Republicans such as Rick Perry make the case that government needs to be drastically scaled back if we are to reverse our "national decline," writes David Brooks in the New York Times. They have a point—but only to a certain degree, he adds. "As great as the need is to streamline, reform, and prune the state, that will not be enough to restore America’s vigorous virtues," writes Brooks. "This is where current Republican orthodoxy is necessary but insufficient. There are certain tasks ahead that cannot be addressed simply by getting government out of the way."
Education is one example. One reason America rose to greatness was its school system, which is in dire need of reform. "If government is 'inconsequential' in this sphere, then continued American decline is inevitable." Many of our systemic national problems (stagnant wages, rising inequality) are the result not of government policy but of larger forces such as globalization. Still, they can't be solved without government leadership. "In short, the current Republican policy of negativism—cut, cut, cut—is not enough," writes Brooks. "To restore the vigorous virtues, the nanny state will have to be cut back, but the instigator state will have to be built up. That’s the only way to ward off national decline."