January 4, 2007

Phillipe and Jorge and the Conservatives, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two more comments about the Phillipe and Jorge column from this week’s Providence Phoenix.

1. In commenting on conservatism in general, Phillipe and Jorge do express strong approval of market-based ideas…

When will we acknowledge that the free market system is not a panacea, but an excellent path with limits? Those shortcomings include health-care, education, mass transit, and environmental safety (although environmental sanity can become profitable in certain respects).
Most conservatives would agree with the “excellent path with limits” sentiment (it’s generally libertarians who want to reduce limitations on capitalism to a bare minimum, despite the consequences).

But with regards to their specific counterexamples, how exactly do P&J reach the conclusion that education represents a market failure? A better case can be made for the opposite; higher education is run on a much more free-market basis than primary or secondary education. Does anyone seriously suggest that higher education would improve if we replaced the existing colleges and universities with the geographic monopoly system we use for K-12?

2. P&J also express less than approval, but definite sympathy, for a certain strain of conservative thought…

Many of the thoughts recently expressed about Gerald R. Ford’s presidency remind your superior correspondents of just how dangerously far to the right this country has veered. We’re not talking about the small government/fiscally prudent right that we can understand and respect, even if we frequently disagree with it. This is the totalitarian right of Bush and the neo-cons.
Now, P&J’s characterization of limited government conservatism suggests that its opposite would entail support for big government and fiscal imprudence, correct? But that’s probably too simple…

…or is it? Here is Rhode Island’s newest United States Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, as described in John Mulligan's article from today’s Projo

On the Budget Committee, [Senator Sheldon Whitehouse] said he expects to see tension between the principle of “paying as you go” and the need for more spending on social programs. He took a wait and see stance on how to resolve that dilemma.
So Senator Whitehouse has decided there is a need for more spending, even though it won’t fit within the current budget and he knows that the country is running deficits.

Isn't this an obvious case of wanting to combine fiscal imprudence with big government?