OxBlog

Friday, March 10, 2006

# Posted 6:08 PM by Patrick Porter  

SOCIALIST CONSERVATIVES: Andrew Sullivan memorably asked whether President Bush spends like a socialist. Does the same thing apply to Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who once described himself as Australia's most conservative Prime Minister? The Australian argues

The truth is the Howard Government is a high-taxing, big-spending, vote-buying Government. Its cradle-to-grave welfare is too much...

Does this signal a broader pattern across western conservatism? Quite aside from the attractions of buying votes, I wonder if there's a political reason why the Bush and Howard governments like to tax and spend so much. Does the rhetorical commitment to low tax clash with a desire to socially engineer society to adopt their values, with fiscal policy as their weapon?


(8) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
I think it is that Little Johnie Howard as well as other conservatives have realized that good rhetoric for compaigning is "low taxes". What is unexcusable to the voters is "s/he cut hand-out programs".

So in order to get re-elected (and not bankrupt the country) conservativsm has had to adopt liberals' taxing and spending policies.
 
Patrick,
Hopefully you, but I doubt edhula, realize this is an editorial. Pretty much of the same validity of today's NYT!
While I remain firmly convinced you're an operative of the Donk Party, I'd hoped you'd find some rationallity exceeding that of Howard, not the Duck nor the PM, Dean.
Thank you for once again proving the theory of low expectations.
Mike
 
Mike, Of late I'm pretty well convinced that all articles in the NYTs are editorial in nature (well, I can't actually say "of late" as it's been quite some time since I felt a need to read the NYTs at all) so would not be surprised to hear that the Aussies have the same problem in their media.
 
The desire to engage in a bit of social engineering, as with Bush's marriage programs and the like, is probably part of it. But isn't another part -- probably an even bigger part -- just that their governments need to get elected, and one good way of getting elected is buying off constituencies? Like with the new Medicare spending under Bush.

The standard public choice arguments still would seem to apply to an administration full of people (or rather, supported by people and a party) who would like to shrink the government. It doesn't seem unrealistic to suppose that out among the general public, people who support lower taxes and less public spending nevertheless think the subsidies they receive are just dandy, and would fight to keep them. The dedicated constituency for lower-spending is probably large, diffuse, and poorly organised, etc.
 
I think its simply the natural progression of democratic politics in a post-Soviet world. Specifically, it is a corruption of Third Way'ism. Instead of accepting that governments have valid and real roles to play in the delivery of services and (wince) welfare to society, center-right or not-so-center-right governments have merely spent their way out of the bargain. It's a shame.
 
Dear Mike,

I was inviting people to respond to the opinion of the editorial, and speculate on its wider significance.
Besides, which part of the Australian editorial is inaccurate?

Next time, don't bother commenting if all you have to offer is weakly patronising, incomprehensible sneers.

Patrick
 
Australia's government spending has declined from 38% of GDP in 1996 (when Howard was first elected) to 35.7% now (link:http://www.treasurer.gov.au/tsr/content/speeches/2006/005.asp).
35.7% is slightly less than government spending in US. (Australian taxes are higher than US, though, because they are not running budget deficits.)
So, I don't quite see what is the factual basis for classifying Howard as a "Socialist Conservative".

I also don't understand this previous comment:
Instead of accepting that governments have valid and real roles to play in the delivery of services and (wince) welfare to society, center-right or not-so-center-right governments have merely spent their way out of the bargain.

The first part ("valid and real roles") implies that governments are not spending enough, the second part blames them for spending too much. They can be blamed for one or another, but not both.
 
hey anonymous,
I guess the Australian (that is, the newspaper) folk would argue that the Howard Government has increased taxes considerably, using the increased revenue to pump money into all sorts of interests and projects rather than lowering tax/limiting government.
 
Post a Comment


Home