David Brooks Gets It Wrong

In an op-ed (TimesSelect) from today’s The New York Times, David Brooks writes that Reagan-Goldwater small government conservatism is out-moded in today’s society. He is wrong for three important reasons.

First, as I argued in my book, Leviathan on the Right, the 2006 congressional elections should have shown Republicans that big government conservatism was an electoral loser. It wasn’t just Iraq and scandal that brought about the Republican defeat; it was a belief that the party had abandoned its basic principles. If voters wanted massive increases in domestic spending and a federal takeover of education, why not vote for Democrats?

Second, big government doesn’t work, whether practiced by liberals or conservatives. In the wake of the government’s failure to deal with Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia mess, and all the other examples of government failure, does Brooks really believe that big government can fix health care, the economy, and even our families?

Finally, Brooks is wrong because, regardless of political fashion, freedom really does matter. Americans should be free to raise their families, run their businesses, choose their doctor, or support their favorite charity without the interference of big government.

Brooks tells us that “security leads to freedom.” To which Ben Franklin offers the still-timely reply: “He who surrenders freedom for some temporary security, deserves neither freedom nor security.”