Defund, Dismantle, Decentralize, 4/25
my fantasy economic plan
I don’t have a fully fleshed-out theory for why the GOP doesn’t have an economic vision yet, but there is one factor I see as contributing. Educational polarization itself has left the GOP without much of a class of college-educated people from which to draw public intellectuals to craft new ideas.
. . .In the 2020s, the job of coming up with new GOP policy ideas falls mostly to a lonely bunch of think-tankers like Oren Cass
Another hypothesis starts with Caplan’s aphorism that the left hates markets and the right hates the left. This means that to register as a “plan” with someone on the left, it has to consist of proposals to interfere with markets. The ideas of Oren Cass will do.
But much of the right does not care about what you do, as long as the left is annoyed. An actual plan is not needed. The left is annoyed with any living Republican who wins an election, so if you can win an election no one cares about your plan. The ideas of Oren Cass will do.
If this theory is correct, the base gives Republicans enormous discretion regarding what they do in office. They could listen to Oren Cass. They could even listen to me. Well, not really.
But if someone were to ask me, my plan would be summarized by the title of this essay: defund, dismantle, and decentralize. The idea is to increase the size of the market economy and reduce the influence of market-hostile actors like universities, non-profits, and corporate HR.
The objective of “defund and dismantle” is to eliminate laws and Federal government programs that subsidize progressive causes and make left-wing activism a lucrative career. Rewrite Civil Rights laws to clearly confine their use to fighting overt discrimination. Get rid of the scope creep that has taken place since 1964 (“affirmative action,” “disparate impact,” and so on). Eliminate programs that give grants to “community organizers” and other activists. Reduce Federal money going to leading universities. Provide tuition support only to needy students attending institutions without enormous endowments.
For tax-deduction purposes, I would limit the definition of charity so that it only includes organizations that use resources to directly help needy people. If you want to provide poor people with cash, mental health services, food, health care, child care up to age eight, or housing, fine. But no charitable deduction for donations to political action groups, think tanks, colleges, or cultural institutions.
One objective of “decentralize” is to get the Federal government out of realms where it does not belong. Abolish the Department of Education, for starters.
To promote work in the private sector, we should encourage businesses that create jobs for people who are low in cognitive skills and/or conscientiousness. A payroll-tax exemption for low-wage jobs would be one approach.
Another objective of “decentralize” is to empower people to start small businesses in sectors where they are needed. For example, I think that child care/early education for children between age one and age eight ought to be a home-based business, not a government-run behemoth. We should make it easy for parents to choose small-scale services for their young children by providing them with vouchers instead of government schools. Federal vouchers could be provided on a matching basis for vouchers provided by state and local governments.
We should make it easy for someone to provide child care services in their home for four 2-year-olds or to provide education-with-child-care for eight 7-year-olds. Quality control should be the job of parents, not bureaucrats. Put a camera in the room and do random spot-checks.
I favor making it easy for people to start a business, but I don't think 'decentralize' is a good term for this: many of the government regulations that currently make this hard are at the local or state level.
I think Caplan's aphorism is a bit reductive, at least in this case. The issue, I think, is that the donor class has different priorities than the base, and both groups have their own internal fault lines, on top of that, which prevents anything close to a consensus from forming. The donor class is friendlier to markets overall, but is compromised by the fact that all of them have an incentive to defect and support regulations that benefit them personally, as in the prisoner's dilemma. The base is more animated by "God, Guns, and Gays" type issues in the first place, and even if it weren't, the last 40 years or so have not been kind to the economies of small towns and rural areas, where these folks are concentrated, so I think when a lot of them hear the term "free markets," what it sounds like to them is "more jobs offshored to Southeast Asia."