On Social Conservatism















The Twelve Points are a statement of conservative principles, objectives, philosophy, and additional guiding considerations, composed by Karl Born, a young Indianapolis writer and attorney, beginning in early 2008, completed on July 2, 2009.

The purpose of the Twelve Points is to serve as a delivery mechanism for distilled, concentrated conservative thinking, with the goal of returning clarity and completeness to popular conservatism, and spreading knowledge of the true principles of conservatism throughout the conservative community.

The idea for the Twelve Points, along with much of the content of the document itself, came from the "Seven Points," which was created by a group of conservative college students in 2003 at Indiana University: Grand Old Cause.

Even in light of the 2010 election results, the conservative movement has become confused and aimless. Certain essential conservative principles and considerations have faded from memory and lost their influence. The Twelve Points will help to solve this problem by reminding us of conservative thinking that we may not have considered recently, and by making that thinking available to new, developing conservatives.

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THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2010

Helping to confirm that "social conservatism" used to be understood as concerning a broader range of issues

Much of what passes for a call for "reform" in the conservative movement, today, is little more than an exhortation to counter the influence of the "Religious Right" (which now is evidently considered to be synonymous with "social conservatism"), a proposal that is at once both too broad and too narrow.  It is discouraging to me when I find "libertarians," "libertarian-conservatives," or "classical liberals" who have adopted this bit of folk-truth, since I generally regard such people highly and expect better of them.  The classification of certain political issues and positions in America as "social" issues or "social" or "religious" conservatism, from the standpoint of a liberty-minded person, ought to be regarded as arbitrary.  They are not sorted in this way because social/religious conservatives inherently advocate the use of threatened or actual force (in the form of the law) to impose their will on others, though social/religious conservatives clearly exist who seem to be in favor of that.  Instead, as the future-President Reagan insisted in the 1970s (11th paragraph), we classify those issues and positions by the political constituency that is seen as being interested in them.

The similarity between the abortion issue, the heightened FCC fines issue, the school prayer issue, the gay marriage issue, and the issues relating to divorce and single parenthood is not that conservatives take a similar position on each of them concerning the use of unprovoked threats of force.  The similarity between them is that until about 3-4 decades ago, quite a few of the Americans who care about these and similar issues would not have been politically aligned with the Republican Party.  At some point since, however, critics of "social conservatism" have argued that its defining characteristic is enthusiasm for coercion in the "social" realm.

Because I think my point is self-evident, I will not take the time and space right now to fully elaborate on it.  However, I do want to call attention to some evidence relevant to this point, which is actually what caused me to begin writing this post.  Even by the late 1990s, social conservatism was understood to include a far broader range of issues than it is now.  In the 1990s, crime, affirmative action, education, and even welfare reform were all still classified as social issues, and "social conservatism" and "religious conservatism" were not necessarily synonymous.  Those who remember politics in the 1990s probably remember that fact, but those whose attention was elsewhere at the time might be interested in this.  Thanks to the Internet Archive, we can see that in 2000, neither the Heritage Foundation's brief on the American Family nor on Religion discussed homosexuality (though the former briefly referenced it), and by following the links below, we can see a much broader range of issues included in the "social" category than I believe most people would think of today.
My argument is not that there are no "social conservatives" who advocate the use of laws to force Americans to be moral.  My point is that social conservatism is not defined by that characteristic and it can exist without it.

See also:

The American Conservative Union's proposed 1996 "Conservative Platform," referencing the recent DOMA
The American Conservative Union, Legislative Update "Hot Issues" (Updated 9/19/1996!)
The Heritage Foundation's Links concerning "Family" issues, mid-2001
The Heritage Foundation's Links concerning "Religion" issues, mid-2001
The American Conservative Union's proposed 2000 "Conservative Platform," also referencing the DOMA
The American Conservative Union, "Current Issues," late 2004
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