Monday, August 4, 2008

Big-government conservatism?

I stipulate that it is wrong and thoughtless to regard George W. Bush and/or John McCain as exemplars of free-market, limited-government philosophy. But it's also wrong and thoughtless to regard them as completely antithetical to such principles. It's particularly wrong with regard to John McCain, foe of subsidies, earmarks, Medicare expansion and trade barriers. And the Bush administration, for all its big spending and unbalanced view of executive power, is recognizable in the following passage, even if the last line makes Matt Welch gag on his coffee:
So they advocated creating health savings accounts, handing out school vouchers, privatizing Social Security, shifting government functions to private contractors, and curtailing regulations on public health, safety, the environment and more. And, of course, they pushed to cut taxes to further weaken the public sector by "starving the beast." President Bush has followed this playbook more closely than any previous president, including Reagan[.]
The Bush administration has followed the agenda pretty much as described, sometimes without much success (eg, health savings accounts, Social Security) and in some cases getting it done but for the worse (the shifting of many military functions to private security contractors is a worrisome trend). Note that the Reagan administration made far less effort, if any, toward Social Security privatization or health savings accounts. The Bush administration has been a debacle in many ways, but it's not simply or entirely a story of big-government conservatism failing.

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