Dan Drezner started an open comments thread angling for feedback on a recent David Brooks article in the NYT Magazine. I contributed my two cents, and am cross-posting it here for convenience, in case someone doesn't feel like all that scrolling -- or the site screws up.
Re: Brooks' bit about reaction to the gov't shutdown & actual attacks on social programs:
Unfortunately for our politics, the american public is, and for the most part has been for quite some time, grossly prone to contradiction & acceptance of blatantly crap information. Limited-government advocates are a peculiar sort in the way that anyone who pays attention enough to have a solid opinion is strange.
Most of the ones that determine who fills the seats in our government fit into categories like this:
-pro-welfare-staters for raw self-interest reasons. They passively support "Big Benevolent Government for me and not for thee" and don't even care about the conflict, see it as irrelevant.
-"they're honest...right?". Remember the old sayings about how if people knew how hotdogs were made no one would want to eat them? This group is the political equivalent of the people referred to by that. They favor extensive social engineering only because they haven't been shown the price tag & how it's carried out. Asking them to question the welfare state is like trying to tell a 6 year old there's no Santa Claus.
-Emotionalists. These people don't specifically support an interventionist gov't moreso than they hold strongly the view that the alternative is "mean" and thus unfathomable somehow. They don't listen to arguements about the expense of Big Government because to them any price is worth it, and attempting to argue otherwise is morally equivalent to kicking puppies or cheering when children starve -- Scrooge mixed with Hitler, in their view.
As for "progressive conservatism"...that phrase had me rolling my eyes every bit as hard as "compassionate conservatism" did when Bush rolled it out. Bottom line, if you believe that the federal government has as a legitimate roll the constant "tweaking" of society to address ills that the human race has been dealing with for its entire existence (IMO) you are in no way a "conservative" and should stop calling yourself one. Conservatism has as Rule Number One that grand schemes to "save" humanity are doomed to failure because man is too deeply flawed to entrust anyone among men with the power to attempt it, you cannot simultaneously believe this and advocate the expansion of Federal Program X, no matter how much it's painted as "reform".