Some welcome hints of a rethink are peaking above the surface. Gene Healy writes:

Our interminable war on terror sometimes seems designed to justify every bad thing libertarians have ever said about government. For example, it's uncontested that the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation" techniques came from a training program adopted after Chinese communists tortured U.S. soldiers captured in Korea.

Morality aside, it's almost impossible to imagine a dumber basis for fighting terror than adopting communist tactics designed to elicit false confessions. ... Unless it's the Hayekian nightmare of spending a trillion dollars and more than 5,000 American lives trying to create law-governed liberal democracies via military fiat.

Yet, it's usually liberals who report these tales of federal idiocy, and conservatives who resent them for it. "The Washington Post finds waste-in government!" Mona Charen snarks about "Top Secret America." "They seem much less curious" about waste and abuse elsewhere in government. A fair point, but one that cuts both ways.

Public-choice economist and Nobel laureate James Buchanan called his approach "politics without romance." Liberals romanticize government in every area other than law enforcement and defense, to which they apply a healthy skepticism. Conservatives suffer a mirror-image version of that myopia. They're incurable romantics when it comes to generals, policemen or spies.

But it's a romance we can no longer literally afford.

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