Cover image for Compassionate conservatism : what it is, what it does, and how it can transform America
Title:
Compassionate conservatism : what it is, what it does, and how it can transform America
Author:
Olasky, Marvin N.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xiii, 226 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780743201315
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Book

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Summary

Summary

Compassionate conservatism is a new political force in the land, sweeping the grassroots of people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities. In its parts it offers solutions to many of our most intractable problems; in its whole it is nothing less than an innovative philosophy of government. No author is more qualified to explain its power and promise than Marvin Olasky, described byThe New York Timesas "the godfather of compassionate conservatism."Compassionate conservatism offers a new paradigm for how the government can and should intervene in the economy. It begins with a long-lost premise about human behavior: economics, by itself, is not what changes lives. Only faith, and deeply held beliefs, can do that. For decades government has focused only on material well-being, ignoring the passions and convictions that make life worth living. What is conservative about the new movement is that its leaders also know that government cannot instill these beliefs. What it can do is help them flourish. It can give aid, inspiration, and direction to America's natural "armies of compassion" that have been a hallmark of our history since the founding.Compassionate conservatism offers a way to transcend the root problems that currently oppress too many deserving Americans. It offers a unique vision of the triangular relationship between the state, our many churches, and our tens of thousands of charities. It is a true reinvention of welfare, a wholesale revolution in the welfare state, and a redefinition of the social safety net.InCompassionate ConservatismMarvin Olasky takes us on a road trip with his son, Daniel, across the country, showing exactly how the new movement is unfolding. Along the way, he offers a set of principles, and a brief tour through history to show that these are not so much radically new ideas as rediscoveries of long-lost wisdom. Read this book for a blueprint of the future of politics and welfare in America.


Author Notes

Marvin Olasky is Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a Senior Fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Christian journalist Olasky is an antipoverty crusader who walks the walk--for instance, by adopting children and opening his home to needy unwed mothers--as well as talks the talk in such books as the historical Tragedy of American Compassion (1992) and the hortative Renewing American Compassion (1996). Now he describes a 1999 road trip he and his son, Daniel, 14, took to inspect grassroots urban antipoverty efforts in Texas (his home state), Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. While spotlighting successful, though often beleaguered, programs, he contrasts benign government support of faith-based services with officious government relations with other, similar ones. Some of these groups believe the price of government money is suppression of their religious identity. Private, faith-based services do more good than the best public, secular services (those in Minneapolis), Olasky argues, and ways should be found to put public money into faith-based programs without vitiating their principles. Olasky is serving as an advisor to Texas governor Bush. --Ray Olson


Publisher's Weekly Review

"Compassionate conservatism" is a phrase used by Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, but he didn't originate it. Credit for that goes to his advisor Olasky, who, in his 1992 book The Tragedy of American Compassion, proposed that the needs of the poor and uneducated could be better met through the efforts of local, faith-based organizations than through a big, bureaucratic social-welfare machine. As Olasky explains in this manifesto, compassionate conservatism requires looking behind the overt problems of poverty, illiteracy and drug-addiction to address the structures that sustain themÄthey must "bring civil society back to the inner city." Olasky describes his travels across the country visiting faith-based local groups that have made a difference. The centerpiece of his tour is Indianapolis, where a coalition of churches, businesses and civic organizations has developed partnerships to transform inner-city neighborhoods block by block. Olasky, who edits the Christian news magazine World, argues that faith is an essential part of the process (and to those who object, he responds that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the First Amendment). He even proposes the creation of a White House office of advocacy for faith-based organizations imbued with "the rock-like faith of someone who believes that Christ changes lives." His partisan and sure-to-be-controversial primer opens with a foreword by Bush and closes with Bush's July 1999 speech defining compassionate conservatism, in which he promised, if elected president, to allow religious, as well as nonsectarian, groups to compete to provide services on federal, state and local levels. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

