Reform conservatives are conservative!

If the reformocon agenda represents the triumph of liberalism, then by that standard, every Republican administration since Coolidge has been a triumph of liberalism.” Reagan’s call for “a government that rides with us, not on our backs” was a call for more limited government, absolutely, but not for the nightwatchman state.

Some right-of-center writers grasp that nettle, and argue that the job of conservatives is to push for a return to the state of affairs under Coolidge, or even McKinley. I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a part of me that is attracted to that. But at the end of the day, there are still elections every four years, and the country will still be better off with a Republican Party and a conservative agenda that can actually govern the country. The problem with this sort of rhetoric is not its intent, it’s the fact that once you get Republican control of government, after you realize that Coolidgetopia will never pass, you just end up with conservative people who badly govern the liberal welfare state. And that, in turn, just causes frustrated Americans to vote the GOP out. And the long march of ever-expanding government continues.

Coolidgetopia would not get us to what conservatives actually want, which is not a dog eat dog world, but a world with a thriving civil society, where the culture celebrates the creative destruction of the market because the consequences of that destruction are softened by private institutions and local government, with the federal government acting as an enabler of those institutions, not their emperor as today.