The Irving Kristol Legacy

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When a major figure from the other ideological camp dies, I think the common thing to do is to praise the dead guy and disparage his modern-day co-ideologues by comparison. But as Brad DeLong points out, Irving Kristol’s own account of his role in popularizing nutjob anti-tax politics is sufficiently damning that I don’t think that strategy will really fly:

Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists…. This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority – so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government


The presence of a major ideological movement in the United States of America dedicated to the dual propositions that taxes must never go up, and that government expenditures don’t need to relate to government revenue in any real way as long as the Republican Party is in charge simply makes it almost impossible for the country to be governed in a responsible manner. If we had a different political system, it’s possible that such an ideological movement would marginalize itself, lose elections, and the other guys would run the show responsibly. Maybe. You could at least imagine it happening. But in our system even a defeated minority gets a ton of influence over policy and becoming completely dogmatic and irrational actually enhances that level of influence.