According to Olasky, religious policy adviser to George W. Bush and author of The American Leadership Tradition, compassionate conservatism is much more than an amorphous campaign slogan: it is a comprehensive plan of charitable and government funding for faith-based organizations that are experiencing some success at helping the urban and rural poor. Olasky and his son Daniel traveled through Texas and to Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, to meet with leaders who are relying on prayer and the teaching of practical skills to try to turn around the lives of desperate people in their communities. For instance, Steve Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, is praised for providing municipal funding to the Front Porch Alliance, a network of faith-based institutions struggling to provide spiritual and economic support with limited resources. The author faults liberal policies for failing to help the needy and makes a fair case for expanding government support to these small-scale successes. He will not, however, win over many liberals or moderates, who are aware that charitable organizations failed to reach large numbers of the poor before the New Deal, the Great Society, and specific programs such as Head Start and Aid to Families with Dependent Children came into being. Recommended for public libraries.DKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One: A Brief History of Compassionate Conservatism Compassionate conservatism. Many reporters see it as a sugary concoction, word candy for a political campaign that seeks not to offend. But that conventional wisdom is wrong. Compassionate conservatism is neither an easy slogan nor one immune from vehement attack. It is a full-fledged program with a carefully considered philosophy. It will face in the twenty-first century not easy acceptance but dug-in opposition. It will have to cross a river of suspicion concerning the role of religion in American society. It will have to get past numerous ideological machine-gun nests. Only political courage will enable compassionate conservatism to carry the day and transform America. That's the thesis of this book, which is being finished on Veterans Day 1999, one year after Texas governor George W. Bush said on election night 1998 that he hoped to give the GOP a "compassionate conservative" face. Pundits pounded their laptops that evening, quoting a conservative governor's purportedly fluffy words, not understanding that he was working off a redefinition of compassion that had been a decade or more in the making. Recovering a Dumbed-Down Word The word compassion from the 1960s through the early 1990s was as much a code word for liberals as family values has become for conservatives. Compassion no longer conveyed what its literal dictionary definition states: com-passion as "suffering with," reflecting the close personal tie of a caring individual and a person in distress. Instead, hundreds of newspaper articles defined a compassionate legislator as one voting for a welfare spending bill. Those opposing such bills were cold-hearted and, by definition, uncaring. In the early 1980s Bob Woodson, head of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, challenged that apparent liberal monopoly on concern for the inner city. He argued that small neighborhood groups could do a much better job of revitalizing urban communities than could the grand projects of the Great Society. He put together conferences of street gang members gone straight and of tenants who wanted to manage and eventually own their housing projects. But Woodson did not yet have much of a constituency: liberals were still enamored with big government, and few conservatives paid attention to poverty issues. In the late 1980s Howard Ahmanson, a Christian conservative from California, brought together poverty specialists and academic generalists to explore problems of Third World relief and development. The group found that poverty around the world is a spiritual as well as a material problem: most poor people don't have the faith that they and their situations can change. The group concluded that economic redistribution by itself cannot fight poverty effectively because it does not affect the attitudes that frequently undergird poverty. I learned from listening to Bob Woodson and by participating in the deliberations of the Ahmanson group. In 1990 I wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion, which presented a history previously hidden in the stacks of the Library of Congress. The book showed how a century ago, before the federal government ever became involved, thousands of local, faith-based charitable agencies and churches around the country waged a war on poverty much more successful than our own. This history gave readers hope because they realized, as had American GIs in World War II, that "we did it before and we can do it again." The historical record suggested that what worked a century ago to bring people out of poverty would still work, because social conditions were oddly parallel. Americans a century ago had problems with crime, alcoholism, and drugs (opium rather than crack cocaine). Rates of illegitimacy and divorce were far lower then, but more orphans roamed the streets because parents were sometimes carried away in epidemics. Faced with such difficulties, faith-based groups a century ago helped millions out of poverty and into homes. Local organizations had the detailed knowledge and flexibility necessary to administer the combination of loving compassion and rigorous discipline that was needed. My Washington