Social Justice Is Not a Family Value

Scott Payne takes a look at possible points of convergence between conservatives and liberals on social justice issues. I’m sympathetic to a lot of what he has to say, but it’s worth remembering that while conservatives’ preferred policy outcomes may align with liberal concerns in certain areas, their respective justifications for, say, protecting the environment or avoiding costly foreign wars are radically different. For example, Russell Kirk’s view of an enduring moral order may translate into conservative sentiment in favor of protecting our national parks, but there’s no broader ideological impetus from the Right to address structural inequalities within our society. Social justice is concerned with up-ending the status quo in favor of historically marginalized groups. Conservatives are typically more comfortable with preserving custom, hierarchy, and tradition.

Libertarians, on the other hand, tend to agree with liberalism’s ideological premises, so perhaps “liberaltarianism” is the most promising avenue for Left-Right collaboration.

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4 Comments

Filed under Conservatism, Liberalism (Left), Libertarianism, Participatory Democracy

4 responses to “Social Justice Is Not a Family Value

  1. It might be provisionally helpful to divide conservatives into “liberal conservatives” and “conservative liberals.” (I’m under the impression that this distinction comes from Alasdair MacIntyre.) The former find liberalism’s ideological premises to be something like useful fictions, but have a more fundamental allegiance to a different set of premises. The latter group is more or less comfortable with the premises of liberalism, but wants to be extremely cautious about their implementation; they won’t necessarily reject smart policy arguments on principle. The line is, as always, fuzzy. Of course, you can be a “conservative liberal” and find a place in either party.

    I’d put Eisenhower in the pragmatic group, as a real-world example.

  2. I think that’s an important distinction that often gets lost in our tangled political discourse. It’s worth noting that conservatives don’t help things when they refer to themselves as classical liberals one moment and staunch traditionalists the next. The two aren’t necessarily incompatible, but there’s some obvious tension between the two that never gets drawn out.

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