Ken Connor

"Political moral philosophy" sounds like an oxymoron in the context of our modern, unprincipled politics. Nevertheless, a sound moral philosophy is the vital center of any political movement intent on fashioning a just society. Unfortunately, both political parties today seem to have lost their grip on whatever moral philosophy they once held to be true. Democrats have abandoned their old socialist ideals for a pragmatic approach focused on winning elections by promising new domestic programs and repeating a mantra advocating vague, undefined notions of "change." Republicans have dropped their ideals of personal freedom and limited government in favor of winning elections by rewarding powerful special interest groups with earmarks, tax cuts, and limitations on liability for wrongdoing.

The dominant principle of moral philosophy guiding both major political parties seems to be reelection.

There is great value in having a guiding moral philosophy to act as a check on the political fancies of the day. Both politicians and their constituencies are often carried away by their desires or perceived needs. When people suffer, they are tempted to look first to the government for aid. And when politicians' terms are about to expire, they often seek to ingratiate themselves to their constituents by sending money and benefits their way. These impulses will inevitably lead a government astray if they are not hedged in by a well-informed political moral philosophy.

P.J. O'Rourke exposes the importance of political moral philosophy in his recent Weekly Standard article, "Mr. Sununu Goes to Washington." O'Rourke explains that both the left and, to a lesser extent, the right have forgotten or abandoned their underlying moral philosophies. In his article, O'Rourke interviews one man whom he feels still embraces a moral philosophy which guides his political decisions: Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire. Though the Senator's specialties are engineering and business, O'Rourke maintains that he has a grasp of the core principles which made the Republican Party strong. Sununu asserts, "I have a deep-seated belief that America is unique, strong, great because of a commitment to personal freedom—in our economic system and our politics. We are a free people who consented to be governed. Not vice-versa."


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.