Once we got past CNN’s absurdly (even by its standards) over-the-top, theatrical introduction to this debate, much of the discussion degenerated into a he-said-she-said-yes-you-did-no-I-didn’t back-and-forth about various issues, ranging from whom Mitt Romney allegedly employed to do yard work, to what precisely a letter from Rick Perry’s office said about TARP. Of course, it’s all about raising questions concerning different candidates’ integrity. On one level, that’s not unimportant. But the trivializing effects upon serious discussion are hard to deny.
There were, however, two useful moments. One was several candidates’ efforts to put the contemporary disease of identity politics in its appropriate place (i.e., the grave).
The second was a number of candidates’ willingness to make the hard-to-hear but nevertheless accurate observation that the best way to address the slump in housing prices in places like Nevada is to allow the housing market to stabilize under its own volition. No matter how noble the intentions, government mortgage-relief programs have proved economically ineffective, and, in many instances they are deeply unjust. Who knows? If GOP presidential candidates are willing to make this point, maybe some of them will eventually dare to talk seriously about entitlement reform.
— Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy, and his 2012 forthcomingBecoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and America’s Future.