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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Democrats vs. Republicans

Via Democratic Freedom we find a study from CATO on the massive spending of the Republicans. Bottom line: "Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years."

Meanwhile, a week and a half ago, Matthew Yglesias wrote a post that began by quoting Andrew Sullivan quoting Barry Goldwater complaining about the Religious Right trying to legislate morality. Then Matthew writes:
He then goes on to "wonder if Goldwater could even exist within today's Republican establishment." Well, of course he could. In Maine or Rhode Island or New York or California. But as a national leader? No way. Indeed, probably most Democrats would hesitate to speak so disrespectfully of the people in question, though they might privately agree. The way in which the rhetorical center of gravity has shifted to dramatically to the right freaks a lot of people -- certainly Andrew Sullivan -- out a great deal. But what about the policy substance? Well, abortion has moved slightly to the right since '81, mostly as a result of things done during the Reagan years. School prayer has moved somewhat to the left, and the GOP platform has moved left on the subject as well. Gay rights have moved way to the left in the past 25 years. And there's every reason to think that the next Democratic administration will push the gays-in-the-military issue further left (note that Bush hasn't tried to roll Clinton's steps on this back), offer federal funding to stem cell research, and make Plan B contraception much more widely available. I don't really understand how it is that the rhetoric and policy have moved in such different directions, but that's the reality of the situation.

Okay, I am left-libertarian, and so I have less of a problem with many types of government spending than right-libertarians. But at this point I really cannot see how a right-libertarian could possibly prefer the Republicans to the Democrats. In fact, I fail to see how a right-libertarian would not possibly prefer the Democrats by a large margin. The Republicans spend more money than the Democrats, AND they are worse on social issues. Even a Democrat who is lousy on social issues (Lieberman, or any Dem from the Confederacy) is not going to do any real damage in that area since, as described by Matthew, the government's efforts to legislate morality are impotent. But the government is quite competent at writing checks, and the Republicans write more than the Dems. Is it because of the tax "cuts"?!? Is merely shifting taxes to children and the poor really what right-libertarianism is all about?

Thanks for the comment on my blog. I think you're right, it's just about tax cuts. Many of the right-libertarians still believe that they can "starve the beast" and all we need to do is slash taxes so we'll have a financial crisis that will force the government to cut spending. I'm skeptical about this. I think if we have a fiscal crisis it's more likely to produce tax increases, like we saw in 1993. I think the only way we're going to see smaller government is to push for spending reform. We need more self financed programs (user fees), devolution of some programs (education, transportation, etc.) and outright elimination of others (corporate welfare).

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