Fall 2006 Vol. 1, No. 3

This article is from TOS Vol. 1, No. 3. The full contents of the issue are listed here.

The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism

In 1994, American voters elected Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in forty years. This ascent to power gave Newt Gingrich and his colleagues the opportunity to launch their “Republican Revolution” with its signature “Contract with America” platform. The election was said to mark the end of an era—the era of big government liberalism that had dominated American political life since the New Deal. After struggling for almost half a century to gain political power, the conservative movement finally seemed to have reached the political promised land.

William F. Buckley, Jr. with President Bush, in 2005

In theory, the “Republican Revolution” proposed to “relimit” the powers of the federal government and to restore some of the basic principles and institutions of free-market economy. The preamble to the “Contract with America” pledged to the American people that the GOP would put an end to “government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money.”1 The political goals of the Gingrich “revolutionaries” were not revolutionary in any meaningful sense, but they did promise to begin some necessary reforms. As a rule, the Gingrich Congress preferred less to more government controls.

In practice, the Republicans began to whittle away at the welfare state. Their first post-election budget proposed to eliminate three cabinet agencies (the Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy) and more than 200 federal programs. Within a year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had reduced federal spending by almost $14 billion.2 Such early successes led even Bill Clinton to declare in his 1996 State of the Union address that the “era of big government is over.”3 A Republican Congress passed and Clinton signed far-reaching welfare reform legislation that promised to end “welfare as we know it.”4

By the end of the 1990s, America’s political fault line appeared to have moved considerably to the Right for the first time since the early 20th century. The advocates of limited government faced an historic opportunity to begin the process of dismantling the welfare state and deregulating the economy.

So how goes the Republican Revolution twelve years later? What is the state of the American political Right in 2006?

Judging by electoral results and political appearances, the Right is flourishing. For the first time since before the New Deal, the Republican Party controls all three branches of the federal government. There is a Republican in the White House surrounded by conservatives; Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate; and seven out of nine justices on the Supreme Court are appointees of Republican presidents. Republican grand strategist Karl Rove and several conservative pundits say that prospects look good for the GOP to become America’s “permanent majority.”

It is not just Republicans but conservative Republicans who are driving this train. As William Rusher, co-founder of the modern conservative movement, reports, the “conservative movement has come to dominate the Republican Party totally.”5 In other words, the Republican Party has finally purged itself of the moderate, non-ideological, country-club, Rockefeller Republicans that once dominated the party in the 1950s and ’60s. The conservative moment—the moment when conservative Republicans become America’s ruling class—has arrived.

For over forty years, ever since the Goldwater election debacle in 1964, conservatives have methodically pursued ideological control over the GOP. Now that they do control the Republican Party and all three branches of the federal government, what exactly have conservatives bequeathed to America?

Here are some hard facts. Government spending has increased faster under George Bush and his Republican Congress than it did under Bill Clinton, and more people work for the federal government today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. During Bush’s first term, total government spending skyrocketed from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, an increase of 33 percent (almost $23,000 per household, the highest level since World War II). The federal budget grew by $616.4 billion during Bush’s first term in office. If post 9/11 defense spending is taken off the table, domestic spending has ballooned by 23 percent since Bush took office. When Bill Clinton left office in 2000, federal spending equaled 18.5 percent of the gross domestic product, but by the end of the first Bush administration, government outlays had increased to 20.3 percent of the GDP. The annualized growth rate of non-defense and non-homeland-security outlays has more than doubled from 2.1 percent under Clinton to 4.8 percent under Bush.6

Increased spending inevitably means increased taxes. Thus, despite President Bush’s much vaunted tax cuts, Americans actually pay more in taxes today than they did during Bill Clinton’s last year in office. The 2006 annual report from Americans for Tax Reform, titled “Cost of Government Day,” sums up rather nicely the intrusive role played by Republican government in the lives of ordinary Americans. The report says that Americans had to work 86.5 days just to pay their federal taxes, as compared to 78.5 days in 2000 under Bill Clinton. In other words, the average American has worked 10.2 percent more for the federal government under George Bush than under Bill Clinton. When state and local taxes (controlled in the majority of places by Republicans) are added to federal taxes, Americans worked for the government eight hours a day, five days a week, from January 1 until July 12, meaning they worked full-time for the government for more than half the year. As Tom Feeney, a congressional Republican put it: “I remember growing up and reading in some school textbooks that if more than half your paycheck went to the government, then you were living in a socialist society.”7 Just so, Mr. Feeney.

Two generations ago, conservatives denounced the growth of government and called for a revolution to roll back the Leviathan State created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. In 1994, conservatives, with their Republican Revolution, rode into power on just such a platform of limited government. Yet today, the conservative intellectual movement and the Bush administration are engaged in a very different kind of revolution—a revolution for big-government conservatism.

What happened to the idea of limited-government conservatism? Have the conservatives been corrupted by power, or is there something in their basic philosophy that has led them to embrace big government? Why have conservatives moved to the port-side of liberalism?

To answer these questions and to understand the split personality of the conservative movement, we must examine the various ideologies that now dominate it. To set some context, however, let us first recall the basic ideals that have traditionally been regarded as the gold standard of true conservatism: the ideals associated with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, which, in turn, point to the principles of America’s Founding Fathers.

In The Conscience of a Conservative, regarded by many as the political Talmud of conservatism, Goldwater explicated the principles of conservative government. He wrote that the “ancient and tested truths that guided our Republic through its early days will do equally well for us.” The challenge of conservatism, he continued, is “to demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy on the problems of our own time.” He defined the Founders’ “proven philosophy” in the following terms: “The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods—the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom.”8

Enabling men “to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom”—this is the proper purpose of government; this is the ideal that American conservatives have long claimed to be conserving or restoring; and this is the ideal that animated the American Founding. As Thomas Jefferson eloquently summarized in his First Inaugural address: “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

The Founding Fathers created a free society grounded on the moral sovereignty of the individual. They recognized that the only legitimate function of government is to protect each individual’s right to act on his own judgment—so long as he does not violate the rights of others. Accordingly, the Founders established a government limited to the protection of individual rights—that is: limited to making and enforcing objective (i.e., rights-respecting) laws, to resolving civil disputes, to protecting private property, and to enforcing contracts.

While this is the ideal that defined the American Founding—and the ideal to which Goldwater conservatives have long claimed allegiance—it is not the ideal to which today’s conservatives subscribe.

To what ideals do today’s conservatives subscribe? What are their political goals?

In recent years, the conservative intellectual and political movement has become strained and divided. Political analysts now speak of the great conservative “crack-up.” At the heart of the ideological wars now engulfing the movement are two putatively conflicting philosophies: a moral philosophy called “compassionate conservatism” and a philosophy of governance known as “neoconservatism.” To understand the state of the conservative movement and where it is headed, one must understand the nature of these two conservatisms, what they have in common, and how they shape today’s Republican Party.

Compassionate Conservatism

Compassionate conservatism came to prominence during the 1999 Republican primaries and the 2000 Presidential campaign when George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative. At the time, most traditional conservatives cynically assumed that Bush was using the moniker as a catchy electioneering phrase, a clever rhetorical strategy to capture the vote of America’s so-called “soccer moms,” the marginally liberal, college-educated, suburban women who twice helped to elect Bill Clinton. What few traditional conservatives understood at the time was that candidate Bush actually meant what he said, that this new creed gave expression to his previously unarticulated core philosophy—one shared by many other politicians and voters.

Compassionate conservatism, rather than simply being a slick vote-getting slogan, is a political philosophy—one that George Bush genuinely embraces and that has formed the policies of his administration. Although some conservatives in 1999 openly mocked the idea of compassionate conservatism, eventually most came around to supporting it—in part because they saw that it helped to elect Bush in 2000 and then reelect him in 2004—but, more importantly, because compassionate conservatism brought to the surface principles that traditional conservatives had silently followed for decades.

What is this philosophy? What are its principles and goals?

The guiding moral principle of compassionate conservatism is the idea that we, by way of our government, have a “duty” to serve the needs of the poor, the homeless, the sick, and the aged—hence “compassionate,” which means desiring to relieve the pain and suffering of others. Its advocates seek to uphold this moral principle through “free-market mechanisms”—hence “conservatism.”

Myron Magnet, a leading theorist of compassionate conservatism, describes it as representing an “epochal paradigm shift” in American political thinking. It amounts, he writes, “to a sweeping rejection of liberal orthodoxy about how to help the poor.”9 Why reject the liberal orthodoxy on this count? Because, says Magnet, “liberal prescriptions, good intentions notwithstanding, have in fact made the lot of the poor worse over the last 35 years.”10 As such statements reveal, compassionate conservatism fully accepts the liberal notion that we have a “duty” to help the poor—compassionate conservatives simply disagree with liberals as to how to help them.

Compassionate conservatives decry the liberal welfare state for causing the “worst-off” to be “more mired in dependency, illegitimacy, drug use, school failure and crime than they were when the experiment began.”11 The problem, according to the Bush Administration, is that government bureaucrats are incapable of promoting the long-term success of the poor, that “lasting and profound change in a human life comes most often when care is offered on a personal level by families and by those with a stake in the community, who are motivated by a burden of the heart to improve the lives of those around them.”12

The compassionate conservative solution, however, is not for the Federal government to abolish welfare and leave it to “those with a stake in the community” to help those about whom they care. Instead, their solution, as described by Bush advisor Stephen Goldsmith, is for the Federal government to outsource the administration of welfare:

Although [compassionate conservatives] acknowledge the role of government in helping those who need assistance, they do not believe that government itself needs to deliver those services. Small, local civic associations and religious organizations have the detailed knowledge and flexibility necessary to administer the proper combination of loving compassion and rigorous discipline appropriate for each citizen.13

Such a policy serves only to redirect taxpayer dollars from government welfare agencies to private religious and civic organizations. The net effect is the same: The wealth of Americans is forcibly taken and redistributed to serve “compassionate” purposes.

