The moral need for conservatism
Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses while speaking during a campaign event at a factory in Stittsville, Ontario September 13, 2015. Canadians go to the polls in a national election on October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Another federal campaign, another missed opportunity to sell the moral virtues of conservatism.
Political candidates who embrace more economic freedom over less should speak with a certain confidence that they are the ones offering not just the brighter future for voters, but the more caring option.
Yet too often, conservative candidates allow the left to frame the debate and box them in as heartless.
Stephen Harper is a classic example of this. The incumbent prime minister, who has never been accused of being too cuddly, is far more at home speaking about raw economic data than the real human stories that lie beneath this data.
“You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them,” Schoolmaster Gradgrind exclaims at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, sounding like a typical conservative politician.
But voters don’t just want appeals to reason. Reason doesn’t equal caring in the minds of the electorate. Clearly an added sell is also needed. An appeal to emotion.
One of the speakers at the Manning Networking Conference earlier this year stressed this point to a gathering of big tent conservatives.
“Conservatives can, and should, regain the moral high ground on social change,” argued Iain Duncan Smith, an MP and cabinet minister from the United Kingdom.
“The simple truth is that we cannot be prepared to see a growing number of our fellows citizens fall into an underclass of hopelessness and despair. For without them we will be unable to create a modern competitive economy.”
In other words, we’re all in this together. We need to all work together in the free market to collectively raise our standard of living.
The economic conservative path to widespread prosperity is proven to be the most effective. Therefore it's also the most caring.
It’s always been a false distinction that less government means less heart. Studies are proving this more and more.
On Monday the Fraser Institute released a study showing Canada was among the top 10 most economically free countries in the world.
We also know that without economic freedom, average people suffer.
That means more central planning, more government, more top-down control – it all makes people worse off, not better off.
The best example is how the quality of life for regular people in China improved after the communist country started allowing capitalist practises in the 1970s.
The U.S. think-tank The Heritage Foundation compiles an annual economic freedom index. In a recent report it noted that while “the global economy has moved towards greater economic freedom over the past two decades, real world GDP has increased by about 70%, and the global poverty rate has been cut in half, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”
There you have it. The strongest moral argument for economic conservatism around: Economic freedom ends poverty.
For us to succeed together we don’t need intrusive government programs dictating how it’s done (not only does the evidence prove these fail, but that many people are actually harmed in the process).
We need governments to back off and allow innovative human beings to collaborate and grow the pot.
It’s time conservatives developed enough confidence and swagger to argue that it’s the left who, by not embracing these proven truths with more gusto, are the ones who appear to not care.
It’s time economic conservatives wrestled control of the moral high ground.