to state philanthropy, which supplants the genuine philanthropy of the civil society and which is not genuine philanthropy in any case.
Perhaps President Reagan put it best when he proclaimed in 1981 that The size of the federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern. Republicans like Gerson are not fond of Reagans small-government conservatism: in a bid to discredit Reagan, they go as far as to accuse him of straying from his small-government principles for the sake of political expediency.
Gersons accusation of fiscal profligacy (During the Reagan years, big government got bigger) should be taken with a big grain of salt and a look at the statistics, which prove otherwise. As AEIs Veronique de Rugy notes, Reagan was the only President over the past forty years to have cut inflation-adjusted non-defense spending. And, as de Rugy shows, in Departments as varied as Labor, Energy, and Education, Reagan aggressively cut spending. President Bush, by contrast, has massively boosted spending on these departments and across the board.
Gerson claims that the government can strengthen civil society, but as Europe shows, he has it backwards.
We should not be surprised that Reagan never was popular with the Republican Party leadership: GOP leaders consistently favored the big government conservatism of Nixon, Rockefeller, Ford, and now Bush, to Reagans small-government conservatism. Though voters and conservatives adored Reagan, GOP leaders considered his small-government idealism to be an irritating obstacle to winning votes. Voters proved those GOP leaders wrong by wide margins in 1980 and 1984, and in numerous elections since then, but Republican leaders just dont seem to learn.
Just this past November, Democrats won not by campaigning on a big-government platform but rather by accusing Republicans of wasteful pork spending and prolonged complicity in the creation of large deficits. In so doing, ironically, Democrats tapped into a profound longing of Americansa longing for limited government, balanced budgets, and fiscal responsibility.
To Gersons great dismay, most American politicians will realize sooner rather than later that pursuing small-government policies is not only the right thing to doin the United States, it makes for smart politics as well.
Jurgen Reinhoudt is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.
Give a man a fish .........
And all it's typical crap: lots of unsupported assertions, lots of moralizing, lots of circular arguments, faulty logic, and projecting. Put Gerson in some priestly robes and the picture is complete.
Christan and Socialist are mutually exclusive terms.
One cannot be both.
Exactly. I guess I missed the positive references to Christ from Marx.
My sentiments exactly. I don't know ANY Christian Socialists.
"My sentiments exactly. I don't know ANY Christian Socialists."
and at the current rate of things in the UK, there won't be any Christians left to discuss it
Socialism is an economic and political theory.
Many people have mistaken Christianity for socialism - just ask any left-wing theologian like the ones staffing the World Council of Churches etc.
For just a few current examples, try Cardinal Mahoney, Katharine Jefferts Schori, anyone associated with the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and on and on and on.
You can even add Bush in there - he believes that tax money should be used for things better left to private charity.
Just google "social justice" and see what I mean.
"Compassionate Conservatism" - is in fact nothing more than "Socialism" with a new name.
What concerns me is not what this person believs however, it is the fact that he was Bush's speechwriter.
So, now let us focus on is this man a "National Socialist", or an "International Socialist".
Bump for later...
And "Compassionate Conservatism", is what Bush wanted to be known by, his label.
This begs the question, "Is Bush a Socialist?"
I realize that my question will spark some harsh replies, but I voted for him two times.
Are these people real Christians or are they politicos disguising themselves as Christians to get the tax free designation as a church?
"a political movement that elevates abstract antigovernment ideology above human needs"
It is not the duty of Government to provide for 'human needs', first that list is an endless and varied list that no one can fill.
me too - because I didn't want to vote for communists like Gore and Kerry.
yes, I believe he is a socialist - but with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, socialist intentions usually have unintended consequences like loss of liberty.
IMO it doesn't matter because the result is the same. If you live your life according to your philosophy/theology, the result is going to have political consequences no matter what.
Think abolition, as just one example. A good illustration of fine intentions gone awry when applied with government force.
So this is the man who led conservatives on the path to socialism lite.
which is why many of the Framers tried to limit government to "proper" functions only. Unfortunately they left the door open with eminent domain and the commerce clause and it snowballed from there.
is that Gerson ?