Lest you think compassionate conservatives feel any sense of shame about trampling the traditional Goldwater conservative belief that wealth redistribution is a violation of rights, think again. At compassionate conservatism’s core, says Myron Magnet, “is concern for the poor—not a traditional Republican preoccupation—and an explicit belief that government has a responsibility for poor Americans.”14

During the 2000 election campaign, candidate Bush occasionally mouthed support for a market economy, but he saved his true enthusiasm for the notion that the poor and downtrodden deserve not only our compassion but our “love” and “charity,” as well. Michael Knox Beran, another leading theorist of compassionate conservatism, praises George W. Bush for his “unashamed use of the 'L’ word” and for being driven “by a belief in the redemptive power of love.”15 Compassionate conservatism substitutes, at least superficially, Christian love for liberal pity as the motive for expanding and perpetuating the welfare state.

Stephen Goldsmith, writing for The Wall Street Journal’s series “American Conservatism,” further explains the political meaning of compassionate conservatism. It “takes us back to the future by acknowledging the huge growth of the state while articulating a better way for government to help those whom prosperity has left behind”; it “endorses government help for seniors who need prescription drugs and for parents of needy school children”; and it “provide[s] people with a wide variety of choices as to how they can best put government assistance to use.”16

The foregoing is a sample of the theory behind this movement as articulated by its contemporary theorists. But who is ultimately responsible for this trend among conservatives? What are compassionate conservatism’s deepest philosophic roots?

The new politics of compassion, though designed rhetorically to rely on and appeal to traditional Christian virtues (e.g., mercy, love, and charity), was most inspired by the moral writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau—the Prophet of Compassion. It was this Frenchman’s glorification of compassion first in his Discourse on Inequality, and then in Emile, that first elevated a minor sentiment into a major virtue.17

For Rousseau and his intellectual descendents, compassion—the desire to relieve the pain and suffering of others—is a pre- or sub- rational sentiment that serves man as an automatic, immediate, and infallible moral guide. It is a strictly perceptual-level phenomenon of seeing and feeling the pain and suffering of others, of being overwhelmed by a catastrophic sense of shame and guilt, and of then reacting on one’s range-of-the-moment feelings. According to this sentimental ideology, needs-as-claims are the fundamental human reality; “intuitions” or “feelings” are the way to know, evaluate, and judge such facts; and compassion is the virtue of feeling and acting accordingly.

Rousseau’s elevation of compassion to the center of ethical discourse launched a moral revolution in the West that has slowly percolated into the manners and mores of American life.18 Thanks to Rousseau, compassion is the moral leitmotif of American culture.

The delivery method adopted by today’s pushers of compassion is to harp day and night on those who fail and suffer; the goal is to induce in Americans en masse an arrested, perceptual-level mentality, a mentality that processes all moral and political matters emotionally and then acts accordingly. Americans are inundated on a daily basis—whether via the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, Fox News, or the New York Times—with maudlin scenes and stories of human misery. They are encouraged to put their failures on display and to exercise compassion at every turn.

Ours is the Age of Compassion.

Rousseau’s ghost now oversees a nation of social workers. The moral ideal to which our culture aspires is the moist eyes of the wet nurse. To lack compassion in this new world is to be morally deprived if not morally depraved. The Oprahization of American culture has made compassion the standard by which we judge whether men are good or bad, and so Americans today feel compelled to constantly display their sensitivity and to show that their “heart is in the right place.”

The so-called “love” advocated by the proponents of compassion is not directed toward human virtue but toward human vice. It is not for their achievements that the weak are admired but for their failures. On the one hand, this is an utter inversion of morality; on the other hand, it is the annihilation of morality.

To treat compassion as a virtue promotes a kind of moral relativism—a non-judgmental, no-fault morality that takes people just as they are. “Don’t judge people,” its proponents say, “just accept their plight and help them.” Fundamentally speaking, this is an attempt to negate the law of causality—to sever consequences from their causes. Forget about what caused a jobless person to be jobless; just give him a job. Forget about why a person has saved nothing for retirement; just give him some money. Forget about why a person failed to insure his Gulf-coast dwelling; just give him an apartment or a house. Personal responsibility or lack thereof (the cause) is irrelevant to the compassionate.

A moral code that upholds compassion as a virtue is the antipode of a morality of justice. It paralyzes one’s ability to evaluate and judge the ideas and actions of individuals; it demands that one suspend moral judgment—that one not discriminate between the suffering caused by elements beyond one’s control and that caused by irrationality, sloth, evasion.

The moral relativism promoted by this weepy sentiment naturally leads to political egalitarianism. Rousseau believed that politics—particularly democratic politics—is intimately connected to the people’s moeurs or manners, and that the formation of moeurs likewise turns on the training of the sentiments. By heralding sensitivity to the suffering of others as the height of virtue, Rousseau sought to overcome what he saw as the rational self-interest, the radical individualism, and the economic inequality unleashed by Lockean liberalism. Rousseau’s goal was to ennoble the sentiment of compassion in the hopes of transforming Western man from self-regarding to other-regarding, thereby ushering in a new social-political order.

Rousseau’s ideas took hold, and today we have a new politics of compassion that comes in both liberal and conservative forms. In the world of Rousseau and Clinton and Bush, suffering and need represent man’s essential metaphysical condition, and those who suffer less should be sacrificed for the sake of those who suffer more. The redistribution of wealth is, therefore, a central tenet of the politics of compassion.

At the heart of compassionate conservatism is the altruist-collectivist code, which holds that man must live in selfless service to the needs of others—which means that rational, productive men must sacrifice (or be sacrificed) for the sake of irrational, unproductive men. Compassionate conservatism accepts the collectivist premise that solving the problems of the poor is the “duty” of society as a whole. Thus neoconservative writer David Brooks, speaking in language that would have warmed Rousseau’s heart, describes compassionate conservatism as: “an across-the-board effort to revive responsible citizenship,” which Brooks defines as “sacrifice for the greater good.”19

Compassion is now regarded as the cardinal virtue in American politics. Political “wisdom” is measured by, and attributed to, those who feel and satisfy the needs of the greatest number of people. “He who feels the most pain, wins,” as it were, and America is suffering because of it.

Observe how compassionate conservatism’s moral message empowers the Christian Left. Jim Wallis, editor of the leftist Christian magazine, Sojourners, agrees with President Bush that the purpose of government is to feel people’s pain and satisfy their needs. But Wallis excoriates President Bush’s unprecedentedly high levels of social-welfare spending as niggardly and immoral.20 If compassion is a virtue, Wallis is right. He is also more “moral” than Bush, because he feels more suffering, has more compassion, and demands more sacrifice, greater spending.

Wallis and other leaders of the Christian Left have publicly challenged the President to live up to his own values and to show greater compassion. And how have the president and other compassionate conservatives responded to such charges? They have responded in the only way their moral code permits them to respond: by calling for more spending.

Once we peel away the sentimental rhetoric and cut through the doublespeak, compassionate conservatism’s moral and political teaching boils down to this: first, that needs—the needs of others—constitute a moral claim on your life; second, that you—you the taxpayer, you the private individual—have a “duty” to support—nay, to love and support—the poor; and finally, that the federal government must coerce your love and compassion by taking your wealth and giving it to “private” organizations that will use it to serve “those whom prosperity has left behind.”

How does this theory translate into policy and practice?

At the heart of compassionate conservatism’s policy agenda is President Bush’s plan to “revolutionize” the welfare state through his “faith-based initiative.” On the day that the President unveiled his new program to earmark billions of dollars in federal welfare spending for faith-based charities, he described the goal and moral meaning of his proposal: “Government will never be replaced by charities and community groups. Yet when we see social needs in America, my administration will look first to faith-based programs.”21 “We have a responsibility,” Bush later emphasized, “that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.”22

In the president’s faith-based initiatives, we see compassionate conservatism’s two distinctive features: the use of “free-market mechanisms” to achieve welfare-state goals; and the redirection of the welfare state toward conservative, especially religious, goals.

Compassionate conservatism’s proponents tout President Bush’s faith-based initiative as an application of free-market principles to welfare. Government-funded welfare is distributed by sub-contracting and out-sourcing the “politics of love” to private middlemen—namely, churches and faith-based charitable organizations. The Bush administration’s program aims to make “funds more accessible to neighborhood and faith-based organizations that administer a mix of love and discipline,” writes Stephen Goldsmith.23 Such “privatization” of the welfare system does give rise to a certain kind of “competition”: Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, the Unification Church, Rastafarians, Scientologists, and various other California-style churches compete to offer the most love and the best soup—and with your money.

