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Copyright (c) 2000 Journal of Legislation
Journal of Legislation

LEGISLATIVE REFORM COMMENTARIES: A Compassionate Conservative Agenda: Addressing Poverty for the Next Millennium


26 J. Legis. 93


The Honorable Rick Santorum *


I. Introduction

The term "compassionate conservative" attracts derision from both conservatives and liberals. However, I believe it represents a historic component of American political thought, manifest, in part, in the Republican Party tradition.

"Compassion" may be generally defined as sharing the suffering of another, together with the inclination to give aid or show mercy to the vulnerable and helpless. Compassion motivated the abolition of slavery, the creation of economic opportunities for the less fortunate, the restoration of individual dignity through welfare reform, and fuels the continuing fight to protect the unborn.

"Conservative" may generally defined as preserving traditional values and restraining challenges to those values. It is conservative to fight for the rights of the individual over government, for protection of private property, and for the fundamental values of truth, personal responsibility and human dignity upon which this country was built. It is also a fight against the encroachment of the federal government into local, personal, and economic affairs and against the onslaught of moral relativism.

John J. Dilulio, Jr., Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the Brookings Institution, refers to compassionate conservatism as subsidiarity conservatism 1. In 1991, on the one-hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical letter Centisimus Annus in which he addressed the principal of subsidiarity by stating that:
[a] community of a higher order ...

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