A Commonsense Case for Limited Government… directed at the Left (Guest Post)

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Political lines have been shifting for a while now. It started with the election of G.W. Bush and greatly accelerated under Obama. The old Right / Left divide has been fading, and replacing it as the key political marker of our age is the question of how much government you want in your life.

On one side of this divide are those people, largely made up of the old Right Wing, who are in favor of what we call limited government. We want to see government, especially the Federal Government, shrunk down to the size specified in the US Constitution. We want exactly as much Federal Government as is necessary to define and defend our borders, conduct diplomacy and war abroad, and ensure that the individual states all play nicely with each other.

On the other side are those who think the Federal Government can, and should, be involved in almost every facet of our lives. They want the government to provide for us from cradle to grave, dictating wages, providing health care, policing offensive speech and doing all sorts of other things to keep us safe and comfortable. Many of the people on this side of our political chasm are currently filling my Facebook feed with Bernie Sanders memes.

For the sake of argument I’m going to do two things now; first I’m going to grant the benefit of the doubt and assume that the Big Government proponents are in fact motivated by compassion. I’m going to grant that what drives them is a sincere desire that no one should be poor, underpaid, homeless or the victim of an untreated illness. The second thing I’m going to do is ignore all of the philosophical and legal impediments to their worldview contained in the Constitution.

Instead I’m going to make a very simple, very practical appeal to you in an attempt to sway you to the small government side of things. And that appeal is contained in a single sentence:

Donald Trump could win.

Why, you may ask, should that sway you towards favoring a smaller Federal Government? It’s quite simple, really. Any government that provides things like universal health care can withhold things like universal health care. An IRS that is big and powerful enough to fund such a lavish government can get up to all kinds of mischief if it’s used unethically. A judiciary that feels comfortable regulating fundamental rights won’t know where to stop.

What’s that got to do with Trump? It’s no secret that many on the Left (and not a few on the Right) think he’s a dangerous psychopath. And yet he could be our next President. And if Trump doesn’t win this time someone worse could win next time. The fact is that unless you plan to do away with elections altogether (a discussion for a whole separate post) then sooner or later someone you hate and fear is going to be in charge of the Federal Government.

What are you going to do if it’s not Christian bakers being sued out of existence for civil rights violations, but rather businesses with “no guns allowed” signs on their doors? What if the IRS was to decide that the NY Times’ generally liberal editorial slant constitutes an in-kind political contribution and goes after them for it? What if the government decided that pro-choice rhetoric was a call to commit murder and therefore not protected by the First Amendment?

Outrageous examples? You might think so, but they’re all analogous to things the government is already doing. They all follow precedents that you’ve agreed to in principle because the actions were taken against your political opponents.

But you have to accept that sooner or later any power you give the government is going to be wielded by your worst enemy. And if that enemy is as lacking in principles and ethics as you keep saying he is then that power is going to be used against you… mercilessly.

The answer to the problem, the safety catch, is to allow the government exactly enough authority to carry out its core duties and not one iota more. And if it tries to expand that authority you have to ask yourself “would I be ok with Donald Trump having this power?” If the answer is “no” you have to hold the line and not let them have it.

The Founders knew this in 1788 and we limited government types know it now. Please think it over.

7 Responses to “A Commonsense Case for Limited Government… directed at the Left (Guest Post)”

  1. 1

    Tony Plank

    I’m pretty much a limited government advocate, but the thing that disturbs me is how you direct this post at the left. We spend too much time arguing left v. right rather than having genuine policy discussions regarding what we want the government to do.

    The reality of a pluralistic society is that we will have people with a wide range of ideas about the answer to that question. The stated American ideals are that through the democratic process, we will develop policies that balance the disparate views and achieve an aggregate good. But some of you language here tends to cast government as automatically evil which is in my view, unfair.

    We can all list the things we want the government to do and while our lists lengths will differ, it is the rare person who would not have such a list. We can also all agree that our current government should be much better than it is, and that lack of quality is one of the inputs into the decision process.

    While you and I might agree on a great deal, I would rather government not be cast as evil, or even as a necessary evil. The constructive view is to treat government as a tool for the betterment of mankind and for you and I to roll up our sleeves to figure out the best way of making it work for us irrespective as to the length of our government “to do” lists.

    https://tonyplank.wordpress.com/

  2. 2

    Nanny G

    James wrote:

    The old Right / Left divide has been fading, and replacing it as the key political marker of our age is the question of how much government you want in your life.

