That headline is the title of a major article by Alan Wolfe that appears in the July/August issue of the Washington Monthly. Wolfe teaches political science at Boston College and is the author of Does American Democracy Still Work published by Yale University Press.
Wolfe lays out a neat pocket history of conservative thought in America from the time of the American Revolution to the era of the Goldwater revolution and beyond. It’s a nice referesher course.
The heart of Wolfe’s argument I take to be this—and if I mis-take it, you can get it straight by reading the article—you can’t govern efficiently while you are committed to the notion that government is an evil.
As an example consider Wolfe’s analysis of the prescription drug fiasco:
“It is significant that in America's recent debates over prescription drugs, no one, not even the Cato Institute, argued that government should simply not be in the business at all. A political party which consigned to death anyone who could not afford to participate in this medical revolution would die an early death itself.
“But Republicans were just as unwilling to design a sensible program as they were unable to eliminate the existing one. To prove their faith in the market, they gave people choices, when what they wanted was predictability. To pay off the pharmaceutical industry, they refused to allow government to negotiate drug prices downward, thereby vastly inflating the program's costs. To make sure government agencies didn't administer the benefit, they lured in insurance companies with massive subsidies and imposed almost no rules on what benefits they could and could not offer. The lack of rules led to a frustrating chaos of choices. And the extra costs had to be made up by carving out a so-called "doughnut hole" in which the elderly, after having their drug purchases subsidized up to a certain point, would suddenly find themselves without federal assistance at all, only to have their drugs subsidized once again at a later point.
"Caught between the market and the state, Republicans picked the worst features of each. No single human being could have designed a program as unwieldy as this one. It took the combined efforts of every faction in today's conservative movement to produce a public policy so removed from common sense.” (My italics)
Read it all here.