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The Conservative Movement: Alive and Well

Posted by Tony Listi on July 30, 2008

A post on the left-leaning website Daily Kos boldly declares, “Conservatism is dead, and it’s not coming back.” An article by George Packer called “The Fall of Conservatism” chronicles what he considers the steady fracturing and consequent downfall of the conservative movement. But one eminent conservative cries, “Not so fast!”

Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based think tank, is widely regarded as the chief historian of the American conservative movement. He became the first biographer of Ronald Reagan and recently spear-headed the establishment in Washington of an international memorial to the more than 100 million victims of communism.

Upon entering his office, one is struck by the shelves upon shelves of books that line the walls and occasionally end up in small piles on his desk. A half-dozen or more black and white pictures of him with conservative heroes such as Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr. are framed on the wall behind him and show that the roots of Dr. Edwards in the conservative movement are quite deep.

He boils conservatism down to five core precepts based upon the American Founding and Western Civilization: “The free market, limited constitutional government, individual freedom and responsibility, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

“People are confusing the Republican Party with conservatism. They are assuming that what the Republican Party does is conservatism,” says Dr. Edwards, “And that is not the case. Of course, the opposition, those who are of a more liberal persuasion, or progressive persuasion as they call themselves, are quite eager to link the two. They are trying to say just as Bush’s popularity is at an all time low, even that of Richard Nixon, so is conservatism headed for the ash heap of history.”

Many younger Americans especially neglect his insightful distinction. The abandonment of principle for partisanship and politics has hurt the Republican Party, but conservatism has existed long before the party adopted its principles and likely will survive long after the party is mere history.

Conservatism as a movement is alive and well, declares Dr. Edwards: “Any political movement needs a coherent relevant philosophy, a national infrastructure, adequate financial resources, media proficiency, and able, charismatic, principled leadership. You look at where the conservative movement is in each one of those and you will see we are quite strong, stronger than we’ve ever been in the last fifty years, with the possible exception of charismatic, principled leadership.”

Indeed, many of the great conservative pantheon have passed away: Russell Kirk, Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, Bill Buckley, and most recently Jesse Helms. Conservatives are naturally looking for the next standard-bearers of the movement and have been somewhat disappointed with the Republican leadership.

Declining to use the terms “wounds” or “divisions,” Dr. Edwards acknowledges that there is and always has been a diversity of opinions among conservatives. “The conservative movement has always had strains. It’s always had different elements. Go back fifty years and there were some really spirited debates, particularly between the libertarians and the traditional conservatives.”

Moreover, these internal disputes “are more apparent today because the movement is bigger than it was fifty years ago,” says Dr. Edwards. But these circumstances are “a sign not of decay but of vitality.” People within the movement would not be arguing over the future of conservatism if they thought it had no future.

But there is a fine line between philosophical dynamism and political in-fighting. Anti-communism held the conservative movement together and Reagan embodied this fusion of disparate elements. With the Cold War won, what and who will hold the movement together in the future?

Dr. Edwards answers, “What is needed to bridge these differences is agreement on a clear and present threat. And I think most conservatives would agree that it is Leviathan; it’s the welfare state. So there is a need to really drive that home. And secondly, you need that charismatic, principled leadership. The right leader will bring these elements together.”

Liberals might want to rethink their claim of “mission accomplished.” Conservatism is hardly dead and gone. As Dr. Edwards concludes, “The future is good so long as we stick to our principles. The conservative movement has many miles to go yet.”

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Posted in American Culture, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Conservatives more honest than liberals?

Posted by Tony Listi on June 10, 2008

Ideas have consequences.

http://www.examiner.com/a-1419425~Peter_Schweizer__Conservatives_more_honest_than_liberals_.html

By Peter Schweizer
June 2, 2008

The headline may seem like a trick question — even a dangerous one — to ask during an election year. And notice, please, that I didn’t ask whether certain politicians are more honest than others. (Politicians are a different species altogether.) Yet there is a striking gap between the manner in which liberals and conservatives address the issue of honesty.

Consider these results:

Is it OK to cheat on your taxes? A total of 57 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” said yes in response to the World Values Survey, compared with only 20 percent of those who are “very conservative.” When Pew Research asked whether it was “morally wrong” to cheat Uncle Sam, 86 percent of conservatives agreed, compared with only 68 percent of liberals.

