ON SIMPLICITY. Scott Winship at the new Daily Strategist blog purports to disagree with me and Jon Chait as to whether it's possible to quickly summarize liberal thinking on economic policy. The trouble is that his summary is, well, not all that quick:
How about this for a �single overarching theory�: equal opportunity and security. We don�t value progressive taxation except to the extent that it helps us create more opportunity for the disadvantaged. Reducing the deficit is important to the extent that it increases economic growth (promoting opportunity in this generation) or reduces the share of future budgets that go toward interest payments on the debt (promoting opportunity in future generations). Health coverage � including Medicare and Medicaid � reduces insecurity. Education and technology investment promote opportunity. Environmental protection is vital for the opportunity and security of future Americans.
I think that's fine. But when you think about it, it just isn't nearly as quick a summary as "the government should spend less." Nor -- to recapitulate the point about asymmetry -- is it the reverse of conservative theory in a straightforward sense. Rather, it's different. And a little bit complicated. Libertarians would say public policy should maximize negative liberty -- to hell with security. But it's simply not the case that liberals think public policy should maximize security and say to hell with negative liberty. We do think that generous public sector health care is good in part because it promotes security, but we don't think security -- or even security and opportunity -- should be promoted at all costs. This isn't a complaint about liberalism; I think it's a strength to be somewhat tentative about exactly how much additional security we think public policy needs to provide.