Item description for Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution by Michael D. Tanner...
Despite an ostensibly conservative Republican president and republican control of Congress, government is bigger and more intrusive than ever. That is not by accident; it is the conscious aim of a new brand of conservatism that seeks, not to reduce the size of government, but to use big government for conservative ends. This book shows how the Bush administration, Congress, and large parts of the Republican Party and the conservative movement have abandoned traditional conservative ideals and embraced the idea of big government.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.5" Weight: 1.34 lbs.
Release Date Feb 16, 2007
Publisher Cato Institute
ISBN 1933995009 ISBN13 9781933995007
Availability 0 units.
More About Michael D. Tanner
Michael D. Tanner is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, co-editor of Replacing Obamacare: The Cato Institute on Health Care Reform and Healthy Competition: What s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It, and author of The Poverty of Welfare: Helping Others in Civil Society."
Michael D. Tanner currently resides in the state of Maryland.
Reviews - What do customers think about Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution?
Useful summary of Bush's fiscal excesses Aug 20, 2008
When Bill Clinton left office, the federal budget was in surplus. As George W. Bush gets ready to leave office, we once again have a huge deficit. How did this happen under a Republican administration?
This book answers that question. It first examines the roots of the different varieties of conservatives these days who, for various reasons, favor Big Government. It then gives the gory details on how much was spent under George W. Bush. Finally, it makes the argument for small government.
The perspective is libertarian. The book is well-researched and reasonably well written. While not what I would call a snappy book or a particularly entertaining read, it moves along at a reasonable pace and covers the ground. It is a useful summary of what went wrong and why with the Republican Revolution.
The roots of big-government conservatism Aug 19, 2008
Mike Tanner's book provides a valuable service for those believers in limited government who have been left wondering what happened to their values during a period of Republican control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.
Tanner explores and explains the roots of "big-government conservatism," influential thinkers within the Republican tent that were never really believers in limited government to begin with. Instead, these groups, which included religious conservatives, so-called "neoconservatives," "national greatness conservatives," and followers of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others, did not seek to arrest the growth of government so much as to direct it towards ends of which they approved. "Conservatism" thus came to mean many things unrelated to limiting the reach of government, encompassing the likes of Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer, who spoke of conservative social values, but who often opposed addressing the factors (such as the increasing cost of federal entitlement programs) that cause government to grow. The goal of many of these thinkers (Gingrich being a prime example) was not to restrict the size of government, but to bolt new programs whose design they favored, on top of the old ones.
Tanner convincingly details how the transition of Republicans from a congressional minority to a governing party sealed the fate of limited government, with Republicans freely spending taxpayers' money in the service of their own re-elections.
Tanner is critical of President Bush as a big-government conservative, sometimes less fairly than at other times. It is true that the Medicare prescription drug benefit was an enormous expansion of federal benefit commitments. But it needs to be remembered that then-governor Bush as well as Congressional Republicans, ran on the promise of such a benefit in 2000. One can argue the wisdom of the policy, but one cannot fairly, as Bruce Bartlett does, label the delivery of a transparent campaign promise as a surprise or a "betrayal." One can fairly argue whether any such benefit should ever have been passed; but one should also acknowledge that the cost of the package enacted was significantly smaller than the one endorsed by Congressional Democrats, and further, that the elements of market competition within the program have brought costs in significantly lower than originally projected, either by CBO or by the Administration itself. Pull the President out of this equation, and the price tag for this benefit would have been much higher.
