In The Wall Street Journal, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush writes that the central mission of conservatives is to reignite American social mobility—restoring the right to rise.
These core principles—greater individual responsibility, more personal freedom, smaller and more effective government—are the only principles that empower people to rise to the top, to raise a family and to be free.
Today, the sad reality is that if you're born poor, if your parents didn't go to college, if you don't know your father, if English isn't spoken at home—then the odds are stacked against you. You are more likely to stay poor today than at any other time since World War II.
Conservatives have allowed liberals to channel the anger and frustration that comes from this oppressive dynamic to attack the very idea of success itself. In their view, anyone who has climbed to the top 1% has committed some form of gross social breach and deserves scorn. This is enormously shortsighted. In a fair capitalist system, financial success should be the byproduct of innovation and achievement.
The central mission of conservatives is to reignite social mobility in this country—restoring the right to rise.
First, America needs a government that allows both small people to rise and large businesses to fail. Government has a role in regulating, but its role shouldn't include picking the winners and losers.
Second, the country needs to equip every child with the best tools to rise—a quality education. The U.S. spends more per pupil than any other country yet these pupils frequently rank in the bottom 20% on international math and science tests.
Somewhere in America a child is being born whose bold idea may save a life, or the lives of millions. For every child who reaches his full abilities, there are a hundred who could have done the same but are stuck in failing and indifferent schools. Reform-minded conservatives have the resolve and the record to confront and end this tragic waste of human potential.
America needs an education transformation based on standards benchmarked to the best of the world, a system of no-excuses accountability that refuses to accept failure and rewards excellence. The country needs a culture based on empowering parents with an abundance of choices and a deep understanding of the transformative power of digital learning.
Third, Americans need to reestablish that success is a good thing. We do this by offering role models who demonstrate that success begins with a bold idea, that it is often created where nothing formerly existed, and that the resulting wealth can spread to every part of the nation.
Fourth, America needs a new, forward-thinking immigration system that replaces the failed status quo, meets the country's economic needs and honors its immigrant heritage and the rule of law. For the millions who are here illegally, there should be a path to bring them out of the shadows and into legal status. This path could eventually include citizenship, as long as those who have been waiting patiently to enter the country legally receive priority.
Finally, each of us in the conservative movement needs to recognize the limits of government and the much more powerful influences of parents, churches, charities and role models. There is a political realm and a social realm, and we shouldn't confuse the two. Government should fill potholes. It is our individual duty to fill the holes in the human heart.