At last, a conservative treatise that isn't too bilious to taste--and that is often entertaining even as it is provocative. It's a pleasure to find so even and logical a voice in these pages, which deserve broad airing. -- Kirkus Reviews
From the Author
A few years ago, I was giving a lecture in which I mentioned, as an aside, that libertarians and free-market conservatives often utter the words "the market will take care of it" or "voluntary charity will take care of it" as though those sentences were real answers to meaningful questions. And when they do try to address social concerns in a more substantive fashion, they too often fall into the trap of drawing up blueprints for utopias.
We live in remarkable times, an age of extraordinary wealth, freedom, and creativity. But a few critical areas of life--education, health care, and retirement prominent among them--are dominated by antiquated political systems that cannot respond adequately to the complexity of 21st century life. The problem is not so much left-wing politics or right-wing politics, "good" politics or "bad" politics, but the centrality of politics per se, the inevitable defects associated with centralized, hierarchical decision-making institutions that cannot evolve in response to fast-moving, complex knowledge.
Economists spend a great deal of time talking about efficiency, productivity, GDP, marginal output and the like, but I am more interested in the question T. S. Eliot put to us: "When the Stranger says: 'What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle close together because you love each other?' What will you answer? 'We all dwell together to make money from each other'? or 'This is a community'?" I live a few blocks from Wall Street--what, indeed, is the meaning of this city? If we do not have a good answer to that question, then all of the efficiency and productivity in the world are not going to do us a great deal of good.
My book has a two-part argument; I call it "short-term pessimism, long-term optimism." It is not always obvious, but government as we know it is in retreat, a retreat that I expect to be accelerated by economic trends related to public debt and unfunded government liabilities. But once the disorder is behind us, we will discover new and better ways to serve one another. You would not know it to listen to many of the self-appointed defenders of capitalism, but that is what the economy is there for.