Category: compassionate conservatism

A review of Charles Murray’s ‘Coming Apart’: do the poor suffer because they are bad or because they are dumb?

By Alan Bean

Charles Murray took so much flak for controversial The Bell Curve that he decided to write a book about white people rooted in much the same argument. 

Coming Apart, a book about the diverging fortunes of upper and lower class white Americans, begins where The Bell Curve ended.  The big factor driving the growing gap between the educated and the uneducated, Murray suggests, is “cognitive homogamy”, the fact that individuals with similar cognitive ability are having children.

In the old world, Murray says, most people lived and died in rural communities and small towns.  The smartest males might have left home for a few years of college, but they generally returned to marry the prettiest (not necessarily the smartest) girl in town.  The result, kids of normal cognitive ability.  Wealth was distributed largely on the basis of inheritance, not ability and the kids at Harvard weren’t much smarter than the kids at a good state school.

Since the early 1960s, however, smart people have been marrying other smart people and having smart kids.  The sons and daughters of these blessed unions have increasingly clustered in segregated neighborhoods in which “everybody has a bachelor’s or graduate degree and works in high-prestige professions or management or is married to such a person.”  Among this new elite, wealth is distributed on the basis of merit, the elite colleges compete for the brightest and the best and lesser institutions make do with students who will never be ready for prime time. (more…)

Barbour schools Obama on compassion

By Alan Bean

Barack Obama, a moderate Democrat, should heed the example of conservative Republican Hailey Barbour.  In this Washington Post op-ed, Barbour explains why he pardoned 215 people during his last days as Mississippi Governor.  Barbour believes people can change, that even murders can be rehabilitated.

Contrast that with Mitt Romney’s tough-on-crime criticism of Rick Santorum’s willingness to give ex-felons the vote.  Contrast that with Barack Obama’s play-it-safe refusal to put his pardon pen to meaningful use.

There is a Nixon-goes-to-China aspect to all of this, or course.  Conservatives like Barbour won’t be mistaken for bleeding heart liberals when they make compassionate gestures.  Given Haley’s record of racial insensitivity, his good-ol’-boy reputation will survive a little criticism from self-serving Mississippi Democrats.  If Barack Obama followed suit he could be portrayed as soft on crime, especially if his compassionate intervention benefited a disproportionate number of African-American felons (which, given the skewed demographics of our American Gulag, it almost certainly would).

Or is Obama simply afraid of his own shadow?  (more…)

Rick Santorum: Apostle of the Common Good?

Rick Santorum

By Alan Bean

Now that Rick Santorum has emerged as a viable candidate, media scrutiny will likely revolve around his highly traditional positions on abortion, contraception and gay rights (apropos of which, check this out). But David Gerson, a political advisor who has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations, sees Santorum as a compassionate conservative with a vision of the common good. 

Consider this, for instance:

In a 2005 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Santorum argued that men and women should not be treated either as “pathetic dependents” or as “radical individuals.” “Someone,” he argued, “always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own self-interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom. . . . Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than the self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye towards the common good.”

Gerson doesn’t think the former Pennsylvania Senator stands much of a chance of getting himself nominated, but sees his rise as a sign that Republicans are remembering the need to add a pinch of humanity to the small government stew:

Libertarians may wish to claim exclusive marketing rights, but there are two healthy, intellectual movements in American conservatism: libertarianism and religious (particularly Catholic) social thought.

Libertarians may damn Santorum as a heretic for supporting prison ministries and expanding colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries, but Republicans abandon themselves to a radically individualistic libertarianism at their own peril.  Gerson’s column in the Washington Post can be found here.