Where’s he been?

I like Fareed Zakaria’s writing and thinking, but his column in Thursday’s Time magazine shows that he’s been awfully slow to recognize what’s been happening in the past 20 years in the Republican party. He writes:

. . .right now any discussion of government involvement in the economy — even to build vital infrastructure — is impossible because it is a cardinal tenet of the new conservatism that such involvement is always and forever bad.

I don’t know what he uses as a starting point for the “new conservatism,” but if he thinks it’s happened within the past two years he’s wrong. I suggest that it began during the Clinton Administration, when the Republican party forced deregulation of financial markets on a somewhat-willing President and his advisers, when the party began to espouse school vouchers and privatization of public education, and when it began to hamstring agencies like the FDA and the EPA.

He concludes:

We need conservative ideas to modernize the U.S. economy and reform American government. But what we have instead are policies that don’t reform but just cut and starve government — a strategy that pays little attention to history or best practices from around the world and is based instead on a theory. It turns out that conservatives are the woolly-headed professors after all.

I dispute his assessment that we need conservative ideas. They have mostly been proven to be detrimental to the common good.

Update: Barry Ritholtz has additional thoughts about this column. He’s less charitable toward Zakaria than am I.