Consider this definition of social conservatism:
Traditional values, customs and ways of viewing the world have withstood the test of time, hence they should be given deferential treatment over newer values or customs that have not survived the same level of temporal scrutiny. Moreover social change often leads to unintended consequences, most of the time deleterious ones, so change by itself should be regarded skeptically and, if deemed beneficial, should happen slowly, cautiously and methodically, so that any unintended consequences can be recognized and overcome. Finally, individual liberty is only beneficially meaningful when it is conjoined with a moral people; hence policies that promote moral clarity should be favored over those that create moral obfuscation or relativism.
Where in this definition do you see the word government power? In other words, if there is social freedom, won't the rewards and punishments of cultural markets be enough to let some behaviors/traditions “survive” and others fail? Won't cultural evolution proceed by Darwinian processes, rather than Intelligent Design (read: inculcation by bureaucrats with a bible under one arm and the Complete Works of Edmund Burke under the other?)
Customs survive or go extinct in one of two ways—either a) they’re protected by the force of powerful elites (witness slavery, Jim Crow), or b) because they ‘work’ within the environment in which they attempt to function. You may call b) relativism. So be it. But a) gets to be called “moral” by those who hold the power. It’s no different from leftish moralists with some “social justice” bee in their bonnets.
In any case: nothing under a liberty umbrella precludes social conservatism from being a personal cultural disposition that we all, as members of a free society, must tolerate -- like any other disposition or form of expression.
But that’s a far cry from being forced to espouse or embrace your version of the moral, or his, or hers, or mine. After all, you can go celibate, frown on sodomy and forego the marijuana cigarettes without government’s help. But don't force me to. (San Fransisco is more likely to crumble from earthquakes or socialism than the acts of pink-bedizzened playboys, so I don't buy the "Fall of Rome" story.)
Indeed, if "the Right" itself is to survive, I argue that the virtue of toleration should replace social conservatism as a political platform. If anything, the left pays lip-service to toleration, then abandons it at almost every turn. Recall bans of certain kinds of speech on college campuses, smoking in private establishments, attempts to subsidize certain groups or behaviors, or the last conversation you had with a leftist about being, well, a conservative. This is not toleration—or at least not “liberal” toleration in the Rawlsian or Millian senses.
If we take back toleration, we have a moral high ground that is both appealing to younger generations who have become more tolerant anyway (racially, sexually, etc.), and we righties don’t have to live with contradictions between ‘cultural’ social engineering on the one hand and half-hearted deference to individual liberty on the other. Social conservatism gets to stick around and survive – and even win – that is, if it's indeed at the top of the cultural food chain. If not, then it looks like the conservative thesis given above fails on empirical grounds.
For the a new generation, liberty is the unifying principle. Not errant moralism built on what your grandpa was whipped into believing, or your government forced you to believe in the schools. Thus, The Next Right is about the virtue of toleration, plus the principle of liberty, plus a willingness to defend both.
So in answer to some questions in light of this…
What is the philosophical basis for the brand of conservatism that you wish to see adopted? If you think e.g. Social Conservatism has got to go, what do you see as replacing it (if anything), and why?”
Asked and answered, above. Unless you want a name for it... It's called classical liberalism.
On this questions…
In the new conservatism that you envision, how do you plan on differentiating it from the philosophical basis of liberalism that the Democrats offer?
With toleration as a pillar, the difference between advocates of liberty and what Jonah Goldberg calls Liberal Fascists becomes pretty darn clear. Currently I think it’s much muddier, as cultural conservatives control your bedroom while left liberals control your wallet. How is this a coherent political system? Two rival gangs fighting over two different aspects of your life?
On this question…
Democrats propose that "greed" and "deregulation" are what caused our current financial mess. In your view, what should be the conservative response, and why?