There are many kinds of conservatives. I consider myself a small-government conservative. Small-government conservatives believe lower tax rates on employment and capital spur an economy and promote work and entrepreneurship. The alternative is the nanny state – where government seeks to control and provide more services, and tax rates are far higher to support this.

In Europe, the fastest growing economies are all the low-tax model countries, many of them in Eastern Europe, countries that have had their fill of collectivism and state control. The slow growing economies, with high unemployment and little new job creation, are in Western Europe and follow the high tax, social welfare model.


The new leaders in Germany and France are finding how difficult it is to combat an entrenched culture and laws developed over 50 years that penalize work and job creation even though this model has produced sustained high unemployment levels and slow growth for decades.

The European system has also affected immigrant absorption. Compare the integration over time of immigrants to this country with those who have arrived in Western Europe. In European cities, we see immigrants without jobs, supported by the welfare state, remaining outsiders and growing increasingly alienated from their societies.

Alternatively, those who come to America to work almost always find it, and over time are integrated into American society.

In Europe, almost all foreign aid or aid to the poor is of the government variety. There is very little private charity. As with so much else, people in Western Europe assume the government will do it for them. In the U.S., most aid and philanthropy is from individual charity, not from the government, and the combination of American public and private charity dwarfs that of any other country in the world on a total or per capita basis.

Which brings me to social conservatism. The debate over social issues in this country is heated – not only between liberals and conservatives, but even among individuals of the same faith. Orthodox and Reform Jews, for instance, do not agree on abortion policy.

Abortion is always the central issue behind debates over Supreme Court nominees. However, the conservative argument over abortion is not strictly one of legality but of how the right to abortion was established. Prior to Roe v Wade, several states had adopted legalized abortion policies for their residents through legislation. Roe v Wade made abortion a national right, relying on dubious links to a constitutional right to privacy and utterly bypassing the legislative process.

Going even further, the justices produced a trimester delineation over when abortion was protected and when not.

Regardless of one’s feelings about whether abortion should be legal, I believe that had abortion rights grown through acts of state legislatures, or even Congress, the issue would be far less contentious today. A conservative principle, judicial restraint, holds that we leave to legislatures the job that is theirs: creating new laws.

When the Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade and then affirmed it in the Casey decision, it established that abortion was legal in the first two trimesters of a woman’s pregnancy. In the third trimester, it could be performed only if the mother’s life and health were at risk. In 1973, fetal viability before six months of pregnancy was pretty much unheard of. Today it is not. Premature infants are kept alive who have been delivered after but 20 weeks of pregnancy.

I find it impossible to rationalize how our society can continue to permit abortion on demand during the period when fetal viability has been established by modern medical technology. At that point in the pregnancy cycle, if not earlier, we have to think very carefully about what choice means.

The kind of thinking that disturbs me in this debate was evident in a conversation between a reporter and Barbara Boxer, California’s very liberal Democratic senator, when the Senate was debating restrictions on a procedure known as partial birth abortion. The reporter asked Boxer what she believed were a woman’s rights if a partial birth abortion went bad – in the sense that the fetus was delivered alive.

Just describing the event in that manner is pretty disturbing. Boxer responded that she believed the woman retained her right to choose.


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Richard Baehr is political director of American Thinker (, where a longer version of this article appeared. The essay was adapted from a recent address by Mr. Baehr at Chicago’s Congregation Rodfei Zedek.