The Invisible Hand of Government - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Invisible Hand of Government

Jonah Goldberg dives into the spread-the-wealth conservatism debate:

I think there’s considerable merit to all of this, even though — not surprisingly — I am less enamored of Douthatian interventionism than Douthat himself (I’m not dogmatically opposed to it either). I do think there’s a role for a minimal and means-tested welfare state. But I think what Ross isn’t hearing in Obama, and isn’t getting in conservative opposition to his spread the wealth line, is the belief that spreading the wealth in and of itself is a good idea. My understanding of the new crusade for more activist government from folks like Ross, Reihan, Frum, Brooks, Yuval, Ramesh et al, was that it was good public policy (and politics) to help certain people for a wide array of reasons. Specific interventions are necessary for specific purposes: improving healthcare, helping families, etc. The fact that some wealth gets spread around is a necessary consequence of these actions, but not a good in and of itself. For example, when congressmen support an unnecessary defense program for the dollars it brings to their district, that’s not good public policy right? That’s just pork, or “spreading the wealth around.” If, however, a happy byproduct of supporting necessary programs is that they create jobs back home, well, all the better. Similarly, if you believe that spreading the wealth around is the point of public policy, you are getting very close to a socialist worldview.

There was a time when conservatives spoke of the invisible hand of the market in which individuals pursuing their own self interest actually benefited society as a whole. Now we’re supposed to content ourselves in believing that spreading the wealth is a good thing for government to be involved in provided that it isn’t the purpose of a given policy. Goldberg seems to believe that more government intervention is needed in health care, when what is really needed is action to correct the problems caused by excessive government intervention, in the form of onerous regulations and misguided tax policy. And that more intervention is needed to “help families,” even though the welfare state has done as much as anything to destroy American families. He writes of government “creat(ing) jobs back home” even though any job “created” by government necessitates taking somebody else’s money. There was a time when I felt that it was just the Republican Party that had lost its way when it came to limiting the size and scope of government, but increasingly, it seems that I am in the minority among conservatives in advocating, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

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