‘Fiscal’ Conservatism Needs ‘Social’ Conservatism


For some years now, we have been told about a major division within American conservatism: fiscal conservatives vs. social conservatives.

This division is hurting conservatism and hurting America — because the survival of American values depends on both fiscal and social conservatism. Furthermore, the division is logically and morally untenable. A conservative conserves all American values, not just economic ones.

By “social conservatism,” I am referring to the second and third components of what I call the American Trinity — liberty, “In God We Trust” and “E Pluribus Unum.”

It is worth noting that a similar bifurcation does not exist on the left. One never hears the term “fiscal liberals.” Why not? Because those who consider themselves liberals are liberal across the board — fiscally and socially.

The left understands that values are a package. Apparently, many conservatives — libertarians, for example — do not. They think that we can sustain liberty while ignoring God and religion and ignoring American nationalism and exceptionalism.

It is true that small government and liberty are at the heart of the American experiment. But they are dependent on two other values: a God-based religious vigor in the society and the melting pot ideal.

Or, to put it another way, small government and fiscal conservatism will not survive the victory of social leftism.

The Founding Fathers made clear that liberty is dependent upon not only small government but also society’s affirming God-based values. Not having imbibed the Enlightenment foolishness that people are basically good, the founders understood that in order for a society to prosper without big government, its citizens have to hold themselves accountable to something other than — higher than — the brute force of the state. That something is God and the Judeo-Christian religions that are its vehicle.

Those who believe in a small state — fiscal conservatives — need to know that a small state is dependent on a big God and, therefore, on a God-centered population. Look at Europe for confirmation. As secularism expands, so does the state. And that is what is happening in America.

Fiscal conservatives, such as libertarians, don’t make this connection. They view small government as an achievable end in and of itself, divorced from the social/religious values the American people hold.

Western and Chinese apologists for the Communist Chinese regime argue the same thing — that economic freedom is divisible from other values.

I am in no way morally equating American libertarians and other fiscal conservatives to Chinese Communists. Libertarians hate communism. I am only pointing out that they agree on the separation of economic and social values, on the dispensability of God and religion, on the idea that America should not interfere in other nations — no matter how great the evil — and more.

Fiscal conservatives who consider themselves conservative need to imagine what type of America they will bequeath to future generations if the only conservative value that survives is fiscal conservatism.

Do you really want to live in an America that is godless, where liberty derives from the state and where moral values derive from each individual’s heart? In an America that ignores genocides abroad? In an America that so radically redefines marriage — the union of anyone who loves anyone — that it no longer has a moral justification to prohibit polygamy or incest? In an America that has no moral opinion on abortion, even if performed solely, let us say, for reasons of the fetus’s gender? In an America that embraces multiculturalism rather than the melting pot ideal?

My goal here is not to expel from the conservative movement those who are conservative only with regard to fiscal matters. May God bless them (even those who do not believe in him), and may they long vote Republican. My goal is to bring them to social conservatism.

Because a conservative conserves. And not just money.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.

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