This political competition between churches for taxpayer money is the beau idéal of compassionate conservatism. Churches and charities compete with one another for government funding, and the recipients of this “charity” have the freedom to choose between various government-sponsored and government-regulated denominational soup kitchens. This is what compassionate conservatives mean when they advocate combining “free market” policies with religious programs for the poor. But this is an Orwellian perversion and an utter corruption of free-market principles. There is no such thing as “market competition” between semi-private charities for the favors of government bureaucrats who have the power to arbitrarily give away money that is forcibly taken from other Americans. This is sheer government coercion and forced redistribution of wealth. Worse yet, it is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Compassionate conservatism places government in the business of propagating religion. Under Bush’s faith-based initiative, the federal government has been enlisted to do the “Lord’s work.” Liberal and conservative Christians will, henceforth, grab for and use this billion-dollar giveaway to support and spread their particular faith. When Democrats are in power, federal money will go to churches and organizations run by Marxist-orientated (so-called “liberationist”) Christians in order to promote liberal-socialist values; when Republicans are in power, federal money will go to the likes of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority to promote conservative-socialist values—and both parties will give money to Muslim “charities” in order to demonstrate their religious tolerance.

Despite the President’s occasional protestations to the contrary, the faith-based initiative is, in the end, about promoting religion. As the President himself said in support of the initiative: “[W]elfare policy will not solve the deepest problems of the spirit. . . . No government policy can put hope in people’s hearts or a sense of purpose in people’s lives. That is done when someone, some good soul puts an arm around a neighbor and says, 'God loves you, and I love, and you can count on us both.’”24

The goal of the Bush administration’s faith-based initiative is clearly transformative: to change hearts. The White House has recently produced video agitprop that features people discussing how various faith-based charity programs have changed their lives. As a representative example of the content of these videos, one woman testifies, “I’ve learned that God comes first.”25

The purpose of President Bush’s faith-based initiative is to create a religious welfare state—that is: to go beyond the secular welfare state by feeding both the body and the soul—filling the body with soup and filling the soul with religious dogma, faith, otherworldliness, and the morality of self-sacrifice. If secular welfare is bad for the poor, how much worse is welfare that aims to convince them that their reasoning minds are incapable of understanding the important truths; that, all things considered, life and happiness on earth are not important; and that the key to “eternal” prosperity is to sacrifice their values in the name of the Lord?

Observe the gargantuan hypocrisy of conservatives who posture as defenders of property rights and helpers of the poor while advocating the violation of property rights to fund programs that poison the poor. If this is compassion, let us have none of it.

Compassionate conservatism’s principles and policies are inimical to a free society. It is also worth mentioning that they are inimical to the very Christian “virtue” they purport to uphold: charity.

While charity is not, objectively speaking, a virtue, it can be a rational endeavor so long as self-sacrifice is not involved. But genuine charity withers when faux charity is forced. Charity is, by definition, something freely chosen and benevolently given. Charity, properly understood, is what one does voluntarily with one’s own money to help others about whom one cares; it is not what someone else chooses to do with one’s money for others on one’s “behalf.” Charity is not a “duty” to give up the fruits of one’s labor to those whom one would not support of one’s own free will. Charity is the act of reaching into one’s own pocket and giving a dollar to someone of one’s own choosing; it is not the phenomenon of other people or the government reaching into one’s pocket and giving one’s money to someone of their choosing. (The latter is what children properly call stealing.)

Forced charity is an oxymoron that destroys the good will and generosity associated with genuine charity. By effectively nationalizing charity, conservatives have damaged the very idea of charity and curtailed the benevolence that makes it possible. Further, as a result of being forced by the government to be “charitable,” taxpaying citizens give less to genuine charities because they recognize that they are paying twice.

What are the consequences of compassionate conservatism when applied to the question of foreign aid? In logic, if the labor and wealth of individual Americans should be sacrificed to the “needy,” it follows that the labor and wealth of a prosperous nation like America should be sacrificed to the “needs” and misfortunes of poor nations. On the premises of compassionate conservatism, is it not immoral to neglect the misfortune and suffering of others no matter who or where they are? Where can one draw the line? What would Jesus or Rousseau say? One cannot draw a line—which is why compassionate conservatism also seeks to internationalize American “charity.”

Republican senator Rick Santorum, generally regarded as a “right-wing” conservative, puts it plainly: Compassionate conservatism “targets the poor and hurting for help, whether they are across the street or across an ocean.”26 In other words, compassionate conservatism imposes “duties” on individuals and nations that are limitless and without borders. If one child suffers—if there is one person in need anywhere in the world—then you and your fellow countrymen have a moral “duty” to do something about it.

This explains the spectacle of President Bush’s former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, who—after traipsing around rural Africa in a business suit, led by U2 rock star Bono, and receiving daily lectures from African politicians on the moral obligation owed by America to feed the poor of that destitute continent—returned from Africa and lectured America on the “moral imperative” that we give billions of dollars in aid to the poor around the world.27 America, under the tutelage of the compassionate conservatism, does precisely that.

Consider further how compassionate conservatism molds America’s foreign-aid policy. For the last several years, French and Mexican presidents Jacques Chirac and Vicente Fox, respectively, have been calling for a world tax to help fight poverty in “developing” nations. The new tax, to be administered by the U.N., is to be imposed on airline travel, currency transfers, and carbon emissions (among other things). Who will bear the largest burden of this world tax? The American people, of course. How has the Bush administration responded to the idea? Immediately after rejecting the idea of a U.N.-administered tax as a violation of U.S. sovereignty, President Bush publicly sanctioned the moral purpose of the tax. He said that “we” Americans are duty-bound to “share our wealth” with poor nations. Then, he promised to tax the American people himself in order to increase U.S. aid to poor nations from $10 billion to $15 billion within three years.28 “Why should Vicente Fox, Jacques Chirac, and Kofi Annan, get the credit for compassionately feeding Africa,” President Bush undoubtedly thought to himself, “when my administration is the most compassionate of all?”

Bush supports the moral premise and goals of the world tax; he disagrees only over how the money should be raised and administered. Like the U.N., he wants the American people to sacrifice their wealth to the world’s poor, but he wants his administration to be the model of “morality.”

What, in the end, distinguishes the approach of compassionate conservatism to the world’s poor from that of compassionate liberalism? The answer is, fundamentally, nothing. Both insist that another nation’s need creates a moral duty that Americans must accept and fulfill.

Like the aging hippies of the New Left, compassionate conservatives reject the idea of basing morality on reason and instead embrace a morality grounded in feelings. They reject the possibility of a morality of self-interest and individual rights, and instead embrace a morality of self-sacrifice and governmental coercion. Despite all their loose rhetoric about applying “free-market” solutions to the plight of the poor, compassionate conservatives accept the moral premise of liberal-socialism: that you have a moral duty—a moral duty that will be enforced by the state—to love and support those who have needs greater than your own.

This is the moral premise on which the Bush administration, like every Democratic administration since the New Deal, has promoted the alleged virtue of sacrifice. The ultimate goal of compassionate conservatism—like that of compassionate liberalism—is to make all Americans more compassionate and, therefore, more open to socialist redistribution. By promoting other-regarding over self-regarding virtues, the politics of compassion fosters a “caring” political community—a community that upholds selflessness as its greatest virtue.

In order to encourage ever-greater amounts of sacrifice from the American people, President Bush has challenged all Americans to devote at least two years of their lives to volunteer for community service. To that end, he has created the ironically named USA Freedom program to pay “volunteers” for their service, and he has proposed a significant expansion of existing government-service programs, such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorp programs. Such “voluntary” service requires, of course, the involuntary expropriation of taxpayer wealth so that young Americans can learn that working in a soup kitchen or changing bedpans in a nursing home is somehow nobler than pursuing their own goals or creating wealth.

How would compassionate conservatives respond to a Hillary Clinton administration that might call for Americans to sacrifice three or four years of their lives to community service or that might demand a massive tax increase to support the poor? What could they say? What possible moral argument could they offer to oppose political programs that are simply more consistent applications of their own moral principles?

There is only one possible “free-market” solution to the problem of poverty that is consistent with individual rights: to abolish the welfare state. But given the moral code of the compassionate conservatives, no steps will be taken toward this goal on their watch.


Compassionate conservatism has exerted an enormous influence on George W. Bush and his administration. But an even more influential philosophy, the reigning ideology of the conservative movement and Republican policy makers, is neoconservatism. Over the last 25 years, neoconservatism has come to dominate the conservative establishment, and, today, it is barely an exaggeration to say that neoconservatism is conservatism.

It is widely acknowledged today that the Bush administration has been deeply influenced by neoconservative ideas. Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative foreign-policy expert, states that President Bush “on issue after issue, has reflected the thinking of neoconservatives.” The New York Review of Books ran an article entitled, “The Neocons in Power,” elaborating the ways in which they are, and, during the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, Howard Dean charged that “President Bush has been captured by the neoconservatives around him.”29

The neocons are, arguably, the most intellectually active faction of the post-war intellectual Right. They teach at the best universities; they run the wealthiest conservative philanthropic foundations; they control the leading conservative think tanks; they manage the leading conservative journals and magazines; and they have a significant presence in the major media. The neocons have become so influential and so confident of their place in the conservative intellectual establishment that one of their most articulate spokesmen, David Brooks of The New York Times, has declared: “We’re all neoconservatives now.”30

What does this mean for America? To answer that question, we have to answer the following: What are the fundamental moral and political principles of neoconservatism? What does the “neo” mean? And how is neoconservatism transforming the conservative intellectual movement and the Republican Party?

In a much-discussed essay entitled “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” Irving Kristol, doyen of the neocons, sums up their agenda: Their aim is to “convert the Republican Party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.”31 Historically, neoconservatives have always had a rather distant and uneasy relationship with traditional conservatives. As with John Stuart Mill, they have viewed conservatives as “the stupid party,” but now they aim to fix that.

