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A conservative can agree, to some extent and with some qualifications, to the libertarian arguments against the welfare state, and add some unlibertarian arguments of his own. Gerson doesn’t ackowledge this possibility. The notion that “anti-government conservatism” has literally “nothing” to offer the country and “strangles mercy” is a thoughtless cheap shot. He makes some reasonable points: “Campaigning on the size of government in 2008, while opponents talk about health care, education and poverty, will seem, and be, procedural, small-minded, cold and uninspired.” That’s right: No successful political party is going to campaign on its conformity to a political philosophy. But that doesn’t mean that it can or should abandon that philosophy. The essay is a mix of good and bad, but what’s bad in it is quite bad.


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