The fundamentally prescriptive, technocratic approach to American society inherent in the logic of the Left’s policy thinking is a poor fit for American life at any scale. The liberal welfare state ultimately cannot be had at an affordable price. It is not the architecture of one or another particular program that makes it unsustainable. It is unsustainable because the system as a whole must feed off of the innovative, decentralized vitality of American life, yet it undermines both the moral and the economic foundations of that vitality. (For him and other reformers, the key is to in effect clear out the underbrush, rebalance the relationship between the federal and state governments, help nurture essential elements in civil society and then clean up what is left — e.g. entitlement reform.) . . .In practice, the conservative approach to public policy therefore points toward putting in place programs that enable a kind of bottom-up, incremental, continuous learning process, rather than imposing wholesale solutions from above. Generally speaking, this is an approach to problem-solving that involves three steps: experimentation (allowing service providers to try different ways of solving a problem), evaluation (enabling recipients or consumers of those services to decide which approaches work for them and which do not), and evolution (keeping those that work and dumping those that fail).
July 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM EDT