Compassionate Conservatism

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According to the White House web site, since President George W. Bush "called on Americans to become citizens, not spectators" in his January 20, 2001, Inaugural Address, he "has used compassionate conservatism as his governing philosophy." [1]

Bush has described Marvin Olasky as "Compassionate Conservatism's Leading Thinker."

In an April 30, 2000, speech given at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, former Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith [and Bush's chief domestic policy advisor] described 'compassionate conservatism' as "a coherent, principled philosophy that organizes and explains a superior approach to domestic policy. As a political philosophy, compassionate conservatism serves as a true bridge from the era of big government as a way to solve social problems to a new era in which we will have a full and healthy trust in the people of this nation to govern themselves."[2]

"Fundamentally," he says, "compassionate conservatism is a form of political conservatism. In other words, compassionate conservatives believe that government should have a limited role in people's lives and that competition in the marketplace is the most effective means of producing social and economic progress. Consequently, compassionate conservatives believe in low taxes, limited government regulation, and the vast power of the free enterprise system. [3]

"Like traditional conservatism, compassionate conservatism assumes that the marketplace is the best way to deliver value. But compassionate conservatives also recognize that the prosperity created by the marketplace has left many Americans behind and that government has a responsibility to reach out to those who are at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. According to the principles of compassionate conservatism, government has a responsibility, not to redistribute the wealth of citizens but to provide the underprivileged with skills and opportunities to create their own wealth." [4]

In a phrase, Goldsmith says that compassionate conservatism is "empowerment, not entitlement." [5]

Tim Montgomerie, the National Director of Renewing One Nation, identifies six points to illustrate policy choices "that one nation -- or compassionate -- conservatism involves:"

  • Investing in Families:"... compassionate conservatives will build tax and benefit structures that promote and sustain married families and will invest in services that support parents and their relationships. Given how empirical evidence shows that the traditional family keeps children out of crime and gives them a good education - policies that strengthen marriage, fatherhood and the extended family are the bestsocial investment that a country can make";
  • Devolving Funding Decisions; : "In giving a greater role to the voluntary sector ... compassionate conservatives will introduce vouchers or tax credits so that users and individuals within local communities determine where money flows. The left's language of partnership is not matched by the way it jealously controls and regulates even short-term funding decisions."
  • Focusing on Results: "Compassionate conservatives will incentivise diversity in poverty-fighting approaches. Funding will follow results and control of process will end."
  • Trusting Faith-based Projects: "In affirming the role of faith groups ... a compassionate conservative will find ways of empowering faith groups to undertake their own self-chosen work."
  • Helping Young People Make Sustainable Choices: "In fighting drugs or teenage pregnancy ... the compassionate conservative will model innovative ways in which schools and youth services might help young people avoid making wrong choices in the first place."
  • Building Character: "In preparing people for society ... Compassionate conservatives ... will favour volunteering, mentoring, saving." [6]

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