    On one side of this divide are those people, largely made up of the old Right Wing, who are in favor of what we call limited government.
    ….

    On the other side are those who think the Federal Government can, and should, be involved in almost every facet of our lives. They want the government to provide for us from cradle to grave……to keep us safe and comfortable.

    Tony rightly adds:

    We spend too much time arguing left v. right rather than having genuine policy discussions regarding what we want the government to do.

    The reality of a pluralistic society is that we will have people with a wide range of ideas about the answer to that question. The stated American ideals are that through the democratic process, we will develop policies that balance the disparate views and achieve an aggregate good.

    A book I’m reviewing is Aaron Clarey’s, The Curse of the High IQ.
    Aaron makes a point that, if you are smart, you can do most everything on your own.
    Society, by statistical necessity, needs to focus on the majority.
    It needs to be built and designed for “the average.”
    Society, by moral necessity, also needs to focus on the disadvantaged and disabled, helping those who cannot do everything on their own.
    There has to be a balance.
    Mr. Trump used the phrase, ”we don’t want to allow people to die in the streets,” to make his point that we cannot just drop ACA (ObamaCare) without doing something for those who cannot (or will not) do necessary things on their own.
    There is an old movie called ”The Blues Brothers.”
    In it, a couple of guys do God’s work in most unusual ways.
    A Trumpian example is the scene in the French restaurant. Here.
    Can a balance be reached between those who could do everything for themselves and the ones who need so much help it seems impossible?
    Yes.
    But, as the Blues Brothers and Mr. Trump showed, some people are better at expressing that balance than others.

    I, like Tony, don’t think this is a Left/Right divide.
    But I’m also pretty exasperated about how our sense of incentive is being destroyed lately.
    Without risk-takers and business openings we cannot grow enough to continuously support our infirm, ill, non-functioning segment of society.

  3. 3

    Tony Plank

    @Nanny G:

    I, like Tony, don’t think this is a Left/Right divide.
    But I’m also pretty exasperated about how our sense of incentive is being destroyed lately.
    Without risk-takers and business openings we cannot grow enough to continuously support our infirm, ill, non-functioning segment of society.

    But, the political elite will definitely make sure to hammer it into the two party divide somehow. And American lemmings will follow their lead.

    https://tonyplank.wordpress.com/

  4. 4

    James Felix

    I explicitly said that that the small government / big government is replacing the old Left / Right divide. However, although some traditional Right wingers are embracing big government in the form of crony capitalism it is typically the Left that has favored truly big and invasive government. From the New Deal to speech codes it is usually from the Left that calls for government as Super Parent originate from. And it’s the Left that never seems to understand the danger of such a government until someone like Trump comes along. That’s why I directed this at them.

    Society, by moral necessity, also needs to focus on the disadvantaged and disabled, helping those who cannot do everything on their own.

    If that focus involves using the government to take peoples’ money at gunpoint and use it to help the disadvantaged three things are true. 1) the government will never stop taking that money 2) they are always going to help themselves to a cut of it to enrich themselves and their cronies and 3) the disadvantaged, by and large, aren’t actually going to be helped.

    Honestly, if the history of social security, the war on poverty and obamacare haven’t taught you that yet then there’s very little hope that some stranger on a blog can help you.

  5. 6

    Anonymous

    There are Americans who think that Free College Education could constitute what is considered to be Big Government, and there are other Americans who think that that the Federal Government should have a role to make Tertiary Education more accessible to more Americans.

    There are People who think that one Definition of a Dictatorship, is where the Law does Not apply Equally to All Citizens, and so this would make America a Dictatorship, because Hillary Clinton who is a Devious Criminal is running for President.

    We Know that Senator Sanders wants the Law to be applied Equally to All Americans, and this is why there are Democratic Party Voters who think that America’s First line of Defense is to Vote for Anyone But the Dishonest and Untrustworthy Clinton.

    There are Many American Security and Intelligence Community who say that Hillary Clinton’s Unsecured and Unprotected Email Server was easily hacked by Foreigners.

    General Petraeus pleaded Guilty in a Court of Law for providing Classified Information to an unauthorized Person, and he was sentenced for his Crime, and Americans want Hillary Clinton to Confess Guilty to her Many Crimes.

    Senator Sanders wants Free College Education, and we heard that Bill Secret Harem Clinton said that Free College Education is unaffordable, but he is Lying Again as Usual.

    Free College Education is an Investment in America’s Economy, that will Pay a Dividend, and it is Easily Affordable if there is Proper Economic Management, which will both Increase Employment and Government Revenue, and Lowers Taxes.

    There are People who think that the Republicans should announce a very similar Free College Education Policy to that of Senator Sanders a few weeks before the Election, and only use vague and generic speech on Education Policy until then, and to offer Senator Sanders the Secretary of Education position, before the Election if he does not receive the nomination for Presidential Candidate of the Democratic Party, even though he would more likely want to be a Senator.

    If Senator Sanders forms and leads a New Political Party for the next Election, because Hillary Clinton has Usurped the nomination for the Democratic Party by using Bribes and other Corrupt Methods, or because he thinks that Social Democrats should their own Political Party, then there are People who think that the Republicans might consider offering Senator Sanders the position of Secretary of Education if he is not elected as President.

    Perhaps the Democrats may have wanted Hillary Clinton to use a Personal Unsecured Email Server to say that National Security has been Compromised to the extent that Elections are Suspended and Martial Law is announced, and I wrote a comment on how America can Protect itself from Treasonous or even possibly Blackmailed People like the Clintons who Sell or have to Sell National Secrets to Foreigners, and it is on another News Article on this Website.

    That News Article on Big Dictatorial Government, and the comment begins with the words: The story of the Clintons wanting a Personal Email Server began during the Presidencies of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton of 1993 to 2001, when the Clintons withheld nearly 2 million Email Communications from Judicial Watch, the Congress, and Federal Investigators, at http://www.floppingaces.net/2016/02/28/one-weird-trick-that-big-government-leftists-can-use-to-get-the-rest-of-us-on-board/#comments .

  6. 7

    Greg

    @Nanny G, #2:

    I, like Tony, don’t think this is a Left/Right divide.
    But I’m also pretty exasperated about how our sense of incentive is being destroyed lately.
    Without risk-takers and business openings we cannot grow enough to continuously support our infirm, ill, non-functioning segment of society.

    Nearly all of the gains in income and wealth realized by our expanding economy have gone to the top 5 percent for well over a decade now. Real wages have been stagnant or have actually declined, while hours worked and worker productivity have increased. Worker pension plans have vanished and work related benefits have become less and less. Savings account interest rates have dropped to literally nothing, forcing working and middle class people trying to plan for their own futures into a risky stock market casino that strongly favors the house and those placing the biggest bets—which is to say, the wealthiest. Young people are now having to borrow so much to get a college education that they’re starting out into those troubled waters carrying debt loads equivalent to my first home mortgage principle.

    Is it not possible that all of that might also be a serious incentive killer?

    I don’t think we want an economic system designed to encourage the sharks to thrive. The sharks will always thrive, and they’ll always be hungry for more, no matter how much they eat. What we need is a system designed to help people get a firm hand on the lowest rung in the ladder, from which the rewards for increased effort and persistence are predictable and dependable straight up into the lower levels of the middle class.

    We don’t need a system where the driving force at the lowest level is desperation, and a lifetime of hard work for may lead to poverty, or to a level of success that will predictably be less than that of a previous generation who worked just as hard for just as long.

    Balance is a good word. I think the current, excessively one-sided GOP message has lost much of that. The unbalanced message has penetrated so deeply that it has come face to face with some of our most important underlying cultural values. In fact, people who need help aren’t necessarily lazy bums looking for a free lunch. They’re often just part of an economic system with priorities that have gone seriously out of balance. Here’s the problem: We’ve become a system that rewards wealth with more wealth, to a far greater degree than it rewards the multitudes of little people who work hard, and whose efforts hold the entire system up. Most economic gains are being reallocated upward. In spite of that, those who are receiving disproportionate benefit of the upward redistribution believe they’re being unfairly taxed, when their tax rates are actually far lower than during most of the preceding century.

    I guess this is the Left, talking back to the topic: Atlas is actually the little guy, not the Donald Trumps of the world. Without the little guy, there could be no Donald Trumps. The Donalds of the world are the dependent ones.

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