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The Beast Is Us


from National Review, Kevin Williamson, Starving the Beast in Kansas:

Unserious men promise to Starve the Beast and balance budgets by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse,” the formulation relied upon by, among others, Donald Trump, 2016’s poster-boy for terminal unseriousness. Delusional politicians insist that significant tax cuts can be offset by simple gains in efficiency — but if it were that simple, then why not implement those cost-saving measures first and the tax cuts afterward?

(Answer: Because it is not simple.)

There are gross spending abuses at every level of government, from Harry Reid’s federally subsidized cowboy-poetry festivals to million-dollar paydays for superintendents of small suburban school districts. These are work for the meat cleaver, not the scalpel. But about 80 percent of what the federal government does is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care spending, national defense, and paying interest on debts incurred by previous Congress’s refusal to implement taxes sufficient to pay for that spending. Most of what state and local governments spend their money on is public schools, state universities, police, roads, and ordinary municipal services. Yes, it’s bonkers that Lubbock, Texas, spends about a quarter-million a year on a city manager, but that’s still chump change compared with what schools and police cost.

We are not going to balance the federal budget without cutting Social Security and other popular entitlements as well as the military, and Kansas is not going to bring its spending down to match a lower revenue line without touching education and the roads. It isn’t going to happen.

Yes, conservatives believe in smaller government, but conservatives also believe in prudence — and that our political calculations must in the end take account of reality. And here’s the reality that every politician eventually discovers: You can promise to Starve the Beast, but in the end, the Beast is Us.

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Change and Vandalism


from Charles Cooke at National Review, Conservatives Refuse to Repeat the Mistakes of History (a fundraising letter)

Tricky as it may be to acknowledge, the eternal verities care little for the zeitgeist. Fashions may change, and the shape of the mob may morph, but the truth does not. Markets, not governments, yield real and sustainable progress. Strength, not weakness, is the finest prophylactic against war. Laws, not benevolent men, serve as the guarantor of Liberty. There is nothing old-fashioned about civil society or local knowledge; no evolution that will render our Constitution moot; no technological replacement for a healthy and humble admiration of the divine. Each generation must learn these axioms anew, and if it does not, we will face decline and fall.

Properly understood, American conservatism is no enemy of advancement and change. On the contrary: Commerce, as Schumpeter put it, is the author of creative destruction; Socialism on the other hand, is a boon to the status quo. But there is change and then there is vandalism; there is the man who cycles his crops and then the man who torches his field; there are those who wish to revise, and then there are those who wish to burn all that came before them to the ground. G.K. Chesterton held that one should never tear down a fence before one understands why it is there. Ensuring we understand why our fences stand where they do is a tireless and never-ending job.

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Isolationism on the Left and Right


from The World According to Trump by Charles Krauthammer in National Review:

Both the Left and the Right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.

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Authoritarianism as Science


a gem from George Will in National Review, The ‘Settled’ Consensus du Jour


Four core tenets of progressivism are: First, history has a destination. Second, progressives uniquely discern it. (Barack Obama frequently declares things to be on or opposed to “the right side of history.”) Third, politics should be democratic but peripheral to governance, which is the responsibility of experts scientifically administering the regulatory state. Fourth, enlightened progressives should enforce limits on speech (witness IRS suppression of conservative advocacy groups) in order to prevent thinking unhelpful to history’s progressive unfolding.

Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 16 states’ attorneys general and those of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.

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A Conduit of Corruption

In National Review, What the Panama Papers Actually Show by Michael Tanner

We see something similar, if less dramatic, in the United States. There is a reason why five of the ten counties with the highest median incomes in America are suburbs of Washington, D.C. This isn’t an indictment of capitalism, but rather an indictment of big government. After all, when government claims the power to reward its friends and punish its enemies, corruption is guaranteed to follow.

Yes, of course there are crooked businessmen. And, in today’s crony-capitalist culture, too many businessmen are in bed with big government. But, by and large, the rich in the United States achieved that status by providing the rest of us with goods and services that we want. Now it appears that many of those who spend their time lecturing us on how that is a bad thing turn out to be using, or misusing, the power of government for their own benefit.