Ponder this scenario, offered by the National Cultural Values Survey: “You lose your job. Your friend’s company is looking for someone to do temporary work. They are willing to pay the person in cash to avoid taxes and allow the person to still collect unemployment. What would you do?”

Almost half, or 49 percent, of self-described progressives would go along with the scheme, but only 21 percent of conservatives said they would.

When the World Values Survey asked a similar question, the results were largely the same: Those who were very liberal were much more likely to say it was all right to get welfare benefits you didn’t deserve.

The World Values Survey found that those on the left were also much more likely to say it is OK to buy goods that you know are stolen. Studies have also found that those on the left were more likely to say it was OK to drink a can of soda in a store without paying for it and to avoid the truth while negotiating the price of a car.

Another survey by Barna Research found that political liberals were two and a half times more likely to say that they illegally download or trade music for free on the Internet.

A study by professors published in the American Taxation Association’s Journal of Legal Tax Research found conservative students took the issue of accounting scandals and tax evasion more seriously than their fellow liberal students. Those with a “liberal outlook” who “reject the idea of absolute truth” were more accepting of cheating at school, according to another study, involving 291 students and published in the Journal of Education for Business.

A study in the Journal of Business Ethics involving 392 college students found that stronger beliefs toward “conservatism” translated into “higher levels of ethical values.” And academics concluded in the Journal of Psychology that there was a link between “political liberalism” and “lying in your own self-interest,” based on a study involving 156 adults.

Liberals were more willing to “let others take the blame” for their own ethical lapses, “copy a published article” and pass it off as their own, and were more accepting of “cheating on an exam,” according to still another study in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all conservatives are honest and all liberals are untrustworthy. But clearly a gap exists in the data. Why? The quick answer might be that liberals are simply being more honest about their dishonesty.

However attractive this explanation might be for some, there is simply no basis for accepting this explanation. Validation studies, which attempt to figure out who misreports on academic surveys and why, has found no evidence that conservatives are less honest. Indeed, validation research indicates that Democrats tend to be less forthcoming than other groups.

The honesty gap is also not a result of “bad people” becoming liberals and “good people” becoming conservatives. In my mind, a more likely explanation is bad ideas. Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective.

Sixties organizer Saul Alinsky, who both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say inspired and influenced them, once said the effective political advocate “doesn’t have a fixed truth; truth to him is relative and changing, everything to him is relative and changing. He is a political relativist.”

During this political season, honesty is often in short supply. But at least we can improve things by accepting the idea that truth and honesty exist. As the late scholar Sidney Hook put it, “the easiest rationalization for the refusal to seek the truth is the denial that truth exists.”

Peter Schweizer is the author of “Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less … And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals” (Doubleday).

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Who is More Compassionate: Conservatives or Liberals?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

http://www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/excerpt.html

“The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistribution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they oppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish. (On the contrary, a public attack on the integrity of those who don’t share my beliefs might more legitimately constitute evidence that I am the uncharitable one.)

To evaluate accurately the charity difference between liberals and conservatives, we must consider private, voluntary charity. How do liberals and conservatives compare in their private giving and volunteering? Beyond strident slogans and sarcastic political caricatures, what, exactly, do the data tell us?

The data tell us that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. In most ways, political conservatives are not personally less charitable than political liberals—they are more so.

First, we must define “liberals” and “conservatives.” Most surveys ask people not just about their political party affiliation but also about their ideology. In general, about 10 percent of the population classify themselves as “very conservative”; and another 10 percent call themselves “very liberal.” About 20 percent say they are simply “liberal,” and 30 percent or so say they are “conservative.” The remaining 30 percent call themselves “moderates” or “centrists.” In this discussion, by “liberals” I mean the approximately 30 percent in the two most liberal categories, and by conservatives I mean the 40 percent or so in the two most con­servative categories.

So how do liberals and conservatives compare in their charity? When it comes to giving or not giving, conservatives and liberals look a lot alike. Conservative people are a percentage point or two more likely to give money each year than liberal people, but a percentage point or so less likely to volunteer.

But this similarity fades away when we consider average dollar amounts donated. In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich.

