February 9, 2014


The Spirit of Conservative Reform (Peter Berkowitz - February 8, 2014, RCP)

A sober and reform-minded conservatism could very well fit the bill. It would focus on promoting opportunity and economic growth. It would present alternatives rooted in the free market and experimentation in the laboratories of democracies of the state capitals, for expanding health insurance coverage and lowering health care costs. It would reconstruct America's massive and debt-ridden entitlement programs. [...]

Conservatives, the authors maintain, justly focus on equality of opportunity and resist the left-liberal quest to use government to bring about equality of result. But conservatives would be wrong to suppose that equality of opportunity implies no task for government, or merely the exercise of restraint by government. Instead, conservatives must take to heart that level playing fields do not occur naturally. They are made by the collaborative and deliberate efforts of human beings, including government efforts.

In 2014, maintaining level playing fields for a diverse nation of 320 million souls requires a variety of reforms constructed to advance individual liberty and consistent with limited government. These include, according to Gerson and Wehner, achieving broad access to modern health care; decreasing extreme economic inequality while increasing social mobility; renovating the nation's physical infrastructure; and streamlining the tax code; modernizing immigration laws; and fitting entitlement programs with contemporary interests and enduring constitutional principles.

Gerson and Wehner find the spirit of conservative reform alive and well at the state level. They laud Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's transformation of the laws governing public sector workers; Ohio Gov. John Kasich's job creation and budget balancing; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's promotion of school choice; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's imposition of fiscal order and strengthening of public education.

Conservatism can advance the public interest--and its own--by bringing this spirit of reform to the national level. Conservatives should continue to lead the way in reforming government by restraining and re-limiting it. But the aim of reforming government is not to immobilize it, but rather to make it more capable of enacting and executing the wide-ranging and constantly shifting reforms necessary for the enjoyment and defense of liberty. 

Of course,none of these conservative reforms--HSAs, personal social security accounts, school choice, taxing consumption instead of income, immigration amnesty, modernizing infrastructure, etc.--make governbment smaller.  Indeed, they make it larger. 

On the other hand, they use capitalist principles to make that government more efficient and beholden to individual tax payers. (Meanwhile, just one of the ways that they expand government is to make everyone a tax payer.)

It's about making government better, not smaller.  

Posted by at February 9, 2014 6:51 AM

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