Big Government Conservatism

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The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes offers a dialectical defense of George W. Bush (Friday’s WSJ) that is refreshingly candid. W. is a Big Government Conservative. These are people who “simply believe in using what would normally be seen as liberal means — activist government — for conservative ends. And they’re willing to spend more and increase the size of government in the process.” Specifically, “The essence of Mr. Bush’s big government conservatism is a trade-off. To gain free-market reforms and expand individual choice, he’s willing to broaden programs and increase spending.” E.g., Bush’s proposed Medicare prescription-drug plan “would be the biggest new entitlement in 40 years. But if paired with reforms that lure seniors away from Medicare and into private health insurance, Mr. Bush sees the benefit as an affordable (and very popular) price to pay.” Unlike Reagan and Gingrich, Bush understands that “People like big government so long as it’s not a huge drag on the economy. So Mr. Bush abandoned the all-but-hopeless fight that Mr. Reagan and conservatives on Capitol Hill had waged to jettison the Department of Education. Instead, he’s opted to infuse the department with conservative goals.” Moreover, “Big government conservatives prefer to be in favor of things because that puts them on the political offensive. Promoting spending cuts/minimalist government doesn’t do that.”

12:49 pm on August 18, 2003