Do right-wing ideas keep on failing?

Chapter one: Politicizing the government, and lowering the quality of governance, should not be considered conservative ideas.  The incompetence of Bush, a self-professed conservative, doesn’t make this so.  The Founding Fathers cared about governance, and there have been plenty of bad Democrats.  Furthermore when the Clinton administration improved FEMA, it was praised at George Mason and very vocally. 

Chapter two: The Unitary Executive.  No way is this a true conservative idea.  No way.  Checks and balances is a fundamental conservative idea.

Chapter three: Iraq.  I’ll leave this aside for the sake of keeping the comments thread manageable.  You’ll have a chance to comment on this soon, but not today.

Chapter four: Tax cuts for the rich.  Even if you think these were a bad idea, don’t blame conservatism.  The standard conservative idea is Milton Friedman’s nostrum that the real burden of government lies in the level of spending (and how it is spent), not the level of taxation per se.

Chapter five: State tax-and-spending limits.  The Colorado plan for spending limits really didn’t work out so well and Anrig scores major points in this chapter.  Major, major points.  If you have a revisionist take on this, please do tell us in the comments.

Chapter six: "Smart" regulation.  The regulatory burden has grown, for better or worse, with each administration.  Anrig criticizes John Graham and his ilk, but his points boil down to disagreement with the conservative view rather than an indictment of what has been tried.  We’d all like to have better regulation, and we can all admit it is very hard to get there procedurally.

Chapter seven: School choice and vouchers.  The available evidence — see for instance Caroline Hoxby — suggests that vouchers are an improvement, albeit much overrated by conservatives and libertarians.  However that hardly makes the idea bankrupt.

Chapter eight: Health savings accounts and malpractice reform.  Health savings accounts are another tax break for savings and they won’t much improve U.S. health care.  The malpractice crisis is overrated as a cause of high health care costs.  Anrig scores points here, but mostly against wheel-spinning.  It is worth stressing that "the right" doesn’t really have much of a health care plan at all, and that can count as an indictment.

Chapter nine: Social security privatization.  I’ve argued that the Bush plan was just bad economics, even from a conservative or libertarian point of view.  We already had private accounts in the form of Merrill Lynch, so why put a government-engineered, jerry-rigged structure on top of that?

The bottom line: Two strong points that can be scored against conservatism or market-oriented ideas, as opposed to the Bush Administration.  First, state-level tax and spending limits haven’t worked out.  Second, "the right" doesn’t (yet?) have a coherent health care plan.  But the biggest problems faced by conservatism or libertarianism are along the lines of "won’t ever be tried," not "we just tried it and it failed."

Addendum: Anrig responds.


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