speeches and articles in 1989 and 1990 attempted to define what I was calling "conservative compassion." The goal was to break away from the equation of conservatism simply with a vote against welfare spending: "Conservative politicians have been complaining for years about a spendthrift modern welfare state -- but they have been stating the problem backward. The major flaw of the modern welfare state is not that it is extravagant, but that it is too stingy. It gives the needy bread and tells them to be content with that alone. It gives the rest of us the opportunity to be stingy also, and to salve our consciences even as we scrimp on what many of the destitute need most -- love, time, and a challenge to be 'little lower than the angels' rather than one thumb up from monkeys." I hoped to see welfare transformed, as much as possible, from government monopoly to faith-based diversity. "The government of a pluralistic society is inherently incapable of tending to spiritual needs," I emphasized, "so the more effective provision of social services will ultimately depend on their return to private and especially to religious institutions." But The Tragedy of American Compassion, after being turned down by a major publisher, finally appeared in 1992 from a small house with a pea-sized marketing budget. The book fell into the giant puddle of words between overlooked covers and disappeared with hardly a ripple. Mid-1990s Upheaval Some people became aware of my book. One was George W. Bush, preparing to run for governor of Texas. In 1993 he and his key adviser, Karl Rove, got together with me to discuss the policy implications of my findings. At that time I knew of George W. Bush only as the owner of the Texas Rangers, and I looked forward to the opportunity to talk some baseball. In our discussion, though, he showed a keen and probing intelligence and an understanding of the history of poverty fighting. He asked questions that went to the heart of issues involving children born out of wedlock and men dying slowly from drug abuse on the streets. An excellent book published in 1993, Myron Magnet's The Dream and the Nightmare, also had had an impact on him. In 1994 other leaders, among them former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, and philanthropist Heather Higgins, became aware of The Tragedy of American Compassion and started promoting its view of what was needed for serious welfare reform. That view began resonating politically in November as Republicans across the country astonished pundits by capturing Congress for the first time in forty years and thrusting forward Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile, George W. Bush surprised the Texas press almost as much by ousting a popular incumbent, Ann Richards. The two leaders in the spotlight had radically opposed styles. Newt in 1995 seemed always intense, while George W., though he would appear tough at times, was fully comfortable kicking back on the second-story porch of the governor's mansion in Austin, listening to Texas Rangers ball games on the radio, and looking at the brightly lit capitol dome. Bill Bennett gave Newt a copy of my book at Christmas in 1994, and it moved the Speaker-to-be. Newt shocked me by repeatedly telling Republican congressmen, and everyone else throughout 1995, that they had to read The Tragedy of American Compassion. Newt's life became a tragedy in its own right; in 1996 he tried to reconcile with the press and moderate voters by projecting a friendly persona like that of George W. Bush, but his happy talk about beach volleyball appeared forced. In 1999 Newt made public some of the marital problems and extramarital activities that I believe contributed to his decreased effectiveness. Nevertheless, I still think of him as the bold leader of 1995 who made serious mistakes but pushed for real change that would benefit the poor, and not just more handing out of governmental spare change. The Washington welfare reform debate of 1995 and 1996 was wild. I took a leave of absence from the University of Texas to spend big chunks of time on Capitol Hill. Senators John Ashcroft, Dan Coats, and Rick Santorum and Congressmen Steve Largent, J. C. Watts, and Jim Talent led the battle to obtain both welfare reform and congressional backing for faith-based community renewal. These leaders, who formed what eventually became known as the Renewal Alliance, moved past typical Republican sound bites about wasting dollars. They advanced the cause of compassionate conservatism by emphasizing the tragedy of wasted lives. We came up with some expressions that caught on: "effective compassion...challenging, personal, and spiritual help...warm-hearted but tough-minded" concern. Half of our effort was successful. After President Clinton vetoed serious welfare reform bills twice, he signed one into law in August 1996 rather than risk a third strike as his reelection campaign was reaching a climax. The new legislation eliminated much of the negative, yet did little to accentuate the positive by, for example, offering help to organizations with strong track records in fighting alcoholism and drug addiction, or tutoring children, or motivating ex-convicts to avoid new trouble. The legislation pushed half of the welfare population to get off the rolls and (for most) to grab onto jobs over the next three years. But what about the faith-based groups that will help ex-welfarists hold those jobs as they build families and communities? The Renewal Alliance offered alternatives to not