The definition of “conscience-free” varies depending on the source.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a person who is indifferent to or is otherwise opposed to having to answer questions on social matters.”
But what defines a “conscientiously objector”?
In an article by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, one of the leading think tanks on the left, Rebecca Traister of Columbia University and John R. O’Donnell of the University of Illinois-Chicago define conscientious objectors as “a non-participant in any government activity” and the “notorious ‘conscientious objection’ to participating in certain federal programs.”
Traister and O’Brien note that while “consumers who choose not to engage in the purchase of products may have legitimate concerns about them,” they are not conscientious objector, as they have “no principled objection to them.”
This is important, because if you are conscientious objecting to a product, it does not mean that you don’t want to use it.
As a rule, most of us are not in favor of government spending, especially spending that has a direct impact on people’s lives.
In other words, we may want to consume whatever we can afford.
The same goes for the free-market economy, which is why many conservatives have supported a government-led free-trade system.
According the Heritage Foundation definition, “consciously objecting” to government spending is a “non-participation in any federal program.”
However, many people who object to government programs are not “consistent” in their objections.
A non-conscientious “objector” might object to the use of antibiotics, pesticides, or the environment.
For example, one in five Americans (19.4%) says they “strongly disagree” or “somewhat disagree” with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation requiring labeling of genetically modified food, and the other three quarters of Americans (73.2%) strongly disagree or “not at all” with that rule.
There are many other examples.
The Heritage Institute defines “conservationism” as “the belief that the environment and human life on Earth are best saved by protecting the natural resources and species for which they are best suited.”
According to this definition, many Americans are “consistently and enthusiastically opposed to any form of intervention in the environment,” and a large number of Americans “stronger than 50 percent” say that “natural resources are best protected by private action.”
But even this definition includes many conservatives who have expressed strong opposition to the Environmental Clean Water Act, a law designed to protect rivers and streams from pollution.
For these and other reasons, the Heritage Institute definition of conscientious objectivity is not perfect.
But it is not unreasonable to think that the conservative definition of a conscientious objecter could be used to define the broader public.