The goal of the preceding posts on politics has been to start thinking through what it would look if a progressive today tried to write the kind of book that Milton Friedman wrote in Capitalism and Freedom: a general vision of government capable of displacing the discredited Reagan era vision of “small government” as good government, alongside a number of specific policies that illustrate how the vision could be made concrete.
An earlier post arrived at a first sketch of one possible vision: moving beyond the false opposition between government and markets, as well as the largely irrelevant and outdated opposition between big and small government, and instead framing economic policy decisions as a democratic choice between different forms of government action. Faced with an economic problem, we could ask ourselves not whether government should intervene—after all, government is already inextricably involved in all aspects of the economy—but rather what kind of government action would best serve our democratically chosen goals.
At this point, one option would be to say that a progressive response to Capitalism and Freedom need go no further. We could say: the progressive goal should simply be to make our democracy work, encourage the public to choose deliberately between the use of direct government action and indirect government action through markets, and let the chips fall where they may. In other words, focus on the democratic procedures and let the economic substance take care of itself.
But we can also go further. Like Friedman, we can assume that freedom will be one of our democracy’s primary political goals, and we can turn to specific illustrations of policies that would best fulfill the goals of freedom within the context of a post-Reagan era progressive vision of government.
In a few of the subsequent politics posts, I’ll start attempting to connect specific economic policies to the overarching vision of good government as not necessarily “big” or “small” but democratic and focused on freedom.