The Corner

Going Soft

As I read here and there about the reform agenda some are advocating, I am reminded that there is really nothing new about having such an agenda. Ronald Reagan (am I still allowed to refer to him?) was way ahead of his time when he instituted the Grace Commission. He gathered some of the most successful businessmen and best minds in the nation who looked at virtually every governmental entity and program for the purpose of making major reforms — “An efficient, well-managed government that is accountable to the taxpayers.” They came up with 47 volumes and 21,000 pages of findings and proposals. They implemented the vast majority of the proposals (some required congressional approval and were resisted). So, while the nature of reforms obviously must address current circumstances, the idea of reforming or modernizing or what have you is not a new one. And my guess is that much of it is going on, or did go on, during the current Bush administration, and perhaps even during the Clinton administration (and perhaps with different priorities). That said, the principles and issues surrounding the role of the individual and government in our society are not, in my humble opinion, well addressed by promoting a reform agenda (whatever those reforms may be) or, at least, not to my satisfaction. John McCain can embrace a reform agenda, and often does, yet still promote the massive expansion of federal authority with his cap-and-trade ideas. As Reagan, Burke, Locke, Smith, Tocqueville, and many others understood, reform or efficiency or modernization relate to the civilized society but are not enough to stave off a soft tyranny.

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