Laissez-faire has become a dirty word. Today it serves as shorthand for a soulless, anything-goes approach to life in which government makes no contribution to a thriving economy and the market is the solution to every problem. …

Now this movement has its own think tank, American Compass. It is run by Oren Cass, a bright young thinker formerly of the Manhattan Institute who in 2012 served as domestic policy director for Mitt Romney during his run for president. Most recently, Mr. Cass unveiled what he calls a Cost-of-Thriving Index. It purports to show that it now takes a typical male breadwinner 53 weeks of work to cover a year’s worth of the top expenses for a family of four—health care, transportation, education and housing. In 1985 it took only 30 weeks.

Since the chart’s release, various economists have picked apart its assumptions. Some question its inflation metrics. Others say it overestimates a typical family’s out-of-pocket health-care costs because it doesn’t account for employer contributions.

Yours truly has broader objections.

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