A different perspective

November 18, 2012

I have read a few articles and blog posts analyzing the recent election results, though not many.These analyses, whether written from the viewpoint of the liberals or conservatives, tend to identify one or two deciding factors, and to that extent are probably oversimplifying things. People voted the way they did for a lot of different reasons, from ideological convictions to emotional responses to campaign messages to outright ignorance about the people they were voting for (or against).

Much of it has to do with whether Republicans – some prominent ones anyway – put too much emphasis on social issues as opposed to economic issues. Both before and after the election, one of the most common arguments I heard (admittedly in contexts where most people were both social and economic conservatives) was that there is a much higher urgency to dealing with economic issues than social issues. This blog post is a good example of this viewpoint.

This blog post (from several years ago), written from the point of view of the Left, sees economic conservatism as not only distinct from but actually in opposition to social conservatism. I think this blogger is mistaken in believing that the goal of social conservatives “is to expand, enhance, and reinforce the private power of white Christian men over everyone else in whatever relationships they have, social or economic.” But the tension between economic and social conservatism does show up in some areas, such as whether or to what extent to regulate pornography, as argued by this blog post.

A lengthy article I read today at First Things, however, offers a much different perspective. According to Robert George, economic and social conservatism are both rooted in the same principles. A healthy society, he says, rests on respect for the human person, the institution of the family, and a fair and effective system of law and government. Typically discussions of economic issues focus only on the last one, but George argues that a healthy economy needs people of good moral character, which depends on the first two characteristics.

I’ll have to think more about the implications of his argument in terms of public policy, but it’s worth thinking about.