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Conservatism in One State

Conservatism in One State

The Kansas Experiment and the Logic of Reform

Chapter:
(p.120) Chapter Five Conservatism in One State
Source:
Conservative Innovators
Author(s):
Ben Merriman
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226620459.003.0005

This chapter argues that the concerted state challenge to federal power described in the preceding chapters does not represent a crude opposition to government. It arises from a positive, reformist conservative vision for government. The chapter presents a study of Kansas government during the tenure of Governor Sam Brownback and his allies, who used Kansas as a testbed for a self-proclaimed “experiment” in small government. The core provisions of that experiment, all of them initiated by executive officeholders, included an enormous, novel approach to income tax cuts, a new model for school funding, extensive reorganization of state administration, quasi-privatization of Medicaid (the KanCare program), and the creation of the Office of the Repealer, a novel agency charged to identify wasteful or obsolete laws and regulations. These policies have been unpopular and unsuccessful. However, the initial rationale and staunch defense of the policies reveal a great deal about the ethos of the conservatives studied in this book. They are proud, principled reformers who view market-like forces as a means to make government more honest. The Progressives represent the closest historical analogue to these conservatives’ views about policy, democracy, and the uses of state executive power.

Keywords:   Kansas, Sam Brownback, conservatism, Progressivism, taxes, Medicaid, KanCare, state government

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