Last month Patrick Deneen offered some prescient thoughts about the spending debates now kicking into high gear with the release of Obama’s budget. He begins by countering David Brooks’s insistence that excessive focus on spending keeps us from thinking more deeply about how government can best “influence how people live.” Deneen reminds us, by way of Toqueville, that
“better spending patterns by government can’t re-orient us to become a virtuous society. There is a deep and pervasive feedback cycle in a democracy, in which the demos makes demands upon the government and in turn the government seeks to influence the demos.”
Thus the question small government conservatives tend to overlook is “how does the character of the people influence the kind of government we have?” Even dramatic cuts in Federal spending can’t in itself restore a culture of self-governance.