Friday, February 15, 2008

David Brooks and Big Government Conservatism

I know it's been a slow blogging week, but I just had to post on this David Brooks editorial in today's New York Times that caught my eye. Brooks writes on a fresh start for conservatism that sounds more like a plan from the Joe Lieberman play book than anything I'd expect from the political philosophy that gave us Barry Goldwater.

Here's my deal- as a libertarian, I can relate to conservatives who come from a philosophical standpoint of limited government, and a belief in the ability of individuals and the free market to solve problems. I have trouble relating to liberals who base their philosophy in the ability of government to solve problems. So when a supposed conservative comes out with a plan for the future that's all about the government solving problems, it's a bit noticeable and more than a bit disheartening. Brooks's ideas, in order, are 1- have the federal government encourage two parent families, 2- have the federal government encourage early childhood education, 3- have the federal government loosen the control of the teacher's unions, 4- national service for all, and 5- portable health insurance. As Brooks points out,

The agenda could go on, but the point is this: Democrats believe in fine-tuning the economy. They believe in intervening in a thousand little ways to address problems. Republicans believe these thousands of little Band-Aids hinder movement and distort productivity. But Republicans do believe, or at least should, that positive government can help prepare people for the rigors of competition, so they can have an open field and fair chance.

If conservatives and Republicans can remember back this far, Ronald Reagan actually ran (and won) with a platform that involved abolishing the department of education. Now we're told that the problem isn't the fact that we have such a department in the first place, but that Democrats just try to do too much- Republicans should want the government to help prepare people for competition and give folks a fair chance, they just have simpler solutions. Or so says David Brooks. It's a future, quite honestly, that scares me, where Republicans (and conservatives) can't even pay lip service to limited government as a desirable goal as opposed to merely a means to an end. I mentioned Joe Lieberman before, but actually, I'm more than reminded of the rhetoric of John F. Kennedy. If this really is the new direction of the Republican party and the conservative movement, we libertarians have a lot more loneliness in store.


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