Fox News host Steve Hilton, a former top adviser to former Prime Minister David Cameron, is tired of the liberal-conservative orthodoxies that block what he considers “pragmatic” solutions to the problems plaguing health care, the family, and education.
“I’m pretty impatient with the criticism from the right that my proposal is statist,” he told IJR when asked about the potential pitfalls of his regulatory scheme for health care.
His new book, “Positive Populism,” focuses on promoting an agenda that he claims would scale back government involvement while maintaining some regulation to encourage or, in some cases, force the market to provide for the working class.
have you ordered your copy yet???#PositivePopulism is full of big ideas to help working Americans, repair our social fabric and make government more accountable.
it's out September 4th but you can be one of the first to get it by pre-ordering at: https://t.co/2O2N5Hw2TO pic.twitter.com/c7mV7Fld6K
— steve hilton (@SteveHiltonx) July 30, 2018
Previous populist movements, he argued, focused too much energy on opposing things like globalism, bad trade deals, and uncontrolled immigration. While he recognizes the anger directed toward elites as legitimate, he prefers people channel that anger into creating solutions.
“Nothing’s going to change for the better unless we turn that anger into a positive agenda for change,” he said. Citing President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Hilton said he wanted to move away from ideology.
Hilton decried globalist influence in both parties and pointed to four main pillars for policy: pro-worker, pro-family, pro-community, and pro-America.
His solutions tended towards public-private cooperation and confined government to merely funding and lightly regulating — providing vouchers, for example, rather than centrally planning services like health care and education.
“I’d remove government from the delivery of programs. I think that’s very important,” he said when asked about potential government overreach through market intervention.
“The overreach [can happen] when you’ve got a monopoly provider which is the state, crowding out other providers. Again, I think that’s an area where there’s common ground with conservatives,” he said.
“I’m absolutely sure that some conservatives will look at the ideas in my book and they may well apply an ideological filter,” he told IJR earlier during an interview. The real benchmark for policies, he said, shouldn’t be ideological conformity but “how do we help working people achieve economic security.”
Hilton’s book proposes “Universal Free Market Health Care” — for many conservatives, an apparent contradiction of the sort that he employs to describe many of his other policies — by which the government would “guarantee” health care from the market and apply tariffs to companies that tried raising prices.
“I have yet to see a plausible alternative,” he said when IJR asked about the potentially distorting effects of pumping money into the healthcare market.
Hilton balked at “purist” approaches to health care and pointed to Republicans’ either reluctance or inability to reduce the size of entitlements like Medicaid and Medicare. “There’s no way that you can ignore the problems of the status quo,” he said.
Pulling from his experience teaching at Stanford University, Hilton proposed a do-something approach that involved “sacrificial prototype[s]” while leaving the fine details for discussion.
He said the current political system also allowed corporations to effectively receive subsidies through the welfare state, allowing employers to provide sub-par wages. He would instead mandate that corporations provide living wages — varied according to location — and make up the revenue loss through tax credits.
Doing so, he argued, would remove the “merry-go-round” of bureaucracy by which workers receive transfer payments. His argument was similar to libertarian scholar Charles Murray’s when Murray pushed for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) — providing money while removing the need for a cumbersome bureaucracy.
For Hilton, however, the UBI allowed people to sidestep the basic and vital dignity found through work. His solutions, contrary to some perceived pitfalls of libertarianism, sought to strengthen the culture by utilizing the government to help build stronger communities and families.
While that focus and intention, as in many of his other proposals, aligned with conservative priorities, the implementation would rely less on spontaneous action within civil society and more on government guaranteeing longer paid leave, parenting classes, and a “Universal Home Visiting Service” that used the market to provide nurses for parental counseling at family homes.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.