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The wrong agenda

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Many conservatives, ardent Reaganites including leaders of the Moral Majority , seem willing to promote more government if it serves their purposes, despite the theme of the Reagan campaign to "get government off our backs" -- reduce taxes, reduce regulation, leave more room for individuals to achieve their own goals.

Pressure is developing, particularly from fundamentalist Christian groups, to push the new administration into a series of actions aimed at reforming society in ways which would put government on the backs of more people, not less.

It won't work. It will divide the Reagan administration, tangle it in enfeebling controversy among its own natural supporters, and distract it from accomplishing the priority objective for which it was elected -- to rebuild a healthy economy, cut inflation, and increase productivity.

President Reagan can't afford to move in two directions at the same time. There has been too much of that in the past. One can't slim down government to achieve economic ends and fatten government to achieve social ends, many of which may be better brought about by private initiative.

There is plenty to give us concern and anxiety about the state of American society today: the use of drugs, the divorce rate, the number of unmarried couples living together, the pornography gone amok -- plus narrow-interest disdain for majority rule which undermines the very process of democratic government. These are legitimate social concerns which nearly everyone feels and which many conservatives want the new administration to correct through all kinds of laws.

I offer this counsel of Abraham Lincoln: "In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, governement ought not to interfere."

I do not minimize the rightness and the importance of rebuilding the moral fabric of American society, preeminently the family and our more humane regard for each other, but I would like to emphasize that the government is not the only instrument for social reform. There is a great opportunity and need for individual and voluntary collective leadership.


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