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This is a well-written statement of the position that Americans are inconsistent because they’re unwilling to embrace the sacrifices required for genuine self-government. It’s also, perhaps, an excuse for not choosing between the Democrats or Republicans, given that neither is perfect. It leaves open the question what sort of government Dr. PD would actually want.

Everyone has noticed, of course, the silly Tea Party commercials where Obama is criticized for wanting to cut Medicare to fund Big Government. But it might be more fair today to say that the main political impulse today is for limited, sustainable government. That would include mending, but not ending, Social Security and Medicare and, if Bill Voegeli gets listened to, targeting programs (through means testing mainly) at alleviating the economic condition of the poor (to some extent), as opposed to thinking of them as universal entitlements. That also means having a sustainable health care system with a role, of course, for government—privatization with means-based subsidies and appropriate regulation so that coverage is readily available for everyone.

I’m only somewhat sympathetic to the “Americans are unwilling to sacrifice” shot. People haven’t become, as Tocqueville sort of feared (and Paul Rahe seems to think), apathetic dependents of a schoolmarmish soft despotism. Lives aren’t so easy these days, and people are pretty anxious both economically and morally. They see that the safety nets that used to surround their lives are collapsing. And Obama is tanking mainly because he’s failed to convince them that government’s humanitarian interventions can do much to help them these days.

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