Princeton's Robert George on the importance of uniting economic and social conservatives

Princeton University scholar Robert George’s recent speech on the natural harmony of economic and social conservatism is now available online at http://www.torenewamerica.com/robert-george-no-mere-marriage-of-convenience

George’s insight and clarity are on display throughout the speech. Read it all as they say, but here’s a slice:

“Economic and social conservatives have common enemies in the overbearing social welfare state, the entitlement mentality, and the statist ideologies that provide their intellectual underpinnings. But the marriage of economic and social conservatives is not, and must not be regarded as a mere marriage of convenience. The reason we have common enemies is that we have common principles. What do you think our enemies are enemies of? They’re opposed to our principles, our common principles. Our marriage is, and must be understood to be, a marriage of principle, even if it’s not always a romantic love match.”

“The moral foundations of economic conservatism are precisely those of social conservatism: respect for the human person, which grounds our commitment to individual liberty; and the right to economic freedom and other essential civil liberties; belief in personal responsibility, which is a precondition of the possibility of moral desirability; individual liberty in every domain; recognition of subsidiary as the basis for effective but truly limited government; respect for the Rule of Law, even against courts which want to act like legislators instead of judges; and recognition of the vital role played by the family in the flourishing of any decent and dynamic society.”


George’s speech is a welcome counterpoint to the patent weakness of much of the 2012 presidential field.  Mitt Romney’s Romneycare debacle and wobbly record on Iraq during 2007 and early 2008 are uninspiring. He seems to be auditioning for a restoration of the Bush 41 country club presidency.  Huckabee is a spendthrift and completely unsympathetic to the tough measures needed to revive economic liberty. Mitch Daniels meanwhile has been calling for a “truce” on social issues; in a society where these issues are more contentious than ever, such a truce is nothing more than a white flag. Daniel’s silence on the Ground Zero Mosque controversy also reinforces existing doubts about his views on fighting Islamic extremism and maintaining close ties with allies like Israel. Haley Barbour similarly has been silent on the GZ Mosque.

George is without doubt among the most brilliant and intellectually fearless conservatives in the country. But George’s speech/essay makes it necessary to ask why conservatives must settle for such a flawed field of presidential candidates. 

Maybe we don’t. While the odds favor the victory of someone from the existing field, Robert George reminds us that there are a rare group of folks out there who, despite their lack of elective experience, but because of their talents, resolve, and dedication to constitutional principle, would make outstanding presidents. I would place George in this category along with John Bolton and Liz Cheney; doubtless there are others. As the 2012 GOP nomination campaign begins in mid-November, conservatives should be willing to look beyond the current crop of aspirants. 

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