Human Events offers a list based on a poll of conservatives. Social Security comes in first, number five is "contraceptive funding." Foreign policy aside, what should such a list look like?
At the top I will put our aggregate of health care policies, including Medicare, but without pretending that removing any one of them would solve the major problems. Many smaller decisions, taken together, have painted us into a box where the incentives are for cost-escalation and burden-shifting at the same time.
It is hard for me to see social security as such a huge villain. I’m not going to push Ricardian neutrality, but a lot of it is just dollars slushing back and forth. It would be better as a welfare program but as is I just don’t see how it has wrecked us.
Farm subsidies are terrible but quantitatively they don’t amount to much in the broader scheme of things. Therefore my second pick is the aggregate burden of many small regulations. As with health care, we have no single identifiable villain. Again many small policies, taken together, make entrepreneurship less dynamic and lower long-run economic growth. "Small steps toward a much worse world," as they say.
My third pick is the public quasi-monopoly on education.