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Compassionate Conservatism: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Can Transform America Hardcover – July 5, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (July 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743201310
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743201315
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,100,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If 2000 Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has a catchphrase, it's "compassionate conservatism." But like so many political slogans, this term can mean very different things. Marvin Olasky--author of The Tragedy of American Compassion and an advisor to Bush--seeks to describe what he believes it is. And he must be onto something, for, as Bush writes in a brief introduction, "This book clearly summarizes the principles of compassionate conservatism." Here's the nub: "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.... Economic redistribution by itself cannot fight poverty effectively because it does not affect the attitudes that frequently undergird poverty." To put it more bluntly, religious faith should play a greater role in public life, especially when it comes to delivering social services to the deprived:
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.
The bulk of the book is given to descriptions of Olasky's travels around the country with his 10-year-old son, visiting faith-based organizations in some of America's toughest neighborhoods. These vignettes, told in the first person, recall feel-good Reader's Digest stories about ordinary men and women accomplishing extraordinary things in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Parts of the book read like a Bush campaign speech--indeed, one of the appendices is a Bush campaign speech--and Olasky goes out of his way to take a few swipes at Vice President Al Gore. If readers want to get a sense of what a Bush administration might try to accomplish, at least on the domestic front, Compassionate Conservatism is a great place to start--and miles ahead of Bush's own dull campaign biography A Charge to Keep. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

"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 themAthey 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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By rampant reader on March 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Sixties gave us many things. One thing it took away was the willingness and ability of Americans as individuals to take responsibility for themselves and to be accountabe for their actions. Compassionate conservatism is a way to return responsibility and accountability to individuals and, in so doing, freeing them from poverty, addictions, and other negative behaviors. Many people attack compassionate conservatism as some religious trend but if all religious elements are stripped from it, what remains is the same idea of taking responsibility for one's own actions that mental health professionals try to get their clients to develop. If you have never worked with any of the populations Olasky describes, then you are not qualified to judge what he has written about them and whether compassionate conservatism offers a way out of their depressing lifestyles. I have been a member of some of those populations and I have worked with them since "recovering". There may be other ways to achieve success but compassionate conservatism offers something sure-fire. It works when other methods don't. Marvin Olasky does write with the pedantism of the academic. If you get past that, however, the message is compelling. The book is a quick read.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By L. Coombs on December 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very thought provoking. It doesn't matter if the reader agrees or disagrees with the author's point of view. The book gives the reader a great deal to think about with regard to our nations current welfare situation and the roll of "faith-based" organitions in the fight against poverty. While in the author's examples, I saw many positive example of successful help to the impoverished of America, I felt the author did fail to explain one thing. Mr. Olasky's held the belief that our government should help partially fund private groups that combat poverty because he sites them as being more influential. However, if funding goes to private as well as public programs, I simply see that as more spending. That is simply my opinion as a person with no political connections at all. Read the book. I think it is worth the few hours it takes to read.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael Oppenheim on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Compassionate conservatism is not a platitude but a distinct social program. It aims to help the poor without compromising conservative principles � very conservative principles, very religious conservative principles. Marvin Olasky, one of its spokesman and advisor to George Bush when he was governor of Texas, has written an overview for the general reader. Actually, it�s for the general conservative reader, but liberals should take note.
Much of the book is a collection of essays recounting the author�s visits to various antipoverty programs across the country, mostly privately run. The traditional programs (run by churches and charities) provide counseling, education, job training, and placement � the usual mix. The dropout rate is substantial, and most of those who graduate and get a job fail and return to poverty. I can�t quarrel with this result. But only a minority of alcoholics, drug addicts, and the obese succeed in solving their problems, too. These are tough problems.. It�s with greater pleasure that he relates encounters with compassionate conservatism antipoverty programs �all privately run, generally by born-again Christians and their churches. These offer the same benefits plus a heavy dose of moral uplift, discipline, and abstinence. Anyone can enter, but once in the program they must toe the line. Use of alcohol and drugs means instant expulsion; so does irresponsibility, poor attendance, and laziness. There are no second chances.
So far none of this is objectionable or even particularly conservative. However, the author adds one feature he considers essential: religion. The programs he admires stress an aggressive, proselytizing, strictly moralistic fundamentalism.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Marvin Olasky writes about a subject very close to his heart: Welfare Reform. After his 1992 book "The Tragedy of American Compassion" which was endorsed famously by Newt Gingrich, Olasky comes back with Compassionate Conservatism, a book based on the Bush Campaign slogan. Olasky makes excellent points in this book about the failure of government and government look-alikes to help reduce the welfare rolls. Instead, Olasky advocates faith-based organizations. Olasky paints a convincing picture. With his stories of traveling to various faith based organizations with his 14 year old son, Olasky show how they work, and why they should be given equal treatment by the government. Well written and convincing, Compassionate Conservatism is a powerful book, which is a godsend for conservatives, and a well needed slap in the face to big government liberals.
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16 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Muniz on November 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was dissapointed by Olasky's "Compassionate Conservatism" -- I was looking for (and did not find) a more fuller and nuanced explanation of what compassionate conservatism is all about. The bulk of the book is focused on the relationship between U.S. governments, local and national, and what Olasky calls "faith-based" organizations that fight social ills such as poverty and homelessness. At times it sounds like an essay focused on why we should give more taxpayer funds to these organizations.
I was looking for, and did not find, what compassionate conservatism IS as an articulated political philosophy. While the author makes some criticisms of what he calls "social darwinian" conservatives who would rather let the poor suffer, there is no discussion about the implicit judgement that is made of the people whose lives are used as examples in the book. It would have been great if a cue had been taken from one of history's greatest moral lessons of all time -- namely, Jesus's refusal to judge Mary Magdalene.
Rather than philosophy, this book has much more emphasis on METHOD and TACTICS for what is the best way to attack social evils. The book is silent on the what "compassionate conservatives" think the role should be for grass-roots organizations that are more secular in nature --perhaps because many of these do not intrude on bureaucratic definitions of church-state separation.
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More About the Author

Editor-in-chief of WORLD. Holder, Patrick Henry College chair in journalism and public policy. Dean, World Journalism Institute. Senior Fellow, Acton Institute.

Love: Susan and I have been married for 35 years. Four terrific sons and one wonderful daughter-in-law: Peter and Catherine, David, Daniel, and Benjamin

Formal education: B.A. from Yale University in 1971, Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1976. Real education: Grew up in Judaism, became an atheist and a communist, and then (purely through God's grace) a Christian in 1976.

Other activities over the years: foster parent, Pony League assistant coach, PTA president, board chairman of a crisis pregnancy center and a Christian school, elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Credited (or discredited) with developing the ideas of compassionate conservatism and biblical objectivity.