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    I've described myself as a compassionate conservative, because I am convinced a conservative
    philosophy is a compassionate philosophy that frees individuals to achieve their highest potential. It
    is conservative to cut taxes and compassionate to give people more money to spend. It is
    conservative to insist upon local control of schools and high standards and results; it is
    compassionate to make sure every child learns to read and no one is left behind. It is conservative to
    reform the welfare system by insisting on work; it's compassionate to free people from dependency
    on government. It is conservative to reform the juvenile justice code to insist on consequences for
    bad behavior; it is compassionate to recognize that discipline and love go hand in hand.
        -George W. Bush

We conservatives are admittedly cranky; after all, we spend most of our days worrying that the rest of you slovenly lot are driving the country, if not the World, towards Hell just as fast as you can go.  But even for folks as dour as us, the reaction to George W. Bush's use of the label "compassionate conservative" was fairly crusty.  For many on the Right, it was a particularly objectionable formulation because of its implicit suggestion that normal, garden variety, conservatism lacks compassion.  Meanwhile, Democrats, the Press, and the rest of the Left reacted angrily because they think the two terms are mutually exclusive.  It's an article of their faith that compassion can only be demonstrated by slathering money on a problem and by absolving the downtrodden of any blame for their predicament.  Conservatism, with its emphasis on limited government and personal responsibility, just doesn't fit their view of compassion.

So it's helpful to refer to the man who more than anyone else was responsible for generating the focus on compassion as a conservative issue, Marvin Olasky.  A professor at the University of Texas, a senior fellow at The Progress and Freedom Foundation, the editor of World Magazine, and an informal advisor to the Bush campaign, Olasky has a very specific definition in mind when he speaks of compassion, one that is very different from how modern liberalism defines it, but which also contains an important challenge to conservatives.

The Democrats' definition of choice for the term would be something along the lines of the first entry at :

    com·pas·sion (km-pshn)
        Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

This is the sort of wholly impersonal, but theoretically well-intentioned, caring and empathy that Bill Clinton was so good at faking.  Under this definition, proper emotional response and a willingness to spend money are sufficient to demonstrate compassion.

Olasky is asking for a return to an older definition, one that demands more :

    compassion \Com*pas"sion\, n. [F., fr. L. compassio, fr. compati to have compassion; com-
       + pati to bear, suffer. See Patient.] Literally, suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow
        excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration.

It is the notion of suffering with someone that he's after here.  In this sense, government action is bad not just because it turns those it is intended to help into dependents, but also because it creates a distance between the intended beneficiaries and the rest of us, who should actually be required to participate in their suffering.  It is this element of compassionate conservatism which necessarily leads to Faith Based Initiatives.  The kind of participatory compassion he's referring to, requires the kind of volunteer social services which are really only delivered effectively by our churches, temples and mosques.

In turn, the reliance on our great moral institutions leads into the other retrograde element of the definition that Olasky wants to bring back, this is the idea that the need for the compassion of others imposes an obligation on the recipient.  It is not enough to accept largesse from taxpayers, you have to work for and warrant the charity you receive.

Throughout the book, Olasky cites example after example of organizations and congregations which are providing this sort of charity.  He demonstrates that their success depends both on the involvement of caring private individuals to provide the services and the commitment to traditional values like morality, self sufficiency and self respect on the part of those they serve.  These examples present a challenge to both the Left and the Right, requiring that the Left accept the idea that recipients of social assistance will meet certain moral standards and requiring of both the Left and the Right a commitment to fund and staff private and religious charities.  It is difficult to judge how successfully these challenges might be met, because right now the government takes such a huge portion of our wealth, provides these programs (however inadequately), and places practically no burdens on recipients.  With the Social Welfare State having proved an ignominious failure, Welfare Reform in place, and the Faith Based Initiative approaching reality, we're well on the way to testing Olasky's ideas.  For the sake of our own souls, the poor's livelihoods, and the civic health, let's hope we're all up to the challenge.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

Marvin Olasky Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Marvin Olasky
-REVIEW: of The Tragedy of American Compassion By Marvin Olasky (Frank Filocomo, University Bookman)

