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When Christian Socialists Attack
american.com ^ | 1/12/2007 | Jurgen Reinhoudt

Posted on 01/14/2007 4:13:46 AM PST by cinives

Michael Gerson helped create “compassionate” conservatism. Now he’s attacking the small-government ideal—and inadvertently highlighting America’s 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 idealism—an idealism that strangles mercy.” Gerson’s 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, Gerson’s 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 Gerson’s 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 there’s 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 Europe’s 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 good—so much better than the government could ever be—is 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 State—then 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 philanthropy—but 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 Reagan’s 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.

Gerson’s 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 AEI’s 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 Reagan’s 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 don’t 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 Americans—a longing for limited government, balanced budgets, and fiscal responsibility.

To Gerson’s great dismay, most American politicians will realize sooner rather than later that pursuing small-government policies is not only the right thing to do—in the United States, it makes for smart politics as well.

Jurgen Reinhoudt is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: christian; compassion; compassionate; conservative; gerson; michaelgerson; reagan; reinhoudt; socialism
This is an excellent definition of "compassionate conservatism" - and why it's nothing more than socialism redux.
1 posted on 01/14/2007 4:13:48 AM PST by cinives
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To: Oberon

pingferlater


2 posted on 01/14/2007 4:16:39 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: cinives

Give a man a fish .........


3 posted on 01/14/2007 4:18:54 AM PST by Vinnie (You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Jihads You)
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To: cinives

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.


4 posted on 01/14/2007 4:20:09 AM PST by Free Vulcan (Show them no mercy, for you shall receive none!)
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To: cinives

Christan and Socialist are mutually exclusive terms.

One cannot be both.


5 posted on 01/14/2007 4:31:05 AM PST by Clifford The Big Red Dog (Woof!)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog; cinives
Christan and Socialist are mutually exclusive terms.

Exactly. I guess I missed the positive references to Christ from Marx.

6 posted on 01/14/2007 4:51:06 AM PST by sam_paine (X .................................)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog

My sentiments exactly. I don't know ANY Christian Socialists.


7 posted on 01/14/2007 4:52:32 AM PST by TommyDale (If we don't put a stop to this global warming, we will all be dead in 10,000 years!)
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To: TommyDale

"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


8 posted on 01/14/2007 4:59:48 AM PST by sure_fine (*not one to over kill the thought process*)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog

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.


9 posted on 01/14/2007 5:09:00 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: TommyDale

Really ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_socialism

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.


10 posted on 01/14/2007 5:15:54 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives

"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".


11 posted on 01/14/2007 5:17:56 AM PST by stockpirate (John Kerry & FBI files ==> http://www.freerepublic.com/~stockpirate/)
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To: Andonius_99

Bump for later...


12 posted on 01/14/2007 5:21:10 AM PST by Andonius_99 (There are two sides to every issue. One is right, the other is wrong; but the middle is always evil.)
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To: cinives

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.


13 posted on 01/14/2007 5:23:37 AM PST by stockpirate (John Kerry & FBI files ==> http://www.freerepublic.com/~stockpirate/)
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To: cinives

Are these people real Christians or are they politicos disguising themselves as Christians to get the tax free designation as a church?


14 posted on 01/14/2007 5:26:15 AM PST by westmichman (The will of God always trumps the will of the people.)
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To: cinives

"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.


15 posted on 01/14/2007 5:27:12 AM PST by stockpirate (John Kerry & FBI files ==> http://www.freerepublic.com/~stockpirate/)
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To: stockpirate

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.


16 posted on 01/14/2007 5:33:30 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: westmichman

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.


17 posted on 01/14/2007 5:35:46 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives

So this is the man who led conservatives on the path to socialism lite.

18 posted on 01/14/2007 5:37:51 AM PST by raybbr (You think it's bad now - wait till the anchor babies start to vote.)
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To: stockpirate

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.


19 posted on 01/14/2007 5:38:13 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: raybbr

is that Gerson ?


20 posted on 01/14/2007 5:39:21 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives
What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing.

Anyone who avoids seeing that "The Great Society" accomplished more destruction of the "family" in the United States than did anything else in our history is being deliberately blind and stupid.

There is such bliss and inner peace in liberalism that it's a wonder we don't all succumb. When you are liberal you never ever need to look at the consequences of your actions.

21 posted on 01/14/2007 5:41:09 AM PST by stevem
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To: cinives

Well not to split hairs but, there isn't much difference between the two, if any.

But I think one difference is that one is a National Socialist, and the other is an International Socialist.

Which is Bush?

And his cabinet?


22 posted on 01/14/2007 5:41:11 AM PST by stockpirate (John Kerry & FBI files ==> http://www.freerepublic.com/~stockpirate/)
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To: cinives
is that Gerson ?

Yes. Sorry I forgot to add that to the caption.

