Thomas Frank

Very bright piece by Frank in the Wall Street Journal today.   It’s Here

I’ve always thought that P.J. O’Rourke was only half joking when he wrote, years ago, that “Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.” Conservatives grasp the grand strategic sweep of politics better than liberals, and consequently they have always seemed to understand that what they do when they’re in charge can help to reinforce the myths that put them there.

A government that works, some conservatives fear, is dangerous stuff. It gives people ideas. Universal health care isn’t just a bad idea for their buddies in the insurance business; it’s a gateway drug to broader state involvement in the economy and hence a possible doomsday scenario for conservatism itself. As two fellows of the Ethics and Public Policy Center fretted in the Weekly Standard in May, “health care is the key to public enmeshment in ballooning welfare states, and passage of ObamaCare would deal a heavy blow to the conservative enterprise in American politics.”

Others, such as Krugman, have pointed to this consequence of “government is bad” ideology.  How can a political movement which holds this thesis (or even one which merely and cynically forwards it under the pretense that it is a coherent political position) perform the duties of governance competently without immediately invalidating the core of their ideology and any reasons for them actually holding the reigns of government?  They really must, when in power, be ineffective, tie themselves in administrative knots and fail in order to justify and give proof to their ideology.

They must also, of course, and with perhaps even greater need and ferocity, operate such  that they inhibit and derogate and cause to fail any contesting political ideology orparty which holds government as necessary and valuable.


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