only welfare but individual isolation. Its congressional members noted that people in trouble need a friend, a mentor, who is ready to help whenever a crisis occurs, but bureaucracies tend to operate 9 to 5. They explained that it's not the role of government to be the friend, but that those who govern must not block the mentor or clergy man from helping the person in need. They argued that government must not usurp the role of community and faith-based groups and must not set up barriers that frustrate those who wish to volunteer. Nevertheless, the Renewal effort fizzled legislatively in Washington because of historical reasons (laid out in chapter 4) and current obstacles (examined in chapter 7). An opportunity arose for a farsighted governor to take the lead. George W. Bush was a natural, both because of his father's earlier interest in the "thousand points of light" and his own personal, faith-based change in 1986 from heavy drinking at times to abstinence from alcohol. It nevertheless took a particular incident to move him to an embrace of religious groups and the eventual decision to make compassionate conservative approaches the cornerstone of his campaign. That incident came in 1995, the governor's first year in office. One state agency tried to shut down a Christian antidrug organization that was effective despite (or because of) its refusal to obey state requirements that counselors have extensive classroom training in conventional antiaddiction techniques. When three hundred of the group's drug-free alumni demonstrated with great Texas resonance at the Alamo, and World, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications covered the event, cards and letters poured into Governor Bush's office asking him to call off his regulatory dogs. He did, and then proposed (and in 1997 succeeded in having passed) legislation to pen them up permanently. The governor did other things as well during the two years before his 1998 reelection campaign. He issued an executive order making Texas the first state to establish the option of using private and religious charities to deliver welfare services. He set up a level playing field for both religious and nonreligious groups for Texas social service contracts, abstinence education grants, and poverty-fighting initiatives. He made Texas the first state to permit a state prison unit to be operated by a ministry. He established alternative licensing procedures for many faith-based programs. He created a pilot program establishing Second Chance group homes for unwed teen welfare mothers run by faith-based and other private groups. He proposed and signed a Good Samaritan law that gives liability protection to health professionals who donate charitable care to needy Texans. He recommended and signed a law requiring governmental agencies to develop welfare-to-work partnerships with faith-based groups in a way that respects those groups' unique religious character. Familiarity with Use and Abuse None of those initiatives received much attention from the press, nor were they viewed as part of the major restructuring of government-societal-religious interaction that "compassionate conservatism" is beginning to connote. In part, the lack of press interest came from unfamiliarity with inner-city faith-based organizations. Most urban reporters know city hall and the way to crime scenes, while "charities" are often seen as fluff assignments for the staff sentimentalist. But in another sense, press cynicism about the term came from familiarity with the way the phrase had been used and abused for the past two decades. Oddly, the first person to use the specific phrase compassionate conservatism during the past two decades, from what I've been able to uncover, was Vernon Jordan. In 1981 he attacked the Reagan administration for purportedly not showing it. He thus set the pattern for reporters who used or quoted the phrase as a liberal or moderate attack on conservatives. Over the next fifteen years, various Republican politicians -- most notably Orrin Hatch, Ray Shamie of Massachusetts, Bob Dole during his 1988 foray into presidential primaries, and Bob Dornan and Pete Wilson in California -- spoke of conservative compassion, but none of them provided much in the way of specifics. Wilson muddied the waters by defining compassionate conservatism, according to the Washington Post, as a position that combines "old-fashioned budget-balancing with spending for preventive health measures and protection of the environment, and a strong pro-choice position on abortion." Biblical conservatives did not accept a mixing of compassion and abortion. In the early 1990s, liberal reporters continued to equate compassionate conservatism with social liberalism. They were surprised during the mid-1990s when black conservatives such as Congressman J. C. Watts and magazine publisher Willie Richardson praised Newt Gingrich's Contract with America for embodying compassionate conservatism through its backing of a balanced budget amendment, tax cuts, welfare reform, and anticrime proposals. To include "getting tough on crime" in a list of compassionate measures showed a willingness to be tough-minded rather than mushy; compassionate conservatism, in this usage, was conservative. But Bob Dole muddied the waters again in 1996 by offering "compassionate conservatism, whatever" when he was accused of meanness. Journalists turned off by Dole's inability to articulate ideas, and running mate Jack Kemp's penchant for articulating all ideas in a