by ROBERT BUNN
I planned to write an essay. It would be about social liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and minimum wage. It would present a neat line using minimum wage to clarify whether it was more important to you to be a social liberal or a fiscal conservative. This is not that essay.
I didn’t write that essay because I discovered something interesting. I discovered that I didn’t know what “fiscal conservative” meant. I thought I knew, from listening to the things being said by people who described themselves as fiscal conservatives. I was wrong.
I thought fiscal conservatism was about cutting taxes. I thought it was about pro-business policies, or at least against policies that favor households over firms. I thought it was about doing anything possible to reduce the size, scope, and cost of federal government. I believed a lot of things said by self-described fiscal conservatives to be fiscally conservative policies. None of them had anything to do with the meaning of fiscal conservatism.
I’m still not convinced that fiscal conservatism, strictly defined as being opposed to deficit spending, is compatible with social liberalism. What I am sure of is that people who are fiscal conservatives by the actual definition of the term need to do a better job of reclaiming it from people who say it, but mean something entirely unrelated.