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I agree that THIS is rare, but such rarity is not unique to conservatives. Even when economists appear to do this, they are really just using economics to rationalize a social position they already hold. But the paper he cites contradicts this claim. The hyperabundance of Democrats among academic economists is really no different than is observed for ALL academics, nor is the percentage of Republicans or Libertarians. And the positions on issues clearly show differences among the three groups: Democrats are least classically liberal, Libertarians are the most, and Republicans hold middle ground almost exactly between the two.

Ideology and economic policy

All in all, this seems to be an odd post. Perhaps he could clarify by giving examples of socially conservative positions where no economic arguments are brought to bear, but where the liberal or libertarian position is firmly based on economic arguments. To wit: 1. In practice, libertarian-conservatives tend to be socially conservative in practice.

The modern Republican party is notoriously social conservative. In contrast to libertarian leaning varieties, social conservatives are very much top-down rulers, sometimes oddly populist, easily found in neoconservative varieties. Ever heard of Rick Santorum? Michele Bachmann? Newt Gingrich?

Or almost any of the top Republican politicians with national exposure? You recall incorrectly. The fundamental corner stone of classical economics is the utility function. A utility function is nothing but feelings. Sure, some things produce measurable effects on your life, but what really matters economically is how you FEEL they will impact you. There are a number of simple models I think we discussed two in my principles of macroeconomics class where at least part of the utility function is assumed to reflect how society feels about some issue.

The two I recall were a negative reaction to wealth disparity and a positive reaction to buying domestically produced goods. But, as commenters above have sort of pointed out, this requires that people have their feelings hurt by the actions of strangers that do not otherwise have an impact on them.


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For example, people must be hurt by the idea that other people have homosexual relationships. But that makes the argument circular. The externalities only appear because people accept a socially conservative position. Thus, the argument for social conservatism from externalities presupposes social conservatism. Put differently, one might propose to solve the above externalities problem by reducing social conservatism. We have tried to contact you previously.

This is your final notice. Please email the webmaster econlib. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk. Theory and beliefs aside, it should be noted that as the population becomes less socially conservative implied here it is also becoming more dependant on the welfare state. Unfortunately, social norms you like often come bundled with ones you dont. Social conservative here. There are plenty of horror stories about the harsh judgment that things like out-of-wedlock pregnancy used to generate.

Social Conservatism vs. Economic Conservatism

The fairly easygoing attitude today is certainly more pleasant for single mothers, but their numbers seem to have increased quite a bit since the bad old days…and the evidence is pretty clear that intact families are better for kids. So maybe the old stigma served a useful purpose, even if it pushed some women into unhappy lives on the margins of society.

I remember David Brooks saying something to the effect that the U. I feel like Ronald Coase would have some interesting input for this discussion. That being said I would like to paraphrase a brilliant point made by Russ Roberts during an econtalk podcast about Ronald Coase.

Social Conservatives and Economics

Taken too far we can overstep our moral boundaries, and, while Coase points out the reciprocal nature of social cost, the issue of morality should also be considered when creating regulations. Do you have a reference? HH, You and I may have an honest discussion about this issue, but the semantics are pretty important to people on both sides of the issue. In California, civil unions were legally equivalent to marriages under state law.

Social Conservatism vs. Economic Conservatism

You are correct that we redefine terms all the time. Either we gradually redefine words through their use or we can impose the changes legislatively. I object to the judicial changes being imposed on society. I am a social conservative. I object to changes made by the few and imposed on the many. Could a dearth of funding explain the absence of socially conservative economic research?


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I know some socially conservative academic economists, but they do not tend to write much about social issues. Here is a recent one. Of course, you could always say that studies looking at correlations are afflicted with underlying bias. What evidence would you have to see to be convinced? I find the single-parent case convincing, but my broader point was that social policy should seek the best trade-offs overall.

Thanks for pointing out the paper, which I had missed and which looks very interesting. On your more general point, I agree; however, as arguments from the unseen are somewhat hard to comprehend and have low emotional appeal, they will tend not to win in a democracy. People make economics arguments about economic issues and moral arguments about moral issues. Many people think making economic arguments about moral issues is unseemly.

For most people they are unconvincing as well. Take the issue of Head Start, economically it is an obvious waste of money, but morally the issue is helping poor kids. Thus Head start has been wasting money for thirty years with no end in sight. The moral argument has succeeded despite the obvious economic objections. Gay marriage is another obvious example, I have never heard anyone make an economic argument for it except for the easily debunked one about all the money to be made by supplier of gay wedding paraphenalia. The moral argument is that it would make gays happier is the only one actually argued and it has won in the courts, though not yet among the voters.

If by social conservatism one simply means advocating traditional moral norms without necessarily wanting the government to enforce such norms , I think Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams are clearly social conservatives in that sense. I understand the so-called liberal support for Keynes as it pretends to say gubment can spend all the money it wants.

However, by its nature economics is essentially libertarian. However, economics is about getting the most out of scarcity. Therefore, an economic ideal in and of itself would embrace openness and freedom. Getting hung up on marriage is not economics at all. The mayor, of course, is Kat Timpf explains why a year-old Maryland girl shouldn't be charged with child-porn distribution after making a video of herself.

By Michael Brendan Dougherty. Chastened Democrats win elections. In , , and , Democrats humbled themselves before moderate and even conservative voters and triumphed. Arrogant Democrats lose these voters.

Social Conservatism and “Fusion”

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