My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, James Capretta, has added his important voice to the ongoing debate about the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. As Jim puts it in this post over at e21:
What we are actually witnessing is the end of an economic era. The democratic capitalist countries of the West have all built welfare states of varying sizes and shapes. Europe’s is certainly much larger and more expensive than what has been built in the United States, but all are under severe strain. There is no escaping demographic reality. The aging of populations in the world’s most advanced economies will make it impossible to sustain government programs and protections at the level that exist today.
What’s needed now is an effort to harness the new national energy for reform and retrenchment to solve the nation’s entitlement problem. That will require a frank discussion with the American people about how to apply the enduring principle of limited government to the modern circumstances of a market-driven economy operating within a competitive global environment. That is the most pressing challenge in these early years of the 21st century.
The party that voters consider up to this task will win their votes. Once it does, though, it will need to perform. Promises are fine; but they are not nearly enough, as President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are discovering to their chagrin. If Republicans retake control of one or both branches of Congress — which certainly seems likely as this point — they will face the challenge of translating their pledges into reality.
It won’t be as easy once you’re in power as it is appears when you’re out of power.