continuous flow, tended to see the phrase as mere rhetoric. Perhaps the first national identification of George W. Bush with the phrase came in an August 1997 CNN broadcast. Governor Bush, the reporter noted, had managed to gain "legislative approval for a series of tax, welfare and educational reforms he calls compassionate conservatism in the face of a Democrat-controlled state house." CNN offered no specifics, nor did other outlets. The term in its different uses was popping up occasionally. A Lexis-Nexis search shows that the phrase appeared an average of twice a year during the 1980s, but six times a year from 1991 through 1994 and thirty-seven times a year from 1995 through October 1998. Still, there was little meat on its bones. As Governor Bush ran for reelection in 1998, he talked in a conservative manner about how some Americans had replaced responsibility for self with blame of others. He noted that Washington was only too happy to pick up responsibilities people sought to shed, and to erect massive, bureaucratic programs of material assistance, which eroded even further the civic institutions that had once linked assistance to moral accountability. He described how a minimizing of personal responsibility had pushed America toward a spiritual and moral crisis, with the familiar symptoms of broken or never-formed families, teen drug abuse and pregnancy, crime, civic disengagement, and disenchantment with public life. In short, he was laying out the history of our nation's long descent from true compassion to the liberal variety. Sadly, the press rarely picked up on his history telling, which ran counter to the conventional wisdom. When election day 1998 was over, Newt Gingrich was heading toward retirement and George W. Bush was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. The press reported that he received seven out of ten Texan votes but gave credit to a pleasant personality rather than his engagement with cultural decline and his desire to turn things around. Still, mention of the phrase compassionate conservatism exploded. The number of Lexis-Nexis stories containing that word zoomed to an annualized rate of 2,040 for the last two months of 1998, 3,164 for the first half of 1999, and 4,455 between July and October 1999. Yet even then Governor Bush's message was interpreted for the American public not only by conventional reporting but by politicians operating within the box of conventional thinking. After the Bush "compassionate conservatism" victory remarks in November 1998, Vice President Al Gore said he thought people deserved more than "crumbs of compassion." Joe Andrews of the Democratic National Committee said, "Compassionate conservatism is a contrived copout." Harsh words came from Republican presidential candidates engaged in early jockeying. Former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander called the term "weasel words" -- clever but meaningless. Former vice president Dan Quayle ordered his staff "never -- ever -- to utter the words 'compassionate conservative.'" Governor Bush's Stand Those politicians and journalists did not know or understand the decade-long development of the concept and the fact that its conservative usage had iron in its spine. Bush did, and he did not back off. "On this ground I'll take my stand," he said. Then he counterattacked: "I know this approach has been criticized. But why? Is compassion beneath us? Is mercy below us? Should our party be led by someone who boasts of a hard heart?" He offered a general description of what his chosen label means: "It is conservative to cut taxes. It is compassionate to help people save and give and build." He continued the parallel structure: Conservative to reform welfare, compassionate to encourage charity. Conservative to set challenging educational standards, compassionate to make sure no child is left behind. Florida's newly elected governor, Jeb Bush, chimed in, "True compassion means suffering with the poor and acting on the consciousness of your suffering -- and we should shift power away from the bureaucracy to the people in the compassionate community, who actually deal with these problems." Governor George W. Bush did more than talk. He had begun to make compassionate conservatism more than a pretty phrase in Texas, but knew that much more needed to be done in the larger sphere. While much of the country lay freezing, Bush, on February 26, 1999, brought into Austin's warmth some of the best thinkers in the country to begin the process of developing more specifics. Bob Woodson came from Washington, James Q. Wilson from California, and John DiIulio from Princeton. Indianapolis mayor Steve Goldsmith invited others as well and chaired the three-hour meeting, but Bush was clearly in charge, pouncing on generalities and pushing for specifics, as he always does. By the end of the afternoon, major directions were clear and tasks assigned. (I was in charge of a religion and public policy task force designed to come up with concrete ways to aid the development of faith-based organizations.) The process that began on February 26 culminated on July 22, when Bush spoke in Indianapolis. During the intervening five months, compassionate conservatism underwent further development in three stages. First, the ivy cabinet of policy conceptualizers came up with ideas and proposals. Second, Bush's kitchen cabinet of Austin advisers reviewed the proposals and tried to meld them. Third, Governor Bush decided which ones to run with and which to table. The