Economy as a Moral Issue; Starts with Appreciation of Virtues That Generate Success

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Economy as a Moral Issue; Starts with Appreciation of Virtues That Generate Success


Byline: Suzanne Fields, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Rick Santorum endorses Mitt Romney, the man he once described as the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. The

presumptive nominee impressed the former senator from Pennsylvania with his deep understanding of the connection between social and economic issues.

If the endorsement was neither surprising nor resounding, it's probably good enough to begin uniting social conservatives for a tough campaign ahead. A thermometer stuck into the bubble of rhetoric over Mr. Santorum's head would reveal the air to be pretty tepid, but the white-hot anger that drove the Santorum campaign was gone.

Mr. Santorum said his meeting with Mr. Romney cleared the air and persuaded him that the governor would work hard to overturn Obamacare if the Supreme Court does not. He was persuaded that Mr. Romney's economic policy would preserve and strengthen the family. The two men not only agreed to oppose abortion and homosexual marriage, but to work to lower taxes, reduce the national debt and make government smaller.

This was not earthshaking news, but it goes to the heart of what's expected from conservatives in November - to make the moral link between economic and social issues, which would unite Republicans, not splinter them. Mr. Santorum's rhetoric has often spilled over the top, especially when he has talked about birth control and the separation of church and state and mocked the value of a college education for young people from blue-collar families. But on the economy, the issue essential to attracting independents, the two have much in common.

No matter how it's stated, the issue most on the minds of most American voters is the economy - and lack of jobs. Even the stupid, in the famous campaign formulation, should see that. The case for growth is fundamentally a moral debate that goes to the heart of what we think is right and wrong. Arguments over moral positions evoke the culture wars of the 1990s and often focus on parochial social issues, but Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, makes a strong case to Republicans for framing economic policy as a conservative moral issue, one that goes to the nation's roots in individual freedoms and free enterprise.

In his new book, The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise, he argues that it's a mistake for conservatives promoting an economic agenda to make a narrow defense of efficiency and material wealth. …

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