The Magazine

Look to Lincoln

Not to FDR, when designing legislative agendas.

Apr 6, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 28 • By WILLIAM J. STUNTZ
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Saving the nation's banks may be an unavoidably complex enterprise that necessarily depends on the judgment of those who craft the relevant strategy. Not so the rest of Obama's agenda. On health care, John McCain's campaign proposal offers a good model: Create a working national market for health insurance that is not tied to employers. Then, let the medical and insurance markets work, as they will. With respect to education, Congress could give troubled school systems money for more charter schools--the best education idea of the last generation--then step back and watch test scores rise. As for greener energy, a wise Congress would take two steps. First, fund the construction of nuclear power plants, which would create jobs and provide greener energy than oil and coal. Second, fund energy research. According to Bjorn Lomborg, that is the only cost-effective move on climate change. America has the best scientists in the world. Given the needed funds, there are few problems they cannot solve.

Unfortunately, the president and congressional Democrats are placing a different bet. They seem to believe that America has the best politicians in the world--that, given enough tax dollars, there is no problem they cannot solve. We will see who wins that bet. America's taxpayers may turn out to be the losers.

William J. Stuntz is the Henry J. Friendly professor at Harvard Law School.