What’s happened to conservatism? asked Fareed Zakaria. It used to be a hard-headed philosophy rooted in a realistic assessment of human nature, but in recent years it’s morphed into a dogmatic insistence on a set of “abstract principles’’ for which there is no evidence. Conservatives now have one prescription for all problems: Cut taxes. Shrink government. But tax rates are now at their lowest level since 1950, and the U.S. has lower taxes than almost all the other big industrial nations. Germany and Denmark have much higher taxes—but their economies are booming. So are China’s and Singapore’s, despite their governments’ heavy involvement in directing economic growth.
Our own economy was healthiest in the 1950s and ’60s, when the U.S. government “made massive investments in science and technology,’’ in public universities, and in new industries. Conservatives ignore history, and the evidence from around the world, insisting even that the U.S. budget deficits can be eliminated simply by cutting taxes further. It’s nonsensical. But like the Marxists of old, today’s doctrinaire conservatives are so in love with theory that the real world is irrelevant.