In what now seems a distant epoch of pre-history, President Bill Clinton came before a joint session of Congress in 1996 to deliver the State of the Union Address and announced that “the era of big government is over.” Even in 1996, no one thought that the era of big government was actually over, least of all Bill Clinton. But it must have seemed like the right thing to say at the time, in order to show that one was in tune with the popular mood—in fact, leading it rather than following it—by putting into a pithy sentence what people were beginning to think, or thought they were thinking, before they had quite thought it. This happened, you may remember, just after the newly elected Republican Congress, the first in forty years, was forced to knuckle under to Mr. Clinton after shutting down the government in a vain attempt to limit big government–style spending. Thus the President, as it...


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