goal was to come up with not only a speech but a set of specific initiatives, so that no one could reasonably say anymore that compassionate conservatism was a contentless phrase. The speech that resulted clearly laid out a conservative philosophy diametrically opposed to the Washington-centralizing tendencies of recent decades. "In every instance where my administration sees a responsibility to help people," Governor Bush said, "we will look first to faith-based organizations, charities and community groups that have shown their ability to save and change lives." He took issue with the journalistic critiques and challenged pundits to see for themselves: "Sometimes the idea of compassion is dismissed as soft or sentimental. But those who believe this have not visited these programs. Compassion is not one of the easy virtues. At Teen Challenge -- a national drug treatment program -- one official says, 'We have a rule: If you don't work, you don't eat.' This is demanding love -- at times, a severe mercy." He took on Al Gore: "Some Washington politicians call these efforts 'crumbs of compassion.' These aren't 'crumbs' to people whose lives are changed, they are the hope of renewal and salvation." Governor Bush also proposed going far beyond conventional revenue sharing: "Resources should be devolved, not just to states, but to charities and neighborhood healers." He praised the work of religious groups and proposed a substantial change in the way government officials would deal with them: "We will never ask an organization to compromise its core values and spiritual mission to get the help it needs." He pledged specific institutional innovations: "We will set up a compassion capital fund, to identify good ideas transforming neighborhoods and lives and provide seed money to support them -- helping to expand the scale of effective programs....We will create an advocate position -- reporting directly to the president -- to ensure that charities are not secularized or slighted." He talked not only about ideas but gave a specific figure: $8 billion to provide charitable tax credits, expand the federal charitable deduction to taxpayers who do not itemize, provide other new tax incentives for giving, and support private and religious efforts that change lives. After the speech, some journalists persisted in poking fun at such initiatives, as if the only programs of substance are those run by big government or big business. Those attitudes reminded me of my rookie reporting days at the Boston Globe in the early 1970s, when I was assigned to write a story about "the noodle priest." It turned out that a priest had developed a high-yield strain of grain that could make a difference in the lives of millions of people in Southeast Asia. That's not bad, but because he was working for a faith-based nonprofit operation, his story was part of the charity beat to which reporters with no clout were assigned. For some reporters in 1999, not much had changed. If a candidate did not know the name of a minor foreign leader, that was big news, but if he did know the names of some life-changing leaders in America's inner cities, that did not much matter. Seven Principles of Compassionate Conservatism Other journalists, however, particularly those from England, France, Australia, and other countries, were more curious. As I learned from July through October 1999, they often had two sets of questions. First, they wanted a list of principles that compassionate conservatives generally embraced. I was able to give them seven in ABCDEFG order. Assertive The preamble to the Constitution speaks of government promoting the general welfare but not providing it. Alexis de Tocqueville was astounded to see Americans forming associations to fight poverty and other social ills rather than waiting for government to act. Such assertiveness surprised Europeans well into the twentieth century. This quality is depicted well in one of my family's favorite movies, The Great Escape. In it, captured pilot Steve McQueen refuses to kiss up to the prison camp commandant, who asks, "Are all American officers as ill-mannered as you are?" McQueen breezily responds, "About 99 percent, yeh." Recently, however, many Americans have become better mannered, meekly paying taxes and expecting a paternalistic government to fight poverty. Compassionate conservatism is the opposite of a wimpy doctrine; it emphasizes a renewal of the citizen assertiveness that so impressed the first great foreign journalist to come here, de Tocqueville. Basic Compassionate conservatives choose the most basic means of bringing help to those who need it. The goal is to look within the family first; if the family cannot help, maybe an individual or group within the neighborhood can; if not, then organizations outside the neighborhood but within the community should be called on. If it is necessary to turn to government, compassionate conservatives typically look first to municipal, then to county, then to state, and only then to federal offices. At each governmental level, the basics should be in order before proceeding to the more complicated stages. For example, a group that protects teenage ex-hookers from pimps should have adequate police protection. Good Samaritan laws should be enacted so that a person who helps a mugging victim does not have to fear a lawsuit. When such basic protection is in place and counterproductive regulations have been replaced, the next goal is improve information flow concerning an organization and to