Where social conservatism and economic conservatism converge

In response to my post below called Education, Immigration, and Diversity, one of my favorite readers writes:

You hit a bunch of nails squarely on the head, most of which are routinely overlooked or disallowed from the discussion.

As you know, economic and political questions are often, at root, moral and behavioral in nature. A foundational premise of economics is that “Money is like fertilizer: whatever you throw resources at, you will get more of.” We are reaping the bitter but abundant harvest of decades of government subsidy for counterproductive behaviors.

The largest cost is not to our public fisc (although those costs are massive). The worst cost of counterproductive behaviors is their effect on tens of millions of lives — a vast majority of them being children who have little or no say in their circumstances.

I am not sure what the best way out of this conundrum might be, but continuing to throw trillions of dollars of borrowed public money at it will simply produce ever-increasing yields of dysfunction, neglect, presumption and despair. We’ve run the experiment long enough to know that, in general and regardless of our good intentions, subsidizing poor choices makes things worse, not better.

These insights are, or should be, central tenets of social conservatism. They also help demonstrate why social and economic conservatism, properly understood, are not fundamentally at odds.

If — whether for ideological reasons, i.e., excessive libertarianism, or due to sheer opportunism — Republicans overlook the moral and behavioral roots of key economic and political questions, they will be nearly as ineffective as Democrats when it comes to governing.

JOHN adds: One of the ironies is that social and economic conservatism converge precisely at the point neither one of them wants to talk about.


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