23 posted on 01/14/2007 5:44:07 AM PST by raybbr (You think it's bad now - wait till the anchor babies start to vote.)
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To: cinives
Isn't this the same butt monkey that tried to start trouble about how the Bush cabinet "really" felt about Christians?
24 posted on 01/14/2007 5:47:26 AM PST by haywoodwebb (obama can't be VP. hillary wouldn't have a n-word on her ticket! - I'm black so I can say it -LOL!!)
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To: cinives
Okay just to clear up. Gerson is not only a speechwriter but a policy advisor to Bush.

Religion, Rhetoric, and the Presidency
Remarks of Michael Gerson, Speechwriter and Policy Advisor to President George W. Bush

It just gets worse every day.

25 posted on 01/14/2007 5:49:41 AM PST by raybbr (You think it's bad now - wait till the anchor babies start to vote.)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog
Christan and Socialist are mutually exclusive terms.

An unsupported assertion. If one follows Jesus' teachings and the examples he and his followers set, you'd be a communist. Indeed, this is what the communistic "Liberation Theology" movement is all about.

26 posted on 01/14/2007 5:55:12 AM PST by Junior (Losing faith in humanity one person at a time.)
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To: cinives

Anytime I see the phrase "social justice" I read "Communism".


27 posted on 01/14/2007 6:00:56 AM PST by Clifford The Big Red Dog (Woof!)
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To: Junior

That is not correct, because Jesus never (to the best of my knowledge) advocated using government force for "acts of charity".

The difference is, socialism is backed by governments threatening force to make citizens behave a certain way. Think taxes and the government programs spawned by uwe of tax money, abolition, slavery, public education, etc.

Jesus just "threatened" denial to the kingdom of heaven.


28 posted on 01/14/2007 6:01:56 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog

yep, me too


29 posted on 01/14/2007 6:02:26 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives
Unfortunately they left the door open with eminent domain and the commerce clause and it snowballed from there.

I don't think the Framers "left the door open" with the Commerce Clause. I think FDR and the living document revisionists took it off at the hinges to get around the lock.

30 posted on 01/14/2007 6:10:28 AM PST by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: cinives
And we know where the road paved with good intentions goes to......

31 posted on 01/14/2007 6:13:29 AM PST by Clifford The Big Red Dog (Woof!)
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To: cinives

Abolition? As in slavery?

IOW you believe that freeing the slaves was a bad idea?

Say it ain't so!


32 posted on 01/14/2007 6:15:43 AM PST by Clifford The Big Red Dog (Woof!)
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To: cinives

This is all dependent on whose definition of "Christian" you want to use, and whose definition of "socialism" as well.


33 posted on 01/14/2007 6:28:37 AM PST by TommyDale (If we don't put a stop to this global warming, we will all be dead in 10,000 years!)
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To: Clifford The Big Red Dog

No, what I was trying to imply was that slavery was an institution protected by government law. If it wasn't for laws protecting slaveholders, slavery would have ended a lot sooner - and without a war.


34 posted on 01/14/2007 11:01:07 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: TommyDale

Not at all. Definitions are definitions.

At least according to the Bible, Jesus never sought laws taking from one by force and giving to others (taxation).

Socialists, on the other hand, advocate nothing but.

Then there are those "Christians", the ones I mentioned and a whole lot more, who do believe in using the power of the state to attempt to rectify social problems whether any individual likes it or not.


35 posted on 01/14/2007 11:04:31 AM PST by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives
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 Reagan’s 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 don’t seem to learn.

That message worked for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and the "GOP leaders" like that well enough. But an antigovernment message didn't work for Goldwater or for other candidates who've tried it. And even Reagan's victories didn't make the government any smaller.

I suspect people, even if they don't like Bush's budgets, don't trust "anti-government" or "anti-statist" rhetoric because they don't know what people are trying to evoke with such language or how far they are willing to go.

A majority of Americans trusted Reagan. Very few trust the Randians and Rockwellites who often make use of "antigovernment" rhetoric for radical quasi-anarchist purposes. And whatever any of us thinks of Gerson, people are right not to have much use for that extreme fringe.

36 posted on 01/14/2007 11:14:14 AM PST by x
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To: cinives
“What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing."

OK, commie, what should conservatives (or those of any other political persuasion) offer inner-city neighborhoods? The answer is simple - we taxpayers already give too much to deadbeats. We owe the inner city NOTHING.

The time has come that stop the practice of feeding, clothing, and sheltering those that commit violence and fail to contribute in a positive way to society. Until people have to earn their own way, they will not do so.

Sorry if I sound harsh, but 5 decades of welfare has done nothing to solve the problems inherent in many inner-city neighborhoods. Expanding the program will only increase the price of non-achievement.

37 posted on 01/14/2007 11:16:14 AM PST by meyer (Bring back the Contract with America and you'll bring back the Republican majority.)
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