Conservatives versus Libertarians on Fiscal Imbalance

by Jeffrey Miron on February 20th, 2010
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Conservative commentary these days is fixated on U.S. fiscal imbalance and holds that we should address the imbalance with spending cuts, not tax increases.

Missing from most such commentary, however, is specifics about what expenditure to cut (see, e.g., Daniel Henninger’s recent WSJ piece).

Conservatives recognize that addressing the debt in a serious way means cutting national defense, Social Security, and Medicare.  But conservatives support high spending on national defense, and they are unwilling, for reasons of political expendiency, to propose reductions in entitlements.

Libertarians also believe we must slash expenditure, but they are happy to name specific cuts.  Libertarians advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, which would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and they endorse major cuts or elimination of Social Security and  Medicare.

The public thus perceives the conservative position as disingenuous, the libertarian position as unelectable.  Take your pick.

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