facilitate contributions. Then it is time to bring in questions of direct grants, tax credits, and so forth, always looking to the most basic level of government that can act efficiently on a particular problem. Challenging The tendency of affluent Americans has been to turn poor people into pets, giving them food and an occasional pat on the head but not pushing them to be all they can be. Over time, bad charity has tended to drive out good, because people given a choice of pampering or needed pressure generally take the easy route. But those who consider the good of others as more important than their own satisfaction challenge clients (and themselves) to stretch self-perceived limits. Hard, character-building work is often particularly important in this process. Compassionate conservatives do not merely give the poor a safety net that may turn into a hammock; they provide a trampoline. The goal is to have the affluent stretch their limits also. It's easy to write a check but hard to check pride and arrogance at the door when dealing with those who don't get much respect, or to travel to a part of town that is outside the middle-class comfort zone. Diverse Since the 1960s, the vast majority of agencies to which those in trouble are supposed to turn have all had similar three-step approaches. First, take a number. The egalitarian goal is to ensure that everyone is treated exactly alike so that no one has any legal standing to complain. Second, take your money. Make sure that everyone entitled to benefits receives those benefits, even if the process enables people to stay in misery, instead of pushing them to become financially independent. Third, take your religious beliefs outside. God is supposedly banished from the premises. The compassionate conservative goal is to offer a choice of programs: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, atheist. Some programs may emphasize education, some family, some work. Compassionate conservatives make sure that no one is placed in a particular type of program against his will, but they also try to make sure that religious people are free to communicate their values. Effective While understanding the severe limitations of government poverty fighting, compassionate conservatives do not assume that all private philanthropy is good and all government programs are automatically bad. Some private charities can be as bureaucratic, unchallenging, and downright foolish as their governmental counterparts, so the goal is to ask tough questions. Does a program have a success rate that can be quantified? Is the amount a group spends per person sensible in relation to services offered and their outcome? Does a group mobilize community strengths by efficiently using volunteers? Does a program use the professional capabilities of those who volunteer? The two bottom lines of helping organizations -- lives changed, funds used efficiently -- need assessment. The quantity of people fed or bedded down is not as significant as the quality question: What happens to those human beings? Faith Based Judging by the historical record and contemporary testimony, well-managed, faith-based programs are more effective in fighting poverty, on the average, than their nonreligious counterparts. Research studies show that church attendance tracks closely with lower dropout rates, less drug use, and fewer crimes committed. Faith-based organizations have shown that the best way to teach self-esteem and respect for law is to teach that we are esteemed by a wonderful God who set out for us rules of conduct that benefit society and ourselves. For civil rights reasons also, the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom for religion should not be taken to mean freedom from religion. Therefore, for both pragmatic and philosophical reasons, compassionate conservatives insist that the Bible (or the Koran) should not be excluded by judicial fiat from any antipoverty work, including that financed by government, as long as individuals have a choice of programs. Gradual The pragmatism of compassionate conservative suggests careful checking on what works and what does not, each step of the way. A typical process (to use a Texas example) would be to start with one faith-based prison program, check results, and then expand it if graduates of that program have a reduced rate of recidivism. Similarly, to see if tax credits will increase the resources of nongovernmental antipoverty groups in a way that benefits society, the plan is to start with a limited program and then expand it if the pluses outweigh the minuses. The goal throughout is gradual, sustainable change, tested at each step of the way, rather than a revolution that could be quickly followed by counterrevolution. Evaluation from the Ground Up That's the big picture I tried to paint for journalists and guests from abroad. But Excerpted from Compassionate Conservatism by Marvin Olasky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Governor George W. Bush
Forewordp. xi
1. A Brief History of "Compassionate Conservatism"p. 1
2. Texas: Land of Social Entrepreneursp. 23
3. Indianapolis: How Government Should Workp. 59
4. Historical Interludep. 93
5. East Coast: Mean Streets and Spotlightsp. 109
6. Minneapolis: Progressive Liberalism versus Compassionate Conservatismp. 141
7. Back Home: Ten Lessons We Learnedp. 173
Appendix A How Compassionate Conservatism Can Transform Your City: Books and Toolsp. 209
Appendix B Governor George W. Bush's Explanation of Compassionate Conservatismp. 215