Will Wilkinson: G.O.P. Should Embrace the Welfare State

Republicans looking to repeal and replace Obamacare are in a dilemma of their own making this week. They have branded themselves as small government defenders, promising reductions in taxes and subsidies, despite knowledge that most of their constituents oppose cuts to their favored welfare programs. This may seem like an intractable problem to the typical conservative, but Will Wilkinson – Vice President for Policy at the Niskanen Center – offers a lifeline to a struggling G.O.P. in a recent NY Times article [For Trump and G.O.P., the Welfare State Shouldn’t Be the Enemy]. He notes a paradox the core of limited government philosophy – as an empirical matter, liberty seems to be maximized when the total size of government, measured in spending, is larger. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom confirms that hybrid high-tax, low-regulation policies are working for some of the freest countries on earth. Behind this argument is a new wave of libertarian thought – the intellectual offspring of F.A. Hayek – that incorporates advances in institutional and experimental economics to overcome progressive objections to markets and private property. Wilkinson and the Niskanen Center are pushing a new frontier that could give Republicans space to actually govern. Why the NY Times is offering Republicans such sage advice is a question that will likely remain unanswered, but Wilkinson will take your calls and try to persuade you that his proposed “liberal”-tarian mutation is evolution in the right direction.