In Maclean’s, Stephen Gordon says that Republicans should carefully observe the way Stephen Harper has gone about his goal of reducing the size of the government:
The “starve the beast” strategy works like this:
- Cut taxes.
- Wait until the resulting budgetary deficit becomes a problem important enough to solve.
- Cut spending in order to deal with the budget crisis.
- Go to 1.
The goal of this exercise is to steadily reduce the size of government. The idea has its origins in the US conservative movement, but US conservatives haven’t had much success in implementing it. Steps 1 and 2 work as advertised, but politicians can never get the hang of the third part.
[. . .]
Meanwhile, Stephen Harper is quietly implementing a Canadian “starve the beast” strategy, and not without success. Unlike the Republicans, the Conservatives have actually reached stage 3. Step 1 was the reduction to the GST, which created a structural deficit. After a certain period of denial, step 3 was reached in the austerity measures announced in the 2012 budget.
Federal revenues have been held below 15 per cent of GDP for four years in a row, well below the levels we’ve seen in the last fifty years. And the outlook is for more of the same.
Republicans are entering a rebuilding phase. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them start paying close attention to how the Canadian Conservatives have managed to pull off the “starve the beast” trick that always seems to elude U.S. conservatives.