[I]t is sad to report how lacklustre the debate about government is in America.
The obvious decline is on the right. This newspaper is hardly delighted that government spending has grown from 34% of GDP in 1980, when Friedman published “Free to Choose”, to over 40% today; but American conservatism has grown so angry that it has become a parody of its former self. Tax cuts are always right (even if they inflate the deficit); government activism is always wrong (even if stimulus helped avert a depression). And the right’s hypocrisy when it comes to spending on conservative projects (prisons, the armed forces, subsidies to big business) is breathtaking. George W. Bush presided over a huge growth in government.
If the Republican Party has moved to the unthinking right, the Democratic Party has moved to the unreforming left. Mr Obama has shown little of Mr Clinton’s enthusiasm for modernising government: indeed, he is unpicking welfare reform, by loosening work requirements. He has presided over a huge expansion of legislation, much of it badly drafted, such as the 850-page Dodd-Frank bill (see article). Worryingly in hock to the public-sector unions, Mr Obama seems to think the public sector is inherently more moral than the private one. Companies are at best cows to be milked, at worst prey to be hunted.
The fine (nameless) folk at the Economist drop the mic as they strut off the stage.