A Modest Conservative “Revolution”

serfdom1From Tom Woods, Jr.’s introduction to ISI’s new book of essays, Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism:

When we argue that the winds are blowing in the direction of an ever-larger role of the state in American life, we must be careful not to imply that prior to 2007-8 a broad consensus in favor of the free market and against state coercion had taken root. Even during the 1980s, when free-market ideas were said to be sweeping the country, the net effects were modest. Larry Schwab makes a persuasive case in his overlooked study The Illusion of a Conservative Reagan Revolution that the transformation that was supposed to have overtaken America during the 1980s was rather more limited than either liberals or conservatives have been willing to admit. There is little evidence of a lasting ideological shift among the population, and government grew rather than shrank, with the federal budget doubling over the course of the decade.

The failure of conservatives to make significant inroads into the federal apparatus was symbolized by the Contract with America, the series of proposals Republicans promised to support on the eve of their off-year landslide in 1994. What was portrayed as a bold array of policy initiatives was in fact a timid and insignificant list of changes that would have left the federal apparatus for all intents and purposes unchanged. The Brookings Institution correctly observed: “Viewed historically, the Contract represents the final consolidation of the bedrock domestic policies and programs of the New Deal, the Great Society, the post-Second World War defense establishment, and, most importantly, the deeply rooted national political culture that has grown up around them.”

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  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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