While Keynesians sputtered over Stagflation, the Chicago School had better answers. Democratic thinker Elaine Kamarck argued that welfare reform succeeded in key areas. And one of the smartest education policymakers today is Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN).

So give credit where credit’s due–conservatism isn’t inherently dumb. This makes the roots of Republican dimness even more depressing to contemplate. Many viruses swim in their intellectual bloodstream. By far the deadliest, however, is free-market fundamentalism.

Like its religious counterpart, market fundamentalism demands unconditional loyalty and vigilant policing. No matter the problem, market solutions are axiomatically correct. Government intrusion is seen as inherently corrupting. Representative Tim Moffit, for instance, once expressed concern that Commerce’s “job link” would compete with private sites, something fearsome because public involvement itself is immoral, impure and debased.

That disgust requires market idolators to eschew reason for the sake of the faith. Truth be said, this can sometimes be amusing. But like all crusades, the free-market revival imposes rigidity and makes nimble thinking impossible. In a dynamic world, this is toxic.

So free-market fundamentalism handicaps our response to challenges. For all its faults, government must play a role in solving our problems. It rectifies market failures and sometimes even contributes positively to growth. Slashing it so wantonly is like burning books or exiling heretics, destruction wrought by a crazed zealot.



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