• Emily Coogan

The problem with being 'socially progressive but fiscally conservative'

It’s an oxymoron, for starters.


Over the past twelve months, I’ve noticed an odd phrase dancing around the internet and I have so many questions. “Socially progressive but fiscally conservative” implies that one considers social issues, but simultaneously supports brassbound government spending in the name of private enterprise. This ideology plays into the hands of economic policies that hinder social liberation, so it doesn’t actually make sense.


The phrase is peak virtue signalling. It says “Hey everyone, I’m not wilfully blind to social inequalities and they’re pretty bad, but I’m not willing to support policies that will mitigate them”. It says “I see the need for change, but I can’t justify actually alleviating any burdens”. Purporting to value freedom and equality while also believing that capitalism can grant liberation is nothing but contradictory and confusing.


Social liberalism and fiscal conservatism are a dichotomy, rather than two sides of the same coin, as some would believe. In practice, the two notions are often inherently at odds with one another. A refusal to intervene systems of marginalisation bolsters capitalism, which is central to oppressive social structures. Economics and social equality are not mutually exclusive, and recognising the intersection between them is integral to social change.


It is impossible to separate social issues from fiscal aspects, especially when their causes are economic in nature. Where the social net is so often underfunded in many areas, supporting conservative economic policies perpetuates harm.


For those who wear a badge of “socially progressive, fiscally conservative”, make it make sense. Such an incongruous fallacy is counterproductive to social equality. Economic policies have a stronghold on social justice, so to vote with a socially progressive, fiscally conservative mindset derails the movements you ostensibly support. You can’t dismantle oppressive systems while simultaneously funding their construction.