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Nil Desperandum


“The relentless rise in spending, unstopped even when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, has thrown conservatives committed to limited government into despair,” writes Fred Barnes. “Their view, fashionable at the moment, is that nothing can be done to limit spending to any significant degree. It’s hopeless. Even conservative voters ‘aren’t that concerned about spending,’ Ramesh Ponnuru lamented in National Review.” Actually, my point in the article Barnes quotes was that Republicans should not expect to reap any political dividends from cutting spending–which is not the same thing as saying that it is impossible to cut spending. Barnes doesn’t say anything that cuts against my argument.

Barnes’s case for optimism leaves me more depressed than before I read it. Barnes demonstrates that with a great deal of political will, discretionary spending has been cut for short periods of time–only to come roaring back later. Barnes speculates that it will become possible to cut entitlements because the popularity of individual accounts as a partial replacement for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will rise. I hope so–but the longer wait, the more beneficiaries those programs will have, too.


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