[Yuval] Levin’s lofty governing philosophy is at odds with the incongruent grab bag of policies that reformocons offer.
That pretty much summarizes my reaction to Room to Grow, which took me several blog posts to articulate.
In terms of Jonathan Rauch’s dichotomy, the reform conservatives are closer to professional politicians, who scorn ideological purity that leaves you unable to exercise power. Libertarians behave more like amateurs. It certainly is unrealistic to expect a candidate to appeal to the Republican base by taking a libertarian view of immigration, just as it would be unrealistic to expect a candidate to appeal to the Democratic base by taking a libertarian view of education policy, health care policy, etc.
However, even if I try to think like a “professional,” I have problems with what we have seen from the reform conservatives thus far.
On foreign policy, I would like to see reform conservatives commit to not getting bogged down in another nation-building exercise. Can they stay away from promises to Americanize the Middle East and instead acknowledge that many societies around the world are not ready to become open-access orders (in North-Wallis-Weingast terminology)?
On the issue of domestic security, I have long been influenced by David Brin, and consequently I support government surveillance but with vigorous, independent auditing. Read what I wrote eleven years ago.
On economic issues, I start out by doubting that any collection of econo-wonk policy proposals is going to define the reform conservative “brand.” I certainly cannot get excited by a grab bag of tax credits.
To bring me on board, reform conservatives will have to do more than just play small ball. They will have to come front and center on one or both of two issues. One is fundamental health policy reform that leads to a higher proportion of medical services paid for by the people who obtain those services, rather than by third parties. The other is changing the path of entitlement spending to one which is sustainable.