Kristol’s first task in converting the conservative intellectual movement into a political movement capable of governing America has been to redefine its guiding principles and its relationship to traditional American values. Neoconservatism, Kristol writes, is the first variant of 20th-century conservatism that is “in the 'American grain.’” What an extraordinary claim! The implication, of course, is that traditional conservatism (including Goldwater conservatism)—with its proclaimed attachment to Jeffersonian principles of individual rights, limited government, and economic freedom—is outside the American grain or even un-American.

Likewise, neoconservative columnist David Brooks has systematically laid out in the pages of The Weekly Standard and The New York Times what he calls a plan for “creative destruction,” which is his blueprint to purge the GOP of its attachment to what he mockingly dubs the “Leave Us Alone” philosophy of small-government conservatives. “The era of small government is over,” Brooks announces; “reducing the size of government cannot be the governing philosophy for the next generation of conservatives.” He applauds the fact that the conservatives and the Republican Party are “now significantly less anti-state and more pro-community than two years ago.” Conservatives, Brooks is pleased to report, “have become re-reconciled to the idea of some government action.”32

If the Jeffersonian tradition is supposedly outside the “American grain,” what ideas, according to the neoconservatives, are in the American grain? To whom do they turn for inspiration and guidance?

At the top of the neocon’s pantheon of American heroes are three individuals who had a major destructive impact on individual rights in America: Herbert Croly, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This is the same Herbert Croly who bragged that his political philosophy was “flagrantly socialistic both in its methods and its objects,” the same TR who said that “every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it,” and the same FDR who insisted that all Americans must act “as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of the common discipline.”33 What unites Croly and the Roosevelt cousins is the idea that the individual should be subordinated to a paternalistic state. That the neocons would turn to such a statist triumvirate for inspiration and guidance reveals much about their plan to “reform” the Republican Party.

In his Weekly Standard manifesto on the neoconservative persuasion, Kristol further indicated how he and his friends understand the role of the state in American public life:

Neocons do not like the concentration of services in the welfare state and are happy to study alternative ways of delivering services. But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on “the road to serfdom.” Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable. Because they tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology, they know that the 19th-century idea, so neatly propounded by Herbert Spencer in his “The Man Versus the State,” was a historical eccentricity.34

Not only is Kristol not bothered by the growth of the state, he does not believe, as did virtually every thinker on the Right in the early post-World War II period, that the continuing growth of the state leads to serfdom. Former Trotskyists in the 1930s and 40s and then liberals in the 50s and 60s, the neocons have never abandoned their deepest moral commitments (as we shall see), and their cavalier acceptance of, and support for, the growth of the state remains unabated.

The real problem with traditional conservatives and Republicans, according to the neocons, is that they are too beholden to that old-fashioned Jeffersonian idea that the government that rules best, rules least. Irving Kristol and David Brooks believe that 19th-century ideas, such as natural rights, individualism, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism, were historical “eccentricities”—ideas better forgotten than defended. The neocons, therefore, follow their hero Herbert Croly’s admonition to his fellow Progressive socialists that “Reform is both meaningless and powerless unless the Jeffersonian principle of non-interference is abandoned.”35

Not surprisingly, then, the Old Right’s opposition to the New Deal appalls the neocons. Kristol has described the conservatives’ desire of “returning to a 'free enterprise’ system in which government will play the modest role it used to” as representing a dangerously “utopian counter-reformation.” Ironically, what really bothers the neocons about small-government Republicans is that they are too principled, too ideological, and too beholden to an outdated Jeffersonian conception of government. The neocons regard such ideological nostalgia as “doctrinaire” and as fostering “moral self-righteousness.”36

Ultimately, the neocons view any attempted return to a pre-New Deal world as not only impractical and fanciful, but, more importantly, as immoral. At a deeper level, Kristol actually rejects the fundamental principles of a free society. According to Kristol, principles such as individual rights, limited government, and capitalism are neither morally edifying nor practically sustainable. “A society founded solely on 'individual rights’ was,” he wrote, “a society that ultimately deprived men of those virtues which could only exist in a political community which is something other than a 'society.’” Such virtues include:

a sense of distributive justice, a fund of shared moral values, and a common vision of the good life sufficiently attractive and powerful to transcend the knowledge that each individual’s life ends only in death. Capitalist society itself—as projected, say, in the writings of John Locke and Adam Smith—was negligent of such virtues.37

The problem with the Founders’ liberalism, according to Kristol, is that it begins with the individual, and a philosophy that begins with the “self” must accommodate and allow for selfishness, choice, and the pursuit of personal happiness. A secular capitalist society—a society that enables its citizens to pursue their self-interest—inevitably degenerates, he argues, into a culture of isolated individuals driven solely by the joyless quest for creature comforts. A free society grounded on the protection of individual rights leads inexorably to an amiable philistinism, an easygoing nihilism and, ultimately, to “infinite emptiness.”38

In other words, according to Kristol and friends, the principles espoused by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison lead inevitably to the Marquis de Sade, Abby Hoffman, and Jerry Springer. If the growth of the state represented the road to serfdom for Hayek, limiting the state to the protection of individual rights represents the road to nihilism for the neocons. The great political lesson that the neocons have successfully taught other conservatives and their Republican students over the course of the last twenty-five years is to embrace rather than resist the growth of the state.

The neocons are committed proponents of what Kristol calls a “conservative welfare state.”39 At first blush, they seem to support the idea of a welfare state rather begrudgingly and pragmatically, as an unfortunate reality of contemporary American politics that conservatives must learn to accept and use in order to remain politically relevant. “I shall, to begin with,” Kristol writes, “assume that the welfare state is with us, for better or worse, and that conservatives should try to make it better rather than worse.” Why fight the tide of history? Or, as neoconservative Ben Wattenberg has written: “I personally think the welfarists have probably gone too far and I am prepared to examine case by case, pragmatically, as Neo-Conservatives are supposed to do, what went wrong and how we ought to rectify it.”40 As we will increasingly see, pragmatism is the neocons’ modus operandi.

As a specific instance of the neocon’s pragmatic reasoning, contrast Kristol’s critique of welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with his support for expanding Social Security and Medicare. He supports reforming AFDC because it created a culture of dependence and perpetual poverty, which, in turn, led to increased crime, drug use, and gang activity. But Kristol favors expanding Social Security and Medicare on the expedient grounds that senior citizens are a powerful voting bloc and because they are socially “unproblematic,” by which he means that welfare-for-seniors does not lead to the same kind of social pathologies (e.g., teenage pregnancy) that it does for other groups.

But Kristol’s seemingly reluctant and realpolitik acceptance of the welfare state as historically inevitable and politically necessary masks what he really thinks, which is that the welfare state is a moral good. Kristol is deeply committed to the moral ends of the welfare state. This is why he not only supports saving and perpetuating most New Deal welfare programs but would also expand the socialist welfare state to include new programs, such as universal medical and child care and increases in social security. In the 1960s, Kristol and his friends embraced the “desired aims” of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs (and apparently they still do), but broke with liberals only over how to satisfy the people’s needs and deliver their rights to welfare.41

Kristol regards the “socialist ideal” not only as “admirable” but also as a “necessary ideal, offering elements that were wanting in capitalist society—elements indispensable for the preservation, not to say perfection, of our humanity.” Kristol praises utopian socialism because it is “community-oriented” rather than “individual-oriented.” He admires socialism’s ideal man for transcending the “vulgar, materialistic, and divisive acquisitiveness that characterized the capitalist type of individual.”42 This comes from the author of Two Cheers for Capitalism, regarded (falsely) by some as one of the most important moral defenses of capitalism written in the twentieth century.43 Presumably Kristol saved his third cheer for the moral ideal espoused by his first ideological love, Leon Trotsky.

Likewise, Kristol’s neoconservative colleague, Nathan Glazer, has stated publicly that the differences between socialists and neoconservatives are greatly exaggerated. In fact, he says, they “agree on more and more”:

It is very hard for us to define what it is that divides us, in any centrally principled way. We might, depending on which socialists, and which neoconservatives are arguing, disagree about the details or the scope of health insurance plans; or about the level of taxation that should be imposed upon corporations; or how much should be going into social security. . . . But where are the principles that separate us?44

Where, indeed.

Neocons agree with the underlying moral principles of the socialists; they disagree merely over the best means to achieve their shared ends. As do all good socialists, neocons hold that welfare should be regarded as a right because it is grounded in people’s “needs”—and, as Kristol explains, for the neocons, “needs” are synonymous with rights:

In our urbanized, industrialized, highly mobile society, people need governmental action of some kind if they are to cope with many of their problems: old age, illness, unemployment, etc. They need such assistance; they demand it; they will get it. The only interesting political question is: How will they get it?45

The neocons rhetorically hide their fundamental moral commitments, for example, to satisfy people’s “needs”—in the guise of pragmatism, for example, by insisting that the only meaningful question to ask is “How?”

In an essay published several years ago in The Wall Street Journal, Kristol joined many liberals and socialists in characterizing Bill Clinton’s “two years and out” welfare proposal for able-bodied welfare recipients as “cruel,” “unfair,” and “ruthless.” Kristol also described the likelihood that the proposed Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act would actually pass in Congress and then work in practice as a “fantasy.”46 Well, the fantasy became reality, and Clinton’s welfare reform legislation has been a moderate success story. Do not expect such success stories from advocates of a conservative welfare state.

How does a conservative welfare state work? And how does it differ from a liberal welfare state? The neocons advocate a strong central government that provides welfare services to all people who need them while, at the same time, giving people choice about how they want those services delivered. That is what makes it “conservative,” they argue. That is how the neocons reconcile Adam Smith and Karl Marx, Hayek and Trotsky.

