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July 05, 2006

Goodbye to All That

The Atlantic is liveblogging the Aspen ideas Festival, and doing a surprisingly good job of it. This post, on the difference between the panels on liberalism and conservatism, is particularly interesting, and touches nicely on a burgeoning obsession of mine: Conservatism's accelerating abandonment of small government ideology:

Mr. Ponnuru observed that in Reagan's first inaugural, before he famously declared, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," he first applied the the phrase, "In this present crisis." In other words, government was not necessarily the problem, not always. For Mr. Ponnuru, Reagan's situational application of principle was evidence of a statesman, not an ideologue.

I'll have much more to say on this in coming weeks, as it all fits into an article I'm writing. For now, it's worth saying that I think Ponnuru is on the vanguard of conservative intellectuals attempting to conjure up a replacement for small government conservatism, which, most folks now acknowledge, has proved something between a political impossibility and a policy failure.

July 5, 2006 | Permalink


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Well, hope does spring eternal: maybe the conservatives will also discover that engraving on their letterheads "tax cutting is always good" isn't financially possible and ensures policies that will surely fail.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 5, 2006 1:05:03 PM

I certainly don't deny that the Republican Party as a whole has moved away from 'small government' and in that you are certainly correct.

It is consistent with convervative philosophy though that certain tasks (law enforcement, military, etc.) must be in the province of government. The basic idea here is that no matter how bad government is at doing these jobs, any other solution would be worse.

Libertarianism, at the extremese anyway, disagrees with that idea and claims that government is always worse and advocates private solutions for everything.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Jul 5, 2006 1:39:01 PM

I certainly don't deny that the Republican Party as a whole has moved away from 'small government' and in that you are certainly correct.

Ah, yes. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed. The apologists for conservatism never seem to consider that the ideology to which they adhere does not work in real life, when real people are involved. And then they call liberals the moonbat utopianists.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 5, 2006 3:07:55 PM

Ideology of any stripe tends to get snagged by the law of unintended consequences. That is the reason to look for lessons in the past and in records of what we might think of as social experiments.

Posted by: opit | Jul 6, 2006 2:38:14 AM

Is Ponnuru really on the vanguard? Isn't this what "compassionate conservatism" is all about? Even if GWB didn't govern like he said he would, he laid the foundations for this kind of conservative thinking, along with the Weekly Standard. I seem to recall Yglesias writing a post a few weeks ago about an article in TWS by Irwin Seltzer with all sorts of domestic policy initiatives that progressives could get behind. In addition, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salaam have been on this too, with their "Sam's Club Republicans" article. I think this has been brewing for some time now.

Posted by: Jeff | Jul 6, 2006 5:56:53 PM

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