Book-related and General Links: - The Internet Home of Marvin Olasky
    -Marvin Olasky, Professor (University of Texas)
    -The Progress and Freedom Foundation
    -World Magazine
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of More Than Kindness
    -ETEXT : TELLING THE TRUTH : How to Revitalize Christian Journalism (Marvin Olasky, World)
    -REVIEW : of Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth and Their Salvation  Army, by Roy Hattersley (Marvin Olasky, National Review, September 11 2000)
    -SPEECH : Renewing American Compassion  (Marvin Olasky, John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs , April 30, 1996)
    -BOOKNOTES : Author: Marvin Olasky  Title: The Tragedy of American Compassion  Air date: January 22, 1995 (C-SPAN)
    -INTERVIEW : with Marvin Olasky (John Lloyd, The New Statesman)
    -INTERVIEW : 30 Minutes With Marvin Olasky (Charlotte World)
    -DISCUSSION : Religion and the GOP :  Jim Lehrer leads a discussion with Republican strategists from both the Bush and McCain campaigns and conservative spokesmen over religion in the Republican presidential race. (OnLine Newshour, PBS)
    -PROFILE : Where W. Got Compassion (David Grann, NY Times Magazine, September 12, 1999)
    -PROFILE : A World Created in His Image :  Marvin Olasky, advisor to Bush and father of compassionate conservatism, edits a glossy newsweekly that delivers an evanglical perspective on current events and pop culture. (Kaja Perina, Brill's Content)
    -PROFILE : Marvin Olasky (Media Transparency)
    -PROFILE : The Last Puritan:  Meet Marvin Olasky, Governor Bush's Compassionate Conservative Guru (Michael King, bushfiles)
    -PROFILE : The Power Behind the Throne (American Atheists)
    -PROFILE : George W. Bush's Religious Guru Plans Our Future (Albert J. Menendez, The Humanist, September 01 2000)
    -ARTICLE : Bush's "compassionate" advisor singles out Jews : Professor says he didn't know the three writers "with holes in their souls" were Jewish.  (JAKE TAPPER, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Political 'God's World' (William Safire, NY Times, February 17, 2000)
    -ARCHIVES "marvin olasky" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "marvin olasky" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of Compassionate Conservatism by Marvin Olasky What is Compassionate Conservatism? Bush adviser Marvin Olasky's new book. (John J. DiIulio Jr., Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW : of Compassionate Conservatism  by Marvin Olasky (Steve Wagner, Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of Compassionate Conservatism: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Can Transform America (Robert  Westbrook, The Christian Century, September 13 2000)
    -REVIEW :   COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM:   What It Is, What It Does,  and How It Can Transform America.  By Marvin Olasky (JAMES D. FAIRBANKS, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of THE AMERICAN LEADERSHIP TRADITION Moral Vision From Washington to Clinton. By Marvin Olasky (David Brooks, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ABORTION RITES : A Social History of Abortion in America. By Marvin Olasky (Le Anne Schreiber, NY Times Book Review)

    -Center for Renewal
    -ESSAY : Faith-Based Skepticism Evangelicals to Bush: Lead us not into temptation (Joseph Loconte, March 26, 2001, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Lead Us Not into Temptation While the benefits of channeling taxpayer dollars to religious groups remain unknown, one thing is certain: Doing so will dramatically alter the relationship between church and state (Eyal Press, April 9, 2001, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Armies of Confusion : "Compassionate conservatism" is the unifying theme of his campaign. It's designed to signal that George Walker Bush is a new kind of Republican, a caring kind. What is it about the word "compassion" that sets off my internal alarm bells?  (Andrew Sullivan, 8/07/00, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Judging W's heart : His "compassionate conservatism" can move a grown man to tears, but how far does it really extend? (Jake Tapper, Salon)
    -ESSAY : God is their copilot : Both born-again, Bush and Gore have made this the most God-fearing presidential race in 100 years. But their faiths have led these men in two completely different directions. (Jake Tapper, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Compassionate conservatism Ahead : How Would It Work? :  Bush vs. Gore on Faith-based Charity (Joe Loconte, American Enterprise Institute)
    -ESSAY : Bush's League: How George W. Bush Woos the Right. (John J. Miller, National Review, Dec 21, 1998)
    -ESSAY : The niceness strategy : Why compassionate conservatism could win for Bush (John Leo, US News)
  -ESSAY : The Conservative Press, Standing Divided for Bush (Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, March 1, 2000)
    -ESSAY :  Arguing the GOP : The neocons wake up (FRANKLIN FOER, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Time for a Time-out : The past year has been a bad one for evangelical-Jewish relations. Will the next be better? (Belief Net)
    -ESSAY : Let us prey : From politicians to the pope, an unprecedented religious war of words has infected the culture -- and the media (Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix, May 23, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Praying for votes : Try as he might, George W. Bush can't put his conservative past behind him (Seth Gitell, Boston Phoenix, June 22 - 29, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Faith-Based Charity:  Poised for a Revival? (Martin Morse Wooster, Capital Research)