Competition and Scrutiny

Arnold Kling writes that several policy approaches in Room To Grow are not entirely compatible with each other. I don’t think that is a bad thing. I think it was a good thing for the Right (and the country) that writers like George Gilder, Charles Murray, and Lawrence Mead proposed different versions of welfare reform. The interplay between those approaches helped clarify the purposes of welfare reform, and the debates helped conservative make some tough decisions about what kinds of welfare reform were possible given the constraints of public opinion. Lawrence Mead’s approach won out in the end, but I’m not sure that the urgency to enact some kind of reform would have been so great if it hadn’t been for the work of Gilder and (especially) Murray.

I think that, in the medium term, it is important to have as many well-thought-out policy proposals as possible and to put those proposals to the tests of numeracy and political prudence, so that candidates and officeholders who adopt those policies face fewer unpleasant surprises. More competition and critical scrutiny now will likely lead to a more defensible a conservative agenda at election time. 

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