Readers who aren’t steeped in (or employed by) the conservative think tank world may not have picked up something very interesting about President Trump’s State of the Union address: He mentioned a number of policies that have been catching on among conservative policy intellectuals who are, in some ways, reformulating the old-school, hard-line, bootstrap principle as well as the more-recent libertarianism that pressured social conservatives to keep their mouths shut in the name of broader appeal.
Many of us have been making the case that knocking out government supports in an era of eroded social foundations isn’t politically feasible or humane and that a full political philosophy requires some sort of plan for disadvantaged people. In the Washington Examiner, Jared Meyer highlights one example:
In his 2018 State of the Union address, President Trump said that “we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”
This sentiment directly follows what Trump promised during his inaugural address, that “we will get our people off of welfare and back to work.” People coming out of incarceration face two distinct paths—they can either find a job, or they will fall into government dependency. Beyond being the main predictor of whether someone is living in poverty, not having a job is the clearest indicator of how likely someone is to re-offend.
This particular issue is certainly in line with libertarian views on shrinking government, but it illustrates the changed perspective. The first spotlight doesn’t go on the principle of freedom, but on the obstacles that actual people are facing.
Very often, helping people is a matter of reining in the excesses of government, and sometimes that requires rethinking old biases, like that which was “tough on crime.” It makes for an interesting balancing act, and that goes to show that the really interesting policy discussions are all on the right, as is the future of the country unless progressives derail our actual progress.