Difference between 'fiscal' conservatism/"neo" conservitism

My grandfather–a “conservative” who voted Republican since WWII (With the exception of voting for Al Gore in 2000)–was a very frugal man who always spent less than he had–and was able to save lots of money on a meager income working for the Army as an accountant. That money put me through college.

I have always associated the term conservatism with this man–humble, responsible, focussed, frugal.

The current Bush administration seems to be an antithesis to this philosophy–brazen, irresposible, and erratic. They print more money and create more debt when the need arises.

What is this new “conservative” philosophy that seems to promote growing debts and fiscal irresponsibility? Does conservatism have anything to do with balanced budgets and shrewd spending, or am I living in Mayberry?

Short answer: There’s more than one kind of “conservative.” That is, the modern conservative movement, which started with Goldwater in 1964, has several currents within it and they don’t agree on everything. The main force dominating the Republican Party at present is big-business-interest conservatism; they want the government to do whatever is good for established business interests – and such interests are always well positioned to profit from an expensive war. Second most important are the ideological neoconservatives, who want America to spread democracy and capitalism around the world by armed force. The Admin’s current military, foreign and tax policies consist mostly of things on which these two camps can agree. The National Review represents these two conservative strains pretty consistently, IMO.

There’s also the libertarian strain, which is not pro-business but pro-market – they would be as hostile to government bailouts of failing corporations as to government regulation of business; they would also be hostile to deficit spending. And there’s the religious-social conservatives, whose interests are completely different from and largely irrelevant to fiscal policy (but some of them will back the Admin’s military policy for their own strange reasons – some of them actually think we’re living in the End Times, and the State of Israel must be preserved so it can play its assigned role in that story; honestly). And the paleoconservatives, represented at present by Pat Buchanan and his America First Party, are hostile to military adventures abroad, as well as to economic globalization, and they are economic populists who hate Wall Street as much as they hate Washington.

The kind of conservatism you are talking about as being embodied by your father, jocularjason, would best be characterized as “Rockefeller Republican” conservatism – pro-business on economic policy, but moderately socially liberal; accepting of a welfare state provided it doesn’t cost too much; generally committed to fiscal responsibility in government. And that kind of conservatism, nowadays, appears to be completely marginalized; it has no home in either party.

For more on the modern, post-Goldwater American conservative movement, see Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, by British authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1594200203/qid=1128808409/sr=8-2/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-1125863-1526510?v=glance&s=books&n=507846). From the introduction: