NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Is "Compassionate Conservatism?"

November 2, 2000

The "compassionate conservatism" George W. Bush talks about is a coherent, principled philosophy that offers a superior approach to domestic policy than the overgrown welfare state, says former Indianapolis, Ind., mayor Stephen Goldsmith, a Bush adviser.

Compassionate conservatives believe government should have a limited role in people's lives and 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 free enterprise.

Compassionate conservatives also say that government has a responsibility to those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. But the way to help is to empower individuals, rather than create new government bureaucracies or add to the tax and regulatory burdens imposed on the rest of society.

Some of the ways they would accomplish this is:

  • By giving citizens the opportunity to own and control equities through their Social Security accounts so they can build wealth for the future.
  • By offering low-cost home loans, help with down payments or even encouraging the creation of independent development accounts, so people can build personal wealth through home ownership.
  • By giving parents information about school performance and the power to exercise choices, so local schools will have incentives to improve the quality of education.
  • By providing refundable tax credits to uninsured families for the purchase of health insurance in the marketplace, so people can control their own health care.

Compassionate conservatives also believe prosperity must have a purpose -- that is, that more than just the marketplace is necessary for America to be a successful country.

They believe that our social ills -- crime, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births -- are cultural and spiritual problems, and that family and faith-based solutions are the preferable way to ameliorate them.

Source: Stephen Goldsmith, "What Compassionate Conservatism Is -- and Is Not," Hoover Digest, No. 4, 2000, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94305, (650) 725-6715.


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