Learning to Love the Government

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The Wall Street Journal's "American Conservatism" column explains how Compassionate Conservatism isn't just slogan, it's a New Deal for the Common Man. Stephen Goldsmith describes the virtue of a policy that "takes us back to the future by acknowledging the huge growth of the state while articulating a better way for government to help those whom prosperity has left behind." Rather than getting rid of Social Security, for example, CompCon would allow workers to "establish individual retirement accounts where they can direct part of their payroll taxes" (a bold innovation, given that the government already allows us to put part of our pre-tax income into instruments called, um, individual retirement accounts). The Department of Education? Mend it, don't end it! How about a "Medicare reform that gives seniors the respect they deserve in allowing them to choose the insurance policy that best meets their needs"? Not content with these Democrat-lite proposals, Goldsmith goes for big laffs by citing Friedrich Hayek as an inspiration, tracing the origins of conservatism to "the early days of the National Review," and invoking the patronage of Barry Goldwater—as if Battlin' Barry didn't get slaughtered by Johnson precisely because he refused to compromise the principles Goldsmith and the WSJ are willing to dump. Bill Clinton said the era of big government was over; why don't Republicans agree?

Lest you think we're being too hard on former Mayor Goldsmith, here's our rave review of his book, and our optimistic view of his plan to turn Indianapolis into the "21st Century City" (written by Bill "Heartbreaking Sibling" Eggers).

NEXT: An End to Kosher Pork?

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  1. The “New Deal for the Common Man” comment is right on, because neoconservatives (at least their “vital center” core) are just New Dealers and Cold War Liberals who couldn’t stomach the New Left in the late ’60s. Some people identify Scoop Jackson and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, two New Deal Demos, as the FOUNDERS of neoconservatism, for crying out loud. I wouldn’t go this far, because it downplays the role of James Burnham and other Trots, but they were definitely the founders of a major current of the neocon movement. As Larry Gambone wrote somewhere, neoconservatism is just a new form of corporate liberalism. Despite the claim of Horowitz and Coulter to be spokesmen for “flyover country,” neoconservatism is the ideology of the New Class in spades. Nothing like seeing a pencil neck geek from Ramparts magazine drinking long-necks and trying to be one of the boys at Dumb W. Ass’ ranch in Crawford.

  2. Republicans and Democrats both realize that the way to get re-elected to to expand programs and make new programs to “buy” votes. Of course the era of big government isn’t over.

  3. Many aspects of this neo-conservatism I think are a step in the wrong direction, however I would disagree that the meager social security reform proposed by Bush would be in that category. The public will never agree to abolishing Social Security in one fell swoop. The only way we’re going to get rid of this behemoth is by slowly chipping it away.

    I think it’s important to be pragmatic about how we attempt to move the country in the direction of limited government, and understand that we can’t do it all at once. Proposing sweeping and massive changes to government will only scare voters away from supporting us. If we want to move the country closer toward our libertarian ideals, we have to do it slowly, and be willing to make some pragmatic compromises along the way. Sometimes these compromises may not be ideal, but we should be willing to make them as long as the general direction is toward liberty. It is, unfortunately, the nature of the political process, and the only way we’re going to get anything done.

    Bush’s social security reform proposal is not much to write home about, but it is, at least, a step in the right direction, and probably politically achievable. Social security has often been called the ‘third rail’ of American politics, and if polling numbers are any indication, it appears that this rail’s voltage isn’t quite as high as it used to be. Will this meager reform start us on the long road to putting individuals back in control of their own retirement? We can only hope.

  4. Steve,

    Proposing tax cuts seems to be an equally effective way of buying votes, one that neocons have no problem with using.

    Isn’t it possible that neocons who support social support programs actually think their a good idea, just as politicians who propose tax cuts think that’s a good idea? Both sides sell their ideas by appealing to voters’ interests. Neither side has a monopoly on pandering to people’s wallets.

  5. Republicans are not Libertarians; the difference being that the Republicans actually have a constituency and control of the federal government.

    This being a democracy, it follows that if they didn’t support the positions that they do, they would find themselves as effective as the Libertarians at making any actual difference in the real world.

    Tyranny of the masses and all that.

    It’s fairly ridiculous to act as if you don’t understand that, and strike a pose of intellectual and moral superiority.

    How much credit can the Libertarians take for getting my taxes reduced twice in 2 years?

    How much of the freedom I gain from this do I owe them?

  6. “Tyranny of the masses and all that.”

    James, uh, exactly. Outside of cyberspace and acadaia, damn few people think outside of the liberal v. conservtive box — but this is changing. Libertarian ideas are increasingly influencing American political discourse. Perhaps some day we will capture the GOP. Then it may really have something to offer that constitutes an actual alternative to the Democrats. Until then, you can claim majority support, as could Democrats for large chunks of U.S. history — did that make them right?

  7. Next: Attacks on school choice proponents, because they don’t get government out of the education business. Then, attacks on those who privatize service providers, because they didn’t cut off the services entirely. And so on.

    Whatever.

  8. RE: The era of big government being over

    No way. What I heard in the SOTU address the other night was a so-called “conservative” proposing hundreds of billions in new federal government spending. The era of big government is here to stay, although perhaps big government grows a bit more slowly under a Republican president and congress.

  9. Joe:

    The difference between tax cuts and no tax cuts “buying votes” is this-with a tax cut, people are keeping THEIR OWN MONEY. While no tax cut/tax increases take money from one to give it to another.

    HUGE difference I’d say.

  10. EMAIL: draime2000@yahoo.com
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    DATE: 01/26/2004 05:37:20
    I like it very much, i should get one site like this too

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