“I’m a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal.” The Epitaph for America’s Future?
Many have read a version of the following statement from “moderates,” defined here as people who want to seem high-minded and objective by staying “above the fray.”
The goal in this essay is to demonstrate the illogicality of such an oxymoron. For ultimately fiscal conservatism will be impossible, if you support social liberalism.
How does one define “social liberalism” anyway? Since I do not want to be accused of setting up strawmen to knock down, in good faith I offer the following examples of social liberalism: antagonism toward racial profiling, protecting children, and (contradictorily) killing unborn children.
Liberal political scientist Benjamin Barber, an emeritus professor at Rutgers, offers an explanation for one aspect of political correctness:
“On the belief that while classes of people and categories of action may be statistically correlated with certain kinds of behavior, those correlations do not warrant encroaching on the liberty and rights of individuals. No one is to be prejudged in their behavior or motives simply because they belong to a certain class or category.”
On the surface, no Conservative will argue with this. But consider the “failed attack” by the infamous Shoe Bomber (Richard Reid). One of the most expensive aspects of Barber’s purist attitude has been occurring for years in our airports: because of political correctness, profiling for possible suspects has not been allowed. The result is that 9-year old little girls from Cincinnati, as well as 90-year old grandmothers from Pittsburgh, are stopped, scanned, sniffed, debriefed, de-shoed, and delayed because social liberalism says not to use stereotypes…ever, even though Richard Reid and his ilk do not fit the profile of a 9-year old girl from Ohio.
Americans have been led to think, therefore, that such high-mindedness is the price one pays for safety. And what exactly is that price? It is not just an annoying, exasperated feeling while standing in line. Roughly 50 million people per month pass through American airports per month. If we place the very modest price of $10.00 on the head of every passenger for their lost time (obviously the time of many travelers is worth much more!), it means that half a billion dollars are lost every month to the American economy, $6 Billion per year, $60 billion since Mr. Shoe Bomber’s antics.
And we say and believe that his attack failed! This estimate obviously does not take into account the tax dollars spent for all the increased surveillance and the equipment: and I will openly admit, the waddling and possibly illiterate T.S.A. guards I have seen do not make me feel safer. They make me feel less wealthy, knowing that as government employees they have better benefits and pensions than I ever will!
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby offered this opinion in an essay from August 23, 2006:
“No sensible person imagines that ethnic or religious profiling alone can stop every terrorist plot. But it is illogical and potentially suicidal not to take account of the fact that so far every suicide-terrorist plotting to take down an American plane has been a radical Muslim man. It is not racism or bigotry to argue that the prevention of Islamist terrorism necessitates a special focus on Muslim travelers, just as it is not racism or bigotry when police trying to prevent a Mafia killing pay closer attention to Italians.”
Profiling will not eliminate airport security, but one wonders, if political correctness were tossed aside, could not the loss in time and efficiency be greatly reduced?
Social liberalism has led to an attitude of allowing government intervention to protect us from ourselves, from cars, from saturated fat, from incorrect sneezing, from almost any situation which can generate a bureaucracy. OHSA in the Department of Labor is now approaching $2 Billion for its budget. And of course, we must protect the children: much spending is done in the name of helping children.
But where are the limits? One small personal example: when my wife was a principal of a grade school, the board wanted to install new playground equipment. She was given a 27-page booklet from the FedGov on playground safety. It seems that the FedGov’s bureaucrats had mandated that a playground slide had to have “9 inches of mulch at the bottom,” otherwise…lawsuits were possible for not following Federal guidelines. Now who decided that “9 inches of mulch” had to be used, and how? Bureaucrats! You can imagine them in lab coats and holding clipboards, while they put crash-dummies on the slide to discover the proper depth of mulch to protect the delicate derrieres of American 9-year old children.
“Your tax dollars at work!” “Where are the limits?” Obviously none exist.
Probably most Americans do not realize that their government is involved in such minutiae: child safety taken to manic extremes is one of the unintended consequences of social liberalism.
Although not all welfare goes to children, they are the main reason often given by politicians for supporting the welfare state. And of course over the last c. 80 years, governments have taken over from the churches, private charities, families, and private individuals the care for the poor or the temporarily indigent: which tradition would be more efficient in dealing with poverty, more caring, and more likely to prevent it from increasing?
The Heritage Foundation offers the following horrifying information for the “social liberal-fiscal conservative” to contemplate:
“Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, government has spent $15.9 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, the cost of all other wars in U.S. history was $6.4 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).”
“According to President Obama’s budget projections, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion over the next 10 years (FY 2009 to FY 2018). This spending will equal $250,000 for each person currently living in poverty in the U.S., or $1 million for a poor family of four.”
(My emphasis above)
In theory of course, that wipes out poverty! But we know it will not! Social liberalism does not stop poverty: if welfare-state bureaucracies actually lessened poverty, they would put themselves out of work. It is to the bureaucrats’ advantage to fertilize poverty!
However, human fertilization is something of which social liberals are usually skeptical. And here we touch upon abortion: I am aware that purely moral arguments are enough to argue against killing unborn children. The point here, however, is our “social liberal-fiscal conservative” will claim that abortion should be allowed, that it actually saves money for society, and that anyway, should not a true conservative keep government away from telling people what they can do with their bodies?
In a study called Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out-of-Wedlock Births by Lott and Whitley, the authors examine the costs to society of Roe vs. Wade over time. One finds the following conclusion on p.18:
“The higher estimated increases in murder imply that legalizing abortion raised the number of murders in 1998 by 1,230 and raised total annual victimization costs from all crime by at least $4.5 billion.”
Note that $4.5 Billion is for one year only. Probably a good number of RedState readers are already acquainted with demographic researcher Dennis Howard’s estimate that since Roe vs. Wade the U.S. economy has lost $37 Trillion dollars due to the loss of population. While you can debate how productive the aborted babies would have been, how many might have become criminals, welfare mothers, etc., one must ultimately assume that most people, even from the lower classes, are honest and want to succeed. So even if Howard is wildly off by 90%, that would still mean nearly a loss of $4 Trillion, which would come in handy right now to save the U.S. partially from bankruptcy! The cost to enforce anti-abortion laws would hardly affect such a sum.
Legal abortion, of course, was only part of the wider so-called Sexual Revolution 40 years ago, spawning the additional expenses of higher divorce rates (“no-fault divorce” also being part of a “socially liberal” agenda), higher illegitimacy rates, rises in STD’s and AIDS, etc. (I recall leftist columnist Ellen Goodman in the early 1980’s insisting that a crash program to cure AIDS was absolutely essential, not just for curing the afflicted, but to preserve the Sexual Revolution, i.e. to let people have casual sex with no consequences.)
I could continue into vaguer territory: what are the economic consequences of a society where mediocrity is extolled in a quest for fairness, where schools cancel awards ceremonies for fear of offending somebody, or, worse, where everyone is given an award, thus making the achievements of true winners meaningless? In the cartoon-movie The Incredibles, which shows a society where superheroes have been shut down by lawyers for the destruction and extra-constitutionality involved when the “supers” battle villains, one of the characters opines: “If everyone is super, then no one is.”
What is the cost of that kind of social liberalism/political correctness? How many future Bach’s, Curie’s, Edison’s, Einstein’s, Galileo’s, Michelangelo’s, Mother Teresa’s, Schoenberg’s, or Wright’s (Orville, Wilbur, as well as Frank Lloyd) are being stifled and stunted in our increasingly hostile-to-excellence society, or worse, are now part of hospital waste?
“I’m a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal.”
Let that not be the epitaph for America’s future.