In practice, this means that the coercive force of the state is used to provide for all of the people’s needs—from universal social security to health and child care to education—but the people choose their own “private” social security accounts; they choose their own “private” health and child-care providers; and parents receive vouchers and choose which schools their children will attend. The choices, of course, are not the wide-open choices of a free market; rather, the people are permitted to choose from among a handful of pre-authorized providers. The neocons call this scheme a free-market reform of the welfare state.

As economic “supply-siders,” the neocons occasionally support tax cuts—but not because they want to return to taxpayers money that is rightfully theirs. Instead, they advocate lowering the marginal tax rate because it will provide an incentive for people to work harder, earn more money, spur economic growth—and, thereby, generate more tax revenue that will be used to fund the conservative welfare state.

Kristol sums up the neoconservative position this way:

The basic principle behind a conservative welfare state ought to be a simple one: wherever possible, people should be allowed to keep their own money—rather than having it transferred (via taxes) to the state—on condition that they put it to certain defined uses. . . . Policies such as these have the obvious advantage of reconciling the purposes of the welfare state with the maximum degree of individual independence and the least bureaucratic coercion. They would also have the advantage of being quite popular.”47

In other words, in a neoconservative state, the people are allowed to keep and spend their property only by permission of the state, which is to say that there is no recognition of the principle of property rights. And, in a neoconservative state, wise statesmen can somehow reconcile individualism and collectivism, rights and “duties,” freedom and socialism.

Because the neocons believe in the moral propriety of a welfare state, they eagerly advise Republican politicians to relinquish any principled advocacy of individual rights or economic freedom. Indeed, the neocons aim to reinvent the Republican Party by urging it to develop a new “philosophy of governance” or “governing philosophy.”

Decoding what the neocons mean by this vague notion of a “governing philosophy”—a phrase frequently repeated in their writings but rarely discussed and never defined—is the key to unlocking the ultimate meaning of their political agenda. Let us proceed to decode it.

The problem with the Republican Party hitherto, according to Kristol, is that it has had no vision for how America ought to be governed. A “philosophy of governance” is a philosophy for how to govern. For too long, the GOP has been guided by what Kristol mockingly calls a “businessman’s mentality,” by which he means that, for too long, Republicans have been concerned with such mundane tasks as balancing the budget, lowering taxes, and cutting government spending. According to Kristol, focusing on such pedestrian goals is not how one gets elected, nor is it how one becomes a governing majority. Instead, he urges conservatives and Republicans to act less like political “accountants” and more like political “entrepreneurs.”48 A governing philosophy is ultimately about getting, keeping, and using power in certain ways.

When the neocons urge Republicans to think entrepreneurially what they mean is that Republicans should abandon their principles and develop rhetorical strategies and political tactics for getting elected. What GOP strategists need, according to Kristol and company, is a strong “dose of Machiavellian shrewdness,” the characteristics of which are “quick-wittedness, articulateness, a clear sense of one’s ideological agenda and the devious routes necessary for its enactment.”49 The neocons’ message to traditional conservatives and Republicans is, in effect: “Grow up! Get over your ideological hang-ups. Be clever. Develop an agenda that will get you elected and keep you in power.” Once in power, says Kristol, the GOP must learn how to “shape” rather than balance or cut the budget, which means: shape it in politically advantageous ways (i.e., in ways that buy votes).

If compassionate conservatism injected love into the hardened arteries of Republican politics, then neoconservatism infused blood-thinning cynicism into the Republican blood stream. Neoconservatism is a political philosophy concerned with, above all else, power. Like socialists, neocons want political power to create a certain kind of society—a virtuous society guided by the right purposes—purposes that they are very reluctant to share with the general public. They also believe that if government is in the hands of the wise and good, it ought not to be limited too much by constitutional rules and boundaries. The neocons are much more concerned about “who rules” than they are about the limits of political rule.

The most remarkable issue about the neocons’ notion of a “governing philosophy” is that it is a strategy for governing without philosophy. The neocons unabashedly describe themselves as pragmatists; they eschew principles in favor of a mode of thinking—and they scorn thinking about what is moral in favor of thinking about what “works.” For over twenty-five years, they have fought an ideological war against ideology.

The neocons urge Republicans to drop their limited-government principles and to consider only the immediate problems of the present, unconnected to all other problems, and without reference to principles. According to Irving Kristol, “there are moments when it is wrong to do the right thing.” This is Kristol's “First Law” of politics:

There are occasions where circumstances trump principles. Statesmanship consists not in being loyal to one’s avowed principles (that’s easy), but in recognizing the occasions when one’s principles are being trumped by circumstances. . . . The . . . creative statesman, one who possesses some political imagination, will see such occasions as possible opportunities for renewed political self-definition.50

In other words, Kristol’s advice to Republicans is: Stop taking your principles so seriously (as if that were ever a problem). The successful statesman, he argues, is chameleon-like in his ability to redefine his principles in the light of changing circumstances. Don’t concern yourselves with principles; concern yourselves with acquiring and keeping power.

As pragmatists, the neocons begin with the here-and-now and the expediencies of the moment. They regard political reality as a state of constant flux; they eschew thinking of political issues in terms of black and white; they advise Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) to be moderate, flexible, prudent.

Kristol, for instance, advises that it is both desirable and possible to figure out a workable “amalgam of the prevailing 'Left’ and 'Right’ viewpoints,”51 which means a harmonious mixture or “golden mean” between capitalism and socialism. The neocons have a dyspeptic reaction to arguments grounded in moral principles, particularly arguments either for capitalism or against the welfare state. They cynically declare that the “age of ideology” is over, by which they mean that the self-righteous moralism of the Old Right and the New Left must be abandoned so that they can get on with the business of managing more efficiently the practical and inevitable realities of the modern welfare state.

At the heart of the neocons’ “governing philosophy” is a pragmatic method for gaining and keeping power. They urge Republicans to “think politically,” which means to assess and “confront the reality” of their immediate political situation and to “adapt” to changing political realities “in a self-preserving way.”52 By adaptation, the neocons are referring to the process of adjusting to the principles and policies of those who currently hold power or who threaten your power.

“Thinking politically” means compromising with liberals, particularly when liberals claim the moral high ground on issues that concern the alleged “needs” of the people, such as child or health care. It means that Republicans should co-opt the liberal message in order to expand their political base and to form a permanent ruling majority. As William Kristol has written: “A minority party becomes a majority party by absorbing elements of the other party.”53 In other words, the way to defeat liberalism is to become a liberal.

What specific advice have the neocons offered to Republicans in this regard? Here are the kinds of tactics the neocons have recommended (these might sound familiar): If liberals launch a national campaign for socialized medicine, Republicans should steal the issue from the Democrats and advocate a system of universal health care but one that allows people to choose their own doctor or HMO. If liberals commence a public campaign against the profits of “big business” or the salaries of their executives, Republicans should neutralize liberal pretensions by encouraging “greedy” and “profiteering” corporate executives to voluntarily donate their profits to charities. If radical environmentalists launch a public relations campaign against global warming, Republicans should encourage American companies to hire environmentalists as advisors. If feminists propose to nationalize pre-school child care, Republicans should go along but insist that parents be given vouchers to send their children to the day-care facility of their choice.

This is what it means to “think politically.”

The neocons’ pragmatic rationale for this wholesale capitulation is that “If it’s going to happen, why not take the credit?” If we’re going to have a new form of socialism, why shouldn’t Republicans claim victory for having put it into practice? The problem with Republicans, according to Kristol, is that the “merits of pre-emptive spending seem destined to remain forever incomprehensible to the conservative cast of mind.”54

The “art of government,” writes Kristol, is to translate the “liberal or radical impulse into enduring institutions,” which means that socialist ends will be achieved with conservative means.55 This is the neocon methodology. Their advice to the Republican Party is to compromise and accept the moral ends of liberal-socialism, but with the caveat that conservatives can do a better job of doling out the goods and services.

Observe who is being asked to compromise what here. Conservatives are being asked to compromise their principles. Liberals are being asked to compromise only the way in which welfare is delivered. Moral appeasement of this sort serves only to embolden the Left, a lesson that conservatives seem constitutionally unable to learn. They fail to grasp that compromising one principle inevitably leads to hundreds of compromises in practice. In this relationship, liberalism will always have the upper hand and will always dictate the future.

Having abandoned principles, neoconservatives can offer no principled opposition to the creation of new welfare programs in the future. Of course, they would see this as a problem only if they opposed welfare programs, which they do not.

According to Kristol, the “idea of a welfare state is in itself perfectly consistent with a conservative political philosophy—as Bismarck knew, a hundred years ago.”56 In addition to TR and FDR, the neocons add Bismarck to their list of statesman-like heroes. The neocons’ new Republican Party seeks to restore not a Jeffersonian model of government, but rather the Prussian welfare state.

This, according to the neocons, is what it means to be “in the 'American grain.’” This is their contribution to “the stupid party” and to American life.

Ideas Have Consequences

Given the moral premises and methodologies of compassionate conservatism and neoconservatism, and given their prevalence today, it comes as no surprise that a Republican-dominated government has ushered in a new era of big government. Let us now take a closer look at just how big our government has become since Republicans took control of the federal government.

The most damning indictment of Republican profligacy can be seen in the Republicans’ abuse of non-entitlement spending. Discretionary spending at the federal level has increased by 49 percent since President Bush was sworn in to office. But lest we think that President Bush is the only big spender in the GOP, let us not forget that discretionary spending has exploded since the Republicans took over Congress in 1995. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of congressional “pork barrel” projects added to Republican congressional budgets increased from 1,439 (costing $10 billion) to 13,997 (costing $27.3 billion), a staggering tenfold increase. By the end of President Bush’s first term, every single domestic agency of the federal government (with the exception of the Environmental Protection Agency) experienced inflation-adjusted budget increases.57 Since it took control of both the White House and Capitol Hill, the Republican Party has presided over the biggest explosion in federal spending and the greatest extension of the welfare state since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs of the 1960s.

As shocking as these numbers are, they do not tell the whole story. More important than the amount of money spent is what the money is being spent on. Consider some of the particular programs that the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans have supported over the last five years.

Take for example the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which Ted Kennedy virtually wrote for President Bush and which represents the greatest expansion of the federal government in education since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979. As a result of this one Act, federal education spending has grown by 100 percent since Bush took office. This is all the more remarkable given that just several years earlier the Gingrich “revolutionaries” of 1994 promised to abolish the Department of Education.

Under George Bush and the Republicans, the welfare state that Bill Clinton began to dismantle has been given a second life. The Bush administration and their Republican allies in Congress have, for instance, offered a tax “refund” to 6.5 million low-income people who do not pay taxes, passed a $180 billion farm subsidy bill (welfare for farmers), supported tariffs on steel imports (welfare for the American steel industry), and extended the American welfare state to Africa by offering the people of that continent $15 billion in AIDS relief.

Then, of course, there’s President Bush’s signature welfare program administered by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The amount of money that the Bush administration has taken (or proposes to take) from American taxpayers for redistribution to the irresponsible and unproductive is utterly staggering: $50 million to fund mentors for children of criminals in jail, $240 million for promoting healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood, $206 million for an abstinence-only program, $75 million for the Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, $150 million for a drug-addiction program, $1.4 billion to house the homeless, $149 million to the Compassion Capital Fund (for the perpetually “needy”).

Even more ominous, the Bush administration enthusiastically signed into law a multi-billion dollar prescription drug bill, which represents the largest expansion of the federal government in over thirty years. Conservative estimates put the cost of this Medicare drug benefit at more than $724 billion over the next decade, and as much as $2 trillion ten years beyond that. Of course, as with all entitlement programs, ballooning costs are expected in subsequent decades.58

Worse yet, if history is any guide, we can expect the federal government to assume ever-greater controls over the entire health-care industry in at least two ways. First, it will quietly invoke additional pricing and regulatory controls over the nation’s pharmaceutical industry, further inhibiting the creation of new life-enhancing and life-saving drugs. Second, it will assume greater control over the private prescription drug insurance industry, putting many such companies out of business when people stop buying something they can now get for “free.”

The Republicans’ prescription drug entitlement program applies the same moral premises that under girds Medicare: that people have a “right” to health care—a right that trumps the rights of taxpayers, doctors, and drug producers—a right that will be protected and administered by the government. The GOP plan is particularly distressing in that it claims to reform the system by applying free-market principles to a corrupt and inefficient Medicare program. Like the faith-based initiative, the GOP prescription drug plan uses ostensibly “private” middlemen (i.e., semi-private insurance companies) to administer a brand new welfare program. Republicans defended this new program as an example of how “private ownership,” “choice,” and “competition” can reform the social insurance programs of the Left. The Republican position was captured by Newt Gingrich in a story in The New York Times: “'Choice creates competition, and competition drives down price,’ Mr. Gingrich said, in a pithy statement of the philosophy that inspires most of the Republican proposals.”59 Only a Republican could view the expansion of a government program as a free-market reform.

Democrats, not surprisingly, lambasted the bill as an attempt by Republicans to “privatize” Medicare. Of course, as the tentacles of government regulators quietly and slowly strangle the private health-care and insurance industries, and as the “privatized” system begins to collapse (as it surely will), liberals will blame the system’s failure on the “free-market” reforms and then demand ever-greater command and controls over the health-care system.

In 1995, Republicans raised the alarm and then defeated Clinton’s plan to socialize the health-care system. Ten years later, Republicans launched a variation on Clinton’s plan by partially socializing drug benefits for seniors. This is a classic model of the Republican approach to welfare.

The Republican position on government spending comes down to this: We can spend the government’s money more prudently than Democrats. Whereas the liberal welfare state created a culture of dependence, perpetual poverty, and various forms of deviant social behavior, our welfare state will foster virtue and the public good.

There was a time when the likes of a prescription drug entitlement would have been regarded as inherently unconservative. Times have changed. Writes George F. Will: A “prescription drug entitlement is not inherently unconservative, unless the welfare state itself is—and it isn’t.”60

While some conservatives, such as those at the Heritage Foundation, have denounced the Drug Benefit program, they have done so only on the grounds that it costs too much, that it is too restrictive, and that it does not give senior citizens enough “choice.” What conservative intellectuals do not, will not, and cannot make is a moral argument against such a program. And without a moral argument, all their other arguments are feckless. Apparently recognizing this, William F. Buckley tells conservatives that they must accustom themselves to the fact “that certain fights we have waged are, quite simply, lost.” Conservatives, he says, must learn to “make prudent accommodations” to the welfare state.61 And so they have.

Bush’s neoconservative defenders go beyond Buckley’s “prudent” accommodations to the welfare state; they openly support its moral ends. For neocons such as David Brooks, George Bush “hasn’t abandoned conservatism”; instead, he’s “modernized, ennobled, and saved it.”62

Every time Democrats and liberals launch a moral counterattack against the “mean-spiritedness” of even the most modest conservative reforms, Republicans cower, turn, then flee and surrender the moral high ground. When faced with the charge repeated time and again that they represent big business, the rich, and the “greedy”—and that their “cold-hearted” policies hurt poor women, children, and the elderly—Republican resolve collapses.

The process typically works like this. Day one: Republicans denounce, with nervous indignation, the growth of welfare and regulations. Day two: They concede that people in need have a right to government assistance. Day three: They propose to save particular welfare programs through pragmatic reform. Day four: They shake hands with their Democratic partners and declare that a new era of bipartisanship and consensus has finally arrived.

What the mandarins of the conservative establishment do not and cannot understand, given their philosophy, is that conservatives—to the extent that they ever had any interest in defending individual rights and limited government—lost the fight because they never engaged the enemy with the only kind of weapon that could win: a moral argument against the claim that those in “need” have a moral claim on one’s life, liberty, and property. More importantly, mainstream conservatives have never made a philosophic argument for individual rights, limited government, and capitalism on explicitly moral grounds. Ultimately, they are embarrassed by, and have always worked very hard to hide, the fact that capitalism can only be justified if each and every man has a moral right to live and work for his own sake and not as a sacrificial beast of burden to the “needs” of society.

It is true that the GOP and its intellectual allies in the conservative movement have employed the rhetoric of rights, but there has never been any philosophic substance to their arguments. Once one peels away the folksy rhetoric, the hollow bromides, and the patriotic slogans, the conservative position comes down to this: The free-enterprise system is good because it “works” better than any other system, because it produces more wealth that can be subsequently “shared” with the less fortunate.

Not even Goldwater conservatives can offer an alternative to the welfare state, because they too accept its moral premises. Why? Why do all conservatives accept the moral premises of the liberals? The answer, in a word, is religion.

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, a leading conservative Republican (dubbed recently as “Mr. Compassionate Conservative”), says that his “focus on compassion comes . . . from his Christian faith—specifically from the Second Great Commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.” Is there a conservative in America who would dare challenge Brownbacks’s moral standard? Likewise, Alabama Governor Bob Riley states the general conservative position succinctly: “According to our Christian ethics, we’re supposed to love God, love each other, and help take care of the poor.”63 Would Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, or even Barry Goldwater denounce Riley’s assertion?

Liberalism invokes the altruism of Marx; conservatism invokes the altruism of Jesus; and both camps are indebted to Rousseau for his emphasis on compassion. With respect to individual rights, there is and can be no fundamental difference between a secular-liberal welfare state and a religious-conservative welfare state. It matters not one whit to me whether my earned wealth is forcibly redistributed by a Hillary Clinton or a George Bush government; either way, my money is seized. The political subjugation of the individual in the name of the morality of sacrifice is the essence of both.

Compassionate conservatism and neoconservatism have not corrupted the GOP as some conservatives have argued; they have simply exploited and brought to the surface principles that have been at the heart of the conservative intellectual movement from the beginning. Consequently, after decades of an impossible struggle in which conservatives fought liberal government programs while accepting and agreeing with liberal altruism, they have finally and officially given up, abandoned their former half-formed principles, and openly embraced the philosophical roots of the Left.

The Bush administration, the Republican Party, and the conservative intelligentsia have now fully and openly embraced liberalism’s two basic principles: altruism and pragmatism. The conservative movement has stepped both its feet into a philosophic sinkhole and is drowning in a miasma of sentimental mush and cynical manipulation. Compassionate conservatism permits Republicans to demonstrate publicly how much they “care” for those in need, while neoconservatism provides them with a philosophy of governance that shows them how to devise (allegedly) more cost-effective welfare programs.

The common denominator between compassionate conservatism and neoconservatism is what Fred Barnes calls “big government conservatism,” a philosophy of governance embodied in the person of George W. Bush:

First, he’s realistic. He understands why Mr. Reagan failed to reduce the size of the federal government and why Newt Gingrich and the GOP revolutionaries failed as well. The reason: People like big government so long as it’s not a huge drag on the economy. So Mr. Bush abandoned the all-but-hopeless fight that Mr. Reagan and conservatives on Capitol Hill had waged to jettison the Department of Education. Instead, he’s opted to infuse the department with conservative goals.
A second trait is a programmatic bent. Big government conservatives prefer to be in favor of things because that puts them on the political offensive. Promoting spending cuts/minimalist government doesn’t do that. Mr. Bush has famously defined himself as a compassionate conservative with a positive agenda. Almost by definition, this makes him a big government conservative. His most ambitious program is his faith-based initiative. It would use government funds to expand social programs run by religious organizations. . . .
Another trait is a far more benign view of government than traditional conservatives have. Big government conservatives are favorably disposed toward what neoconservative Irving Kristol has called a “conservative welfare state.” (Neocons tend to be big government conservatives.) This means they support transfer payments that have a neutral or beneficial effect (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and oppose those that subsidize bad behavior (welfare).64

Conservative intellectuals and Republican politicians no longer hold their noses and reluctantly accept the welfare state as an unfortunate political reality, as a “necessary evil” about which they can do little but compromise. No: Today’s conservatives and their compassionate leader, George W. Bush, will go down in history as the first Republicans to openly and explicitly advocate a conservative welfare state as a “positive good.”

As we have seen, the policies of compassionate conservatives and neoconservatives merge to promote a shared common end: the violation of individual rights for the sake of “general welfare” and for the “needs” of the “less fortunate.” Not only have conservatives and Republicans abandoned any semblance of a principled moral opposition to the welfare state, they now fully embrace it morally and politically.

Thus there is no meaningful difference between the Christian sentimentalism of the New Right and the moral relativism of the New Left. They both treat emotions and feelings as their means of knowing what is true and good—and what they “know” to be true and good is that self-sacrifice is moral and self-interest is immoral. Thus there is no meaningful difference between the aims of today’s conservatives and those of today’s liberals. They share the same moral premises and political ends; they differ only marginally in the means they choose to achieve their shared goal: the welfare state.

The ultimate meaning of big-government conservatism was captured recently in the Christian Science Monitor, by Patrick Chisholm, who reported that the compassionate- and neo-conservative policies of the Bush administration have served to advance the long-term ideological and political agenda of the redistributionist Left. Chisholm writes:

Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government’s budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government’s main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending.65

The redistributionist state that began with the New Deal, and that was radicalized by the Great Society, has now been saved, reborn, and advanced by the Conservative Revolution.

As the United States advances toward socialism by a series of gradual, halting steps, it is not the liberals or the socialists but rather the conservatives who bear the greatest guilt for dragging America down the road to statism. When they are out of power, conservatives often claim to stand for private property, limited government, and capitalism (thereby serving as a brake against the ambitions of the Left), but when they are in power they have a proven record of hastening our descent into socialism (which is fueled by the mutual desires of the Left). Conservatives may posture as supporters of individual rights, limited government, and capitalism; but, in reality, they are morally opposed to these values, and their history is one of actively betraying them.

A New Moral Code

The conservative movement in all its forms has demonstrated repeatedly its unwillingness and inability to defend the political principles of a free society. Its intellectual leaders do not believe in or have the ability to validate philosophically the principles on which this country was founded.

If the American principles of limited government and capitalism are to survive and serve our lives and the lives of our loved ones, they must be defended uncompromisingly as moral, just, and true. This means that proponents of these principles must find a philosophic alternative to the conservatives’ stale bromides and folksy speeches. It is not enough to defend limited government on the grounds that it works in practice; one must also defend it on the more fundamental grounds that it is moral in theory. Nor is it enough to show that the regulatory welfare state does not work; one must also show that it is immoral.

Arguments from authority or tradition will not do, either. That great men advocated freedom, and that freedom is part and parcel of our heritage, are truths, but they are not arguments. Those who want to defend the American principles of limited government and capitalism must do so on objective philosophical grounds. They need a rational, principled alternative to conservatism.

A truly free society is defined by its understanding and protection of individual rights—the right of each individual to act on the judgment of his own mind so long as he does not violate the same rights of others. This, the principle of individual rights, is the touchstone of a free society; this is what must be defended and embraced as an absolute, moral principle. But how is this principle validated philosophically? This is the question that leaves even the Goldwater conservatives stammering in dogmatic assertion. (Other conservatives do not believe in such principles.)

In contradistinction to the relativistic Left, Goldwater conservatives claim to stand for absolute and certain moral principles. But if you ask them to defend and prove such principles philosophically, if you ask them to define individual rights objectively, they simply invoke the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as self-evident, and, thus, end the conversation. It is radically insufficient to quote the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence or the speeches of Abraham Lincoln as if that constitutes an argument. The principles on which America was founded should be venerated because they are true and right and crucial to human life—not because they are “ours” or because they are old and dear.

To stand on principle, to offer a moral argument in support of capitalism, is now considered by conservatives to be impractical and imprudent. But capitalism simply cannot be defended without a moral argument—a moral argument in support of individual rights and against their violation—which means: in support of self-interest and against self-sacrifice. What aspiring advocates of capitalism need is a philosophy that identifies and defends the moral core of individualism—the ethics of rational egoism.

Conservatives have always run at a full gallop from having their philosophy identified with a morality of “selfishness.” But self-interest is and always has been, to use Irving Kristol’s language, in “the American grain.” It is the ideal that animates the Declaration of Independence; it is the reason why man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness matter.

Rational egoism holds that each individual should pursue his own welfare or self-interest—and that no one has a right to force anyone to act against his own judgment or to sacrifice himself for the “sake” of others. It is the idea that each individual owns himself and has both a right and a responsibility to pursue his own interests according to his own judgment while respecting the rights of others to do the same. What validates this principle? The same thing that validates all objective moral principles: the fact that man’s life depends on it.

Man’s metaphysical condition is that he is a rational, volitional being with no pre-programmed or automatic code of values. It is precisely because man has free will that he requires a moral code—a moral code that will help identify the long-range material and spiritual requirements of his life.

Man is a being of self-made soul, which means that he has the power to pursue life-serving goals and happiness or not. He must choose on a daily basis whether to be rational or irrational, hardworking or lazy, independent or dependent, honest or dishonest, just or unjust. It is in man’s self-interest and it is his fundamental right to pursue a life of happiness—which means, to pursue a rewarding career, financial security, recreational activities, travel, art, romance, friendships, and so forth. This is why man needs a consistent, integrated moral code: to guide him in the pursuit of such life-serving goals.

The proper moral purpose of every individual’s life is to pursue his life-sustaining, life-enhancing values; the proper moral purpose of government is to protect his right to do so.

Rational egoism is the only moral philosophy (and capitalism is the only social system) that recognizes each individual as an end in himself and as the proper beneficiary of his own productive actions. It is the only moral code that entails and supports the principle of individual rights; thus it is the only moral code that can support capitalism. Any attempt to ground capitalism on, or to reconcile it with, a moral teaching that forces men to sacrifice their interests for the alleged sake of others is doomed to failure.

Americans must remember what conservatives have forgotten (or never fully understood): that the United States was founded on the idea that individuals have unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are valid only if individuals morally own themselves and are the proper beneficiaries of their own efforts. Each man is a morally sovereign entity. This is why no person is legitimately the master or the slave of another. But this principle, the principle of man’s rights, is the morality of egoism applied to a social-political context. Those who refuse to recognize and embrace egoism refuse to recognize and embrace man’s rights.

What the principle of individual rights means, in practice, is that individuals must be free to pursue their own self-interest—which means, free of the one and only thing that can prevent them from doing so: physical force. The principle of individual rights prohibits the initiation of physical force against people, whether by individuals or by governments; it is the moral and legal mechanism by which people live together peacefully. Rights, properly understood, serve as a moral and legal fence that defines boundaries of human action between individuals in their relations with each other and between individuals in their relations with the state.

The recognition of individual rights implies three things: first, that each man must accept full responsibility for governing his own life; second, that no man should be coerced into sacrificing his liberty or property in order to satisfy someone else’s needs or wants; and third, that man’s only reciprocal social obligation is a negative obligation—to not violate the rights of others. This is what it means to live in a free and civilized society.

For conservatives to argue, as virtually all of them do, that “rights impose obligations”—meaning positive obligations, obligations to provide goods or services to the unproductive—is a blatant contradiction. This notion is the fatal philosophic flaw that has destroyed the concept of individual rights in the minds of Americans. The only “obligation” connected with individual rights is the obligation to respect the rights of others—which means, not to initiate physical force against them. But this is not what conservatives mean by the term.

Conservatives use the notion of “obligation” or “duty” as a moral counterbalance to the individualism connected with the idea of rights. For conservatives, the obligations imposed by rights represent the “duties” we owe to others, to “society,” to the “public interest,” to the “common good.” This means that the individual has an obligation to sacrifice, to give up some part of his life, for others. But to say that “rights impose obligations” is the moral equivalent of saying that food requires poison in order to be nutritious.

Because of their fear of challenging the morality of self-sacrifice and championing the morality of self-interest, conservatives—more so than liberals—have obliterated the concept of rights in the minds of Americans.

Observe how conservatives react when liberals play the poverty guilt card; observe their intellectual disarmament when liberals taunt them about the needs of the downtrodden; observe their “me-too-ing” moral appeasement when liberals laud self-sacrifice as the essence of moral virtue. What conservatives purporting to defend capitalism do not (or will not) recognize is that altruism and individual rights are philosophic opposites that cannot be reconciled. (Their neoconservative and compassionate-conservative brethren recognize it, and choose to reject capitalism.)

Capitalism is the only social system that upholds the principle of rights; it is the only system in which individuals are fully free to act on their own best judgment. At the heart of capitalism, then, is the politics of individualism (i.e., the individual free of government coercion, free to pursue his values) and, at the heart of individualism, is egoism.

Communists, socialists, fascists, and liberals have always understood the integral relationship between egoism and capitalism. They have always known that by demonizing egoism (the ethics of self-interest), they could discredit capitalism (the politics of self-interest). Conservatives, by running from the former, have abandoned the latter.

In the 1950s and 60s, conservatives could be faulted for lacking the courage to morally defend capitalism and for diluting whatever good principles they had with an admixture of bad or contradictory principles. Today’s conservatives, however, have either rejected principles as such, or, as is increasingly the case, have explicitly embraced the moral premises of the Left.

Because they refuse to defend capitalism morally, on the basis of egoism, conservatives have compromised and sold-out the rights of the American people. They have ceded the principled high ground to the Left by accepting the moral rationale for the welfare state—altruism and its attendant notion that “need” is a legitimate moral claim.

Those who value freedom and capitalism must abandon altruism and the fantasy philosophies that support it (including religion). They must embrace egoism and the factual foundation for individual rights. They must defend capitalism—not only because it works better than any other social system—but also, and more fundamentally, because it is the only moral social system.

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to The Objective Standard, the preeminent source for commentary from an Objectivist perspective. Subscribe to The Objective Standard today!

This article is protected by copyright law. Permission is hereby granted to excerpt up to 600 words, providing that the excerpt is accompanied by proper credit to the author and a link to the full article at the website of TOS. For permission to reproduce longer excerpts, contact the editor at editor@theobjectivestandard.com.


1 “Republican Contract with America,” http://www.house.gov/house/Contract/CONTRACT.html

2 Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Historical Tables, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 1996 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995), Table 8.2, p.126.

3 William Jefferson Clinton, State of the Union Address, 1996.

4 Remarks by President Clinton upon signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, August 22, 1996.

5 Editorial, Washington Times, June 10, 2003; Rusher quoted in Ralph Z. Hallow, “Conservative Lament,” Washington Times, August 24, 2003.

6 The data included in this paragraph and the next two is drawn principally from: Stephen Slivinski, “The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis, no. 543, May 3, 2005; and Brian M. Riedl, “Federal Spending—By the Numbers,” The Heritage Foundation, October 7, 2005.

7 Quoted in Eric Pfeffer, “Tax Foes Lament Later Arrival of 'Cost of Government Day,’” Washington Times, July 13, 2006.

8 Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (Shepherdsville, KY: Victor Publishing Co., 1960; reprint, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1990), p. 11 (page reference is to reprint edition).

9 Myron Magnet, “Compassionate Conservative or Cowboy Capitalist?”, City Journal, Spring 2005, emphasis added.

10 Myron Magnet, “What Is Compassionate Conservatism,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 1999.

11 Ibid.

12 “A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities” 2001, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/usbudget/blueprint/bud07.html.

13 Stephen Goldsmith, “What Compassionate Conservatism Is—and Is Not,” Hoover Digest, http://www.hooverdigest.org/004/goldsmith.html, adapted from a speech given at the Hoover Institution, April 30, 2000.

14 Myron Magnet, “What Is Compassionate Conservatism,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 1999.

15 Michael Knox Beran, “Conservative Compassion Vs. Liberal Pity,” City Journal, Summer 2003.

16 Stephen Goldsmith, “American Conservatism: The 'Compassion’ Factor,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2003, and “What Compassionate Conservatism Is—and Is Not,” Hoover Digest, http://www.hooverdigest.org/004/goldsmith.html, adapted from a speech given at the Hoover Institution, April 30, 2000.

17 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The First and Second Discourse, ed. Roger D. Masters, translated by Roger D. Masters and Judith R. Masters (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), pp. 130–33; Emile or On Education, introduction, translation, and notes by Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979), 121–131.

18 For an excellent discussion on this phenomenon, see Clifford Orwin, “Moist Eyes: Political Tears from Rousseau to Clinton,” AEI Bradley Lecture Series, April 14, 1997.

19 David Brooks, “One Nation Conservatism,” The Weekly Standard, September 13, 1999.

20 Jim Wallis, “The Death of Compassionate Conservatism,” Sojourners, November 7, 2005, http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=051107.

21 “Remarks by President Bush in Announcement of the Faith-based Initiative,” January 29, 2001, emphasis added.

22 “President’s Remarks on Labor Day,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/09/20030901.html, September 1, 2003.

23 Stephen Goldsmith, “American Conservatism: The 'Compassion’ Factor,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2003.

24 President George W. Bush, December 12, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/12/20021212-3.html.

25 Quoted in Amy Sullivan, “An Initiative for the GOP Faithful,” The New Republic, April 3, 2006.

26 Senator Rick Santorum, “The Conservative Future: Compassion,” Townhall.com, Nov. 17, 2005.

27 Paul O’Neill interviewed on “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” PBS, June 5, 2002. Transcript at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/jan-june02/oddcouple_6-5.html.

28 George W. Bush, March 22, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/ 20020322-1.html.

29 Richard Perle quoted at: http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/neocon/neoconQuotes.html; Elizabeth Drew, “The Neocons in Power,” The New York Review of Books, June 12, 2003; Howard Dean quoted in U. S. News & World Report, August 11, 2003.

30 David Brooks quoted in Sam Tannenhaus, “When Left Turns Right, It Leaves the Middle Muddled,” New York Times, September 16, 2000.

31 Irving Kristol, “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” Weekly Standard, August 25, 2003.

32 David Brooks, “The Era of Small Government Is Over,” Weekly Standard, October 2, 2000; and “How to Reinvent the GOP, The New York Times, August 29, 2004; Brooks quoted in Sheldon Richman, “Four Cheers for Capitalism,” The Future of Freedom Foundation, March 1997.

33 Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (New York: Dutton, 1963), p. 209; Theodore Roosevelt, “The New Nationalism,” p. 34; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 3, 1933.

34 Irving Kristol, “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” Weekly Standard, August 25, 2003, emphasis added.

35 Herbert Croly, Promise of American Life, p. 152.

36 Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, (New York: Basic Books, 1978), p. 27, ix.

37 Irving Kristol, “Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea,” Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, (New York: Basic Books, 1983), pp. 116–117.

38 Irving Kristol, “Of Decadence and Tennis Flannels,” Two Cheers for Capitalism, pp. 237–38.

39 See Wall Street Journal, June 14, 1993.

40 Irving Kristol, “A Conservative Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 1993; Ben Wattenberg, “A Response to George Gilder’s 'Why I Am Not a Neo-Conservative,’” National Review, March 5, 1982, emphasis added.

41 Irving Kristol, “American Conservatism 1945–1995” The Public Interest, Fall 1995, p. 88.

42 Irving Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (New York: Basic Books, 1983), p. 116; Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, p. 119.

43 See Mark Gerson, The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture War (New York: Madison Books, 1997), p. 201.

44 Nathan Glazer, contribution to “Neoconservatism: Pro and Con,” Partisan Review, vol. 4, 1980, p. 499. The neoconservative sociologist and long-time friend of Kristol and Glazer, Daniel Bell, has described himself as “a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” Quoted in Peter Steinfels, The Neoconservatives: The Men Who Are Changing America’s Politics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), p. 165.

45 Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, p. 118, emphasis added.

46 Irving Kristol, “A Conservative Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 1993.

47 Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, p. 119, emphasis added.

48 Ibid., pp. 116–20.

49 Irving Kristol, “The End Game of the Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1989; and “The Trouble With Republicans, Wall Street Journal, April 22, 1988.

50 Irving Kristol, “When It’s Wrong to Be Right,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 1993, emphasis added.

51 Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, p. 174.

52 Ibid., pp. 2021.

53 William Kristol, “The Majority Party,” Weekly Standard, September 13, 2004.

54 Irving Kristol, “End Game of the Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1989.

55 Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism, p. 222.

56 Ibid., p. 118.

57 Citizens Against Government Waste, “Pork Barrel Report,” website: http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reports_porkbarrelreport. See also, Jessica Shoemaker, “The Coming Fiscal Hurricane,” Government Waste Watch, Fall/Winter 2005, and Stephen Slivinski, “The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis, no. 543, May 3, 2005.

58 Joseph Antos and Jagadeesh Gokhale, “Medicare Prescription Drugs: Medical Necessity Meets Fiscal Insanity,” Cato Institute Briefing Paper, no. 91, February 9, 2005.

59 Robert Pear, “Medicare Debate Focuses on Merits of Private Plans,” New York Times, June 9, 2003.

60 George F. Will, “A Questionable Kind of Conservatism,” Washington Post, July 24, 2003.

61 William F. Buckley, “God Bless Godlessness,” National Review Online, January 30, 2001, emphasis added.

62 David Brooks, “The Savior of the Right,” New York Times, October 23, 2005.

63 Terry Eastland, “Mr. Compassionate Conservative,” Weekly Standard, August 7, 2006; Riley quoted in Lisa San Pascual, “The Social Gospel Lays an Egg in Alabama,” Religion in the News, 2003.

64 Fred Barnes, “'Big Government Conservatism’: George Bush Style,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2003.

65 Patrick Chisholm, “Triumph of the Redistributionist Left,” Christian Science Monitor,†January 23, 2006.