The choice between big government programs and limited government is sometimes a false one

When Jonathan Chait mentioned that Paul Ryan “will not touch Social Security,” it reminded me of a mean trick that often happens in political rhetoric:  namely, when the left criticizes the right as being inconsistent for denouncing big government while at the same time supporting certain big government programs, like Social Security or Medicare.  These particular programs are a paradox for conservatives:  they are big government programs, to be sure, but they’re also well-entrenched institutions in which Americans, by this  time, have substantial investment-backed expectations.  Government tends to be a one-way ratchet, getting only bigger, never smaller.  Even at its most austere, and even as to its most frivolous and trivial programs, government finds a way to resist shrinking.  It’s unfair to insist that conservatives be willing to forfeit what they’ve paid into certain big government programs just to maintain principled opposition to liberal big government programs more generally.

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at

One Comment

  1. As I recall, Congressman Ryan’s original “roadmap to solvency” last year very gradually phased in reforms — both a slow ratcheting up of eligibility for benefits and a slow ratcheting down of payouts, and never got rid of the program at all. I think that is the right kind of approach for it; while I might favor a somewhat more aggressive pace of reform than Ryan’s, a slow one is probably more salable than the faster one I would suggest.

    And I haven’t had time to see his for-the-party budget proposal at all yet; he leaves Social Security completely alone? If so, it’s surely because he doesn’t want to get thrown out of office.

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