Explaining the Case for Compassionate Conservatism

H. Anson Cone’s book Compassionate Conservatism Now is a harbinger of passionate reflection on how grassroots’ conservatives can seize the day and take their government and country back from liberals.

His convictions are a lamp unto the feet and a light to the path for this generation of conservatives. If we are to reverse the progressive drift of contemporary politics, conservatives should heed Cone’s principled advice.

Compassionate conservatism, according to Cone, seeks to reestablish our forefathers’ original intention of a Jeffersonian-style republic of small businesses and stakeholders-one that rejects the extremes of 20th century collectivism and the unbridled forces of capitalism-while meeting the challenges of a modern industrial society.

If our democratic republic is to truly exist and function, then all of its citizens should have a voice in the formation and operation of our government. Property ownership and active civic participation in community, state and federal endeavors will empower conservatives to implement their own governing agenda.

However, an ever expanding and intrusive government on the one hand and multinational corporate sector on the other poses a challenge for conservative governance. The overreach of the public sector has essentially derailed what George Gilder once called the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of the small business, craftsman and artisan.

Cone’s message has crossover appeal to conservatives and non-conservatives alike who seek to free America from the "social justice" of radical leftists, but desire a fair and equitable society. He argues that we should become less reliant on government programs to solve every day problems and human dependencies and shift this charitable responsibility to civic and religious organizations, and provides examples of how to achieve this goal.

As Cone points out, the persistent problem of government intervention is the issue of unfounded mandates-regulatory burdens that are eventually passed on to the consumer. Nonprofit businesses and private sector programs are much more efficient at providing needed services. This should serve as the model civic responsibility instead of inefficient government programs.

Cone recommends the example of companies like FedEx and United Parcel Services (UPS) both of which forced the inefficient U. S. Postal Service to make their services better and improve how they do business, because if they and other government agencies do not, then we as individuals and small businesses need to put them out of business.

A book such as Cone’s would be remiss not to point out how legislators have botched up our political system. For example, many of these legislators are lawyers, who take it upon themselves to codify regulatory laws out of self interest rather than what is best for the national interest.

Compassionate Conservatism Now points out that convoluted laws like the tax code require the ordinary citizen to hire a staff of accountants to decipher tax code provisions. To remedy this, Cone suggests that we have term limits so that lawyers and other lifetime lobbyists, who cater to their professional interests, do not become career politicians.

Former Speaker of the House John McCormack (D.-Mass.), as quoted in the book, reflects the current attitude of the majority of legislators, "You may have been elected by accident, but you will not be reelected by accident if you do not go along with the way things are in Congress."

In other words, "If you are a reformer, if you have some notion that you are going to truly represent the people rather than become a member of the government, the ruling class, then we will get rid of you." Herein lies the current problem of career politicians who thrive on maintaining their own powerful status and set their own agenda at the expense of their nation’s best interest.

Yet, the book does lend hope by telling us that as a nation of stakeholder citizens, we must systematically take back the country and make it what the forefathers intended it to be, a democratic republic, "of the people, for the people, and by the people."

We must empower ourselves through education and not only become part of the political process but be the political process. Our awareness level must be raised and we must know for ourselves rather than just jump on the bandwagon of what those in power say. We can make legislation happen and keep those in power in check.

Conservatives have a responsibility to help shape the future of our country and Compassionate Conservatism Now provides the compass by which we must navigate.