Government Costs Money

"There is an argument floating around Republican circles that in order to win again, the G.O.P. has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days," writes David Brooks, "This is folly. It’s the wrong diagnosis of current realities and so the wrong prescription for the future." He's right. He's also right about this:

The sad thing is that President Bush sensed this shift in public consciousness back in 1999. Compassionate conservatism was an attempt to move beyond the “liberty vs. power” paradigm. But because it was never fleshed out and because the Congressional G.O.P. rejected the implant, a new Republican governing philosophy did not emerge.

The missing piece, as a wise man has remarked to me already today, is that an at least nominal commitment to rolling back the state is required by the GOP's real-life commitment to tax cuts. Obviously, as we've seen, you can slash taxes without actually cutting spending. But if you want to cut taxes you do at least need to say that the plan is to roll back the state. Or, at a minimum, you can't engage in the sort of creative governance Brooks mentions here aimed at tackling "Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation" if the government isn't going to have any funds.