There Isn't Any Politician Who Can Save You

Ross Douthat writes:

From Glenn Beck to the Tea Parties, much of the energy in the post-Bush G.O.P. is with people who have grasped, albeit sometimes in inchoate ways, that big government and big business are increasingly on one team, and the champions of free markets and limited government are on the other. But they don’t know what to do about it, and what they do seem to know — cutting taxes, and letting the rest take care of itself — is often non-responsive, not only to the problems the country faces, but to the problems they themselves have diagnosed.

As I pointed out in my recent Bloggingheads with Julian Sanchez, the populist right is bound to fail in its quest to oppose big government so long as its efforts are aimed at electing trustworthy politicians. There is this faith so many on the right have that Sarah Palin is different, or that Ron Paul is different, or that somewhere there is another Ronald Reagan who is different, trustworthy, and unwilling to sell out “regular Americans.” But the steady growth in government that’s proceeded apace since the New Deal isn’t driven by personality, or politicians who are unusually duplicitous. It is a structural phenomenon. It is driven by an electorate that wants a free lunch from its government, by lobbyists who successfully shape legislation that benefits special interests, by a lack of transparency when it comes to the cost of government programs, and by a dozen other factors.

If the populist right wants to change anything, it should stop imagining that the answer is a particularly trustworthy leader, and start pressuring every elected leader to adopt specific reforms.

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One Response to “There Isn't Any Politician Who Can Save You”

  1. dtg581 Says:

    The steady growth in government that’s proceeded apace since the New Deal is not driven primarily by any of the things you mentioned. It is driven by a rapid succession of events that required a big government to respond to them. First there was the Great Depression, then World War II, then the Cold War. Now there is another major economic crisis that only a big and powerful central authority could cope with. My guess is that globalization provides further need for government to get bigger.

    The fact that government continued to grow under avowed conservatives like Reagan and Bush strongly suggests that conservatives don’t have any solutions to America’s challenges that don’t involve further growth of government.

    All Americans should be demanding that the government use its power efficiently effectively to meet the threats America faces. But no matter what, facing those threats is going to require a big, big government.

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