On the heels of the Bloomberg piece entitled Do Conservatives Have Any New Ideas? comes the report, Room to Grow, described by Jonah Goldberg as something you can slap people with who say conservatives have no new ideas. But the ideas in the report aren’t really particularly new, or, in many cases, and more importantly, good.
Some ideas are great, of course, such as repealing occupational licensure laws and broadening school choice. But what the report mostly fails to do is something absolutely critical for conservatives to begin doing. And that is consistently applying conservatism’s old ideas to new problems.
In his analysis of Room to Grow, exceptionally pretty Cato scholar Scott Lincicome provides a good rundown of some of the old ideas underpinning conservatism.
First, it might help to think of government like a raging fire, something that should be easy for conservatives. We understand that government consumes human capital, innovation, economic growth and personal freedom. Now how do you fight fire? For too long, conservative ideas have centered around fixes like changing the color of the fuel, throwing the fuel from a different direction, adjusting the height from which we pour it. But conservatives have not seriously considering shrinking the fire by limiting its fuel for a long, long time.
Consider the examples Lincicome uses. The federal fire has eaten up the free market in the US for housing and education. Both are now exorbitantly expensive due to various federal government subsidies and regulations. Conservatives’ fix to the problem is throwing more fuel on the federal fire through tax cuts, wage subsidies, bailouts, and federally insured loans.
Here’s a old/new idea: get government out of the way. cut off the spigot. end the subsidies. cut the regulations. help the middle class by allowing the market to work for them.