Daniel J. Mitchell
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I sometimes get irked when I read columns by David Brooks. He’s sort of the token Republican at the New York Times, so he has a very important perch that could be used to educate an important audience about the harmful impact of excessive government.

And Brooks often does a good job of highlighting important and worrisome social trends, but what rubs me the wrong way is that he frequently thinks the right answer is to give government even more power.

He wrote a column back in 2011, for instance, that nailed the problem of growing dependency and declining workforce participation. But then he proposed more government intervention.

And he correctly worried about the social costs of family instability in 2012, but then bizarrely decided that the right response was subsidies to make men more marriageable.

So it won’t come as much of a surprise that I’m perplexed by his reasoning in a new column on executive branch power. He starts with an observation that is true.

We’re in a period of reform stagnation. It’s possible that years will go by without the passage of a major piece of legislation.

But he thinks this is unfortunate, while I view government inaction as a positive development. Simply stated, most new laws lead to bigger government and less freedom.

I don’t want activist government – like we had during Obama’s first two years – if it means faux stimulus and government-run healthcare.

Anyhow, Brooks is unhappy and he thinks the problem is too many interest groups.

…there is the profusion of interest groups. In 1971, there were 175 registered lobbying firms. By 2009, there were 13,700 lobbyists spending more than $3.5 billion annually, and this doesn’t even count the much larger cloud of activist groups and ideological enforcers.

He’s right that there has been an explosion in the number of lobbyists and interest groups, but his analysis is backwards.

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Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
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