Looking past the big-ticket items such as the prescription drug benefit and the war on terror, it's clear that the Administration actually worked to hold down spending relative to the desires of Congressional Republicans. A typical example of this was with the highway bill, where Republicans joined Democrats in wanting to spend far more than the Administration would accept. This trend has, regrettably, continued even now that the Congress has passed to Democratic control. Republicans joined Democrats in over-riding the President's veto of a disgracefully bloated farm bill, expanding payments to farmers at a time of record farm prices, with even a majority of so-called conservative House Republicans voting to override. These and other events since this book's publication substantiate that the biggest problems for believers in limited government exist on the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tanner's book would have benefited from more attention to the structural impediments to restraining the growth of government. Both federal spending programs and tax indexation methods are geared to cause government to grow as a % of the economy under current law. Thus, believers in expanded government need not enact any new policies to get their wishes, whereas those who seek to keep government near its current size must continually prevail in passing legislation. As was seen in the recent obstruction of muh-needed Social Security reform, this is a tall order. Unless and until the structure of federal entitlement programs is changed, believers in limited government will remain at an enormous procedural disadvantage even if they reclaim the majority.
Tanner deserves enormous credit for recognizing that it's government spending - not just tax policy - that true conservatives need to take on. In some respects, supply-side politics has ill-served the cause of limited government, by urging politicians to make the easy call (lower taxes) while ignoring the tougher ones (cutting spending growth.) Only when political conservatism attaches equal weight to cutting spending as to cutting taxes will the policies that lead to bigger government be fought effectively.
True conservatives may not agree with all of Tanner's views or recommendations; the Republican party is unlikely to adopt wholesale the policy prescriptions of libertarians. But, to the extent that conservatives and libertarians agree that the growing economic power of government is a threat to their values, they will find much useful information in Tanner's excellent book.
The Title Says It All Apr 18, 2007
Indeed it does. In case anyone has not noticed, the Republican controlled Congress and Executive have turned the federal government into a power-grabbing, free-spending machine. It is the complete opposite of Goldwater's conscience and Reagan's government-the problem. The book dryly lists the endless details that bear testament to this claim. After recovering from your nap while reading this, you will find yourself longing for someone to write an interesting book telling how in the heavens this came about. By what right does this corrupt generation of politicians call themselves conservatives? Can this dysfunctional government be fixed?
GOP goes astray Apr 17, 2007
Republicans have traditionally favored seeking state, local, or private sector solutions to problems, while Democrats tended to favor a larger role for the federal government. Despite considerable growth in federal programs over time, voters were at least offered a lower taxes/ less government alternative.
In recent years, elements of the Republican Party (neoconservatives, religious right, supply siders, etc.) have adopted a more expansive view of what the federal government should be doing. This goes a long way towards explaining why federal spending has grown faster (real annual growth of 4.9% per year) on George W. Bush's watch than under any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. Tanner decries the emergence of big-government (or compassionate) conservatism from several standpoints.
* However well meaning some of the new initiatives may be, such as a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and the "no child left behind" program, they are also wasteful if not counterproductive. Worse, the government's "entitlement" programs (principally Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) are unsustainable, and no efforts are being made to put these programs on a sounder footing. Some people may find Tanner's proposals for cutting back on the goodies unpalatable, but they are specific, well supported, and deserving of careful consideration.
*The Republican Party lost Congress in 2006 at least partly due to fiscal laxity, and it will not regain traction without returning to its small government principles. "If [the American people] come to believe that the choice is between liberal Democrats who will give them lots of things and big-government conservatives who will give them a little bit less," says Tanner, "they will choose the liberal Democrats."
*Although the banner of fiscal conservatism could be taken up by a third party, Tanner does not see this happening. Even "if the Libertarian Party - or another third party - were to develop a credible small-government platform, campaign finance laws and ballot access barriers make it virtually impossible for a third party to be competitive."
Which leaves us with these questions: Can the Republicans find themselves again? If not, who will speak against the endless and ultimately ruinous growth in government spending?
It opened my eyes Mar 20, 2007
Mr. Tanner's book makes so much sense. A lot has changed in our country and it is really refreshing to have writing of this clarity about what has been going on. He was able to identify trends within Republican Party policy that have resulted in some pretty strange legislation. I recommend this book. It helped me understand initiatives that have been put in place that came from the Right while espousing views traditionally held by the Left!