If we look at party affiliation instead of ideology, the story remains largely the same. For example, registered Republicans were seven points more likely to give at least once in 2002 than registered Democrats (90 to 83 percent).

The differences go beyond money and time. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.

The political stereotypes break down even further when we consider age: “Anyone who is not a socialist before age thirty has no heart, but anyone who is still a socialist after thirty has no head,” goes the old saying. And so we imagine crusty right-wing grandfathers socking their money away in trust funds while their liberal grandchildren work in soup kitchens and save the whales. But young liberals—perhaps the most vocally dissatisfied political constituency in America today—are one of the least generous demographic groups out there. In 2004, self-described liberals younger than thirty belonged to one-third fewer organizations in their communities than young conservatives. In 2002, they were 12 percent less likely to give money to charities, and one-third less likely to give blood. Liberal young Americans in 2004 were also significantly less likely than the young conservatives to express a willingness to sacrifice for their loved ones: A lower percentage said they would prefer to suffer than let a loved one suffer, that they are not happy unless the loved one is happy, or that they would sacrifice their own wishes for those they love.

The compassion of American conservatives becomes even clearer when we compare the results from the 2004 U.S. presidential election to data on how states address charity. Using Internal Revenue Service data on the percentage of household income given away in each state, we can see that the red states are more charitable than the blue states. For instance, of the twenty-five states that donated a portion of household income above the national average, twenty-four gave a majority of their popular votes to George W. Bush for president; only one gave the election to John F. Kerry. Of the twenty-five states below the national giving average, seventeen went for Kerry, but just seven for Bush. In other words, the electoral map and the charity map are remarkably similar.

These results are not an artifact of close elections in key states. The average percentage of household income donated to charity in each state tracked closely with the percentage of the popular vote it gave to Mr. Bush. Among the states in which 60 percent or more voted for Bush, the average portion of income donated to charity was 3.5 percent. For states giving Mr. Bush less than 40 percent of the vote, the average was 1.9 percent. The average amount given per household from the five states combined that gave Mr. Bush the highest vote percentages in 2003 was 25 percent more than that donated by the average household in the five northeastern states that gave Bush his lowest vote percentages; and the households in these liberal-leaning states earned, on average, 38 percent more than those in the five conservative states.

People living in conservative states volunteer more than people in liberal states. In 2003, the residents of the top five “Bush states” were 51 percent more likely to volunteer than those of the bottom five, and they volunteered an average of 12 percent more total hours each year. Residents of these Republican-leaning states volunteered more than twice as much for religious organizations, but also far more for secular causes. For example, they were more than twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor.

Surely Jimmy Carter would have been surprised to learn that the selfish Americans he criticized so vociferously were most likely the very people who elected him president.

© Basic Books – 2007″

The Statistics

http://www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/statistics.html

People who are religious give more across the board to all causes than their non-religious counterparts

There is a huge “charity gap” that follows religion: On average, religious people are far more generous than secularists with their time and money. This is not just because of giving to churches—religious people are more generous than secularists towards explicitly non-religious charities as well. They are also more generous in informal ways, such as giving money to family members, and behaving honestly.


Giving supports economic growth and actually creates prosperity

Many studies show that giving and volunteering improve physical health and happiness, and lead to better citizenship. In other words, we need to give for our own good. Cultural and political influences—and the many government policies—that discourage private charitable behavior have negative effects that are far more widespread than people usually realize.


The working poor in America give more to charity than the middle class

The American working poor are, relative to their income, some of the most generous people in America today. The nonworking poor, however—those on public assistance instead of earning low wages—give at lower levels than any other group. In other words, poverty does not discourage charity in America, but welfare does.


Upper level income people often give less than the working poor

Among Americans with above-average incomes who do not give charitably, a majority say that they ‘don’t have enough money.’ Meanwhile, the working poor in America give a larger percentage of their incomes to charity than any other income group, including the middle class and rich.


Plus
:

People who give money charitably are 43 percent more likely to say they are “very happy” than nongivers and 25 percent more likely than nongivers to say their health is excellent or very good.
A religious person is 57% more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person.
Conservative households in America donate 30% more money to charity each year than liberal households.
If liberals gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the U.S. would jump by about 45%.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »