January 28, 2014

Define Limited Government

By In Blogs

One of the problems that I have with “limited government” folks who are swarming behind the likes of Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, etc., is their willingness to vote for them and not Ron Paul. They may be scared of Ron Paul’s intellecutally pure stance on issues such as drugs and foreign policy, but can the extent to which he is allegedly bad on these issue really be greater than the extent to which a Romney Presidency would have been catestrophic?

No libertarian grounded in reality would expect Ron Paul, if he had won the 2012 elections, to bring forth a libertarian, Rothbardian utopia. In fact, a good majority of libertarians, myself included, realize that Washington is so bad, so corrupt, so evil, that not even the greatest statesman in American history could have really made all the necessary changes to achieve liberty. Some might say I am putting Paul on too high a pedastal by referring to him as the greatest statesman. But someone ought to fill this role, and I can’t honestly think of anyone more qualified.

So then, since Ron Paul would not have brought down DC, what is the fear of having him in office if limited government should be pursued? This is what I do not understand.

Now, there is a case to be made against “voting for the lesser of two evils.” But let’s define evil. Is it evil to hold a political office? Then no vote should ever be cast. I hold no negative opinion against such a conscientious objector. There is no wrong or evil done in refusing to participate. Or should evil be defined as anyone who refuses to make progress in limiting the government as it exists in the status quo? If the latter, we must find someone willing to challenge the things as they are and question the State’s greatest and dearest assumptions.

But Justin Amash, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Thomas Massie, none of these “limited government” heroes have, contrary to Ron Paul, advocated the elimination of the income tax altogether. There are some politicians, called extremists by The New York Times and other officially vetted and approved opinion outlets, who might indicate that the income tax should be replaced by the Fair Tax, but this is meaningless. And stupid. And they call themselves Constitutionalists!

Moreover, while “audit the Fed” has, off and on, been praised, how often is “End the Fed” pushed? Some want to overturn many EPA and OSHA and FDA regulations, but how much more effective would it be to defund them? To eliminate them? To tell a good ole bureaucrat executive that Taco Bell is hiring?

Hardly a need to mention the battle against private property that takes place in both foreign armed wars and the war on drugs. “Limited Government” folks support these too.

“Common Core is terrible!”, cries these folks. Yes, and so is the very existance of a Federal Department of Education, State Departments of Education, County Departments of the same, and the very idea of public education at all. If government, as the limited government folks posit, is about protection of life and property, why shrink back at the suggestion of a completely free market in education? Again, they might nod their heads: “I agree, I’ve been supportive of vouchers in the past.”

Response: “Indeed you have. But is that not socialism too –albeit in a different form?”

Now, I don’t mind the label limited government per se. I just want to know why nobody has any clue what “limited” means.

When the Tea Party masses flock to the polls to show that they want a non-establishment Republican, do they realize that none of these individuals will actually work to make things smaller. It is not good to stop the growth. For government was far too big ten years ago (even a hundred years ago). The power of the State, at both the Federal and State levels, must be postively rolled back. There ought to be less government as a result of action, not more and not the same.

Now, as for the individual politicians I have mentioned specifically above, I have some things to say. Most generally, I am convinced that they look like real, limited government options only because of the downright authoritarian nature of the establishment shills who currently run things. But compare them, honestly, to the standard of libertarian theory, and none of them has a clue of what must be done, and what we ought to aim for in our quest for a free society. All we hear about from these guys is rebuttals against the current regime (which includes the top GOP folks), but never about the ideal. What are they aiming for and why won’t they stand for zero income taxes, zero welfare, zero foreign interventionism, zero economic intereventionism, the gold standard (or free banking), and other pro-liberty measures? We never get the chance to find out.

I do think that all of these guys would be better than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. But if they don’t understand the real issues, what the real goal is, how far we must shrink government influence in our lives, then nothing will actually change. They may hold better opinions, but opinions in and of themselves do nothing. They have to be willing to stand for something radical and not compromise. Rand Paul is decent, but he is not his father. He is more restrained on foreign policy than most GOP members, but he still doesn’t understand the bigger picture. People like that are easily manipulated. Easily manipulated politicians can’t make positive changes.

Finally, notice I didn’t mention Ted Cruz above. I don’t trust the guy at all. He was a Bush era cooperative ally to the GOP regime, he and his wife have deep connections to central banking. He is an insider that I would never vote for. He knows his fan base well, and he caters to them. These are the most dangerous kinds.

The true limited government people will not express opposition and fright to ideas like nullification and secession. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that the future of liberty depends ultimately on these things. The Union must be dissolved. Peacefully. But dissolved nonetheless. Anyone unwilling to admit to the respectability of this position is too big government for me.

Our revolution must aim for decentralization.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • David

    I enjoyed this article. I don’t know enough about any of these people, but so far it seems to me that Mike Lee is mostly in line with Ted Cruz, whereas Rand Paul, Amash, and Massie are at least MOSTLY good even if not ideal. Lee is a lot more hawkish on Iran than the others which would be the primary difference. I also know for certain that Rand, Amash, and Massie are at least willing to take steps toward reducing the drug war, whereas I haven’t seen Mike Lee say anything like that.

    That’s not to say Rand, Amash, or Massie are on the same plane as Ron, of course, but I do halfway trust them whereas I don’t trust Lee or Cruz at all.

    • cjayengel

      I agree with you about Mike Lee. Politics changes so fast and I wrote this too soon. I even think Massie is closer to Lee than Amash and Paul. Contra Paul/Amash, Massie has tried to distance himself from Ron Paul.

      I think “halfway” trust is a good way to think about it. I think that we should point out that these guys really only look good because of how bad things really are. I don’t oppose them. It’s just hard to be enthusiastic when they don’t even want to stick to the Constitution (not to mention all the libertarian arguments that the constitution itself is too big).