GOP Has Golden Opportunity to Expand Liberty
But do Americans actually want to limit government?
For those who work to restore constitutionally limited government — as we in our humble shop do daily — a recent Quinnipiac poll is daunting. It shows large majorities or pluralities of Americans oppose reducing regulations, oppose across-the-board tax cuts, and favor increased federal spending on infrastructure and other goodies.
Leaving aside the accuracy of the poll (Quinnipiac had Hillary Clinton +7 nationally less than two weeks before the election), the polling reveals a paradox in the mindset of the American electorate. Every American — Republican and Democrat, men and women, young and old, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, rich or poor — wants government to mind its own business … except for their preferred program or regulation.
John Stossel writes, “Few people bother to go to Washington to ask for spending cuts. Even though America is heading toward bankruptcy, 90 percent of congressional testimony comes from people who want more stuff.”
What far too few Americans understand is that to empower government is to restrict individual liberty, and once you agree to grant government power over A, you have opened the door to granting government power to do B, C and D.
That is why the Founding Fathers strictly limited the power of the federal government, forbidding it from any and all actions not specifically authorized under the U.S. Constitution and, for emphasis, declaring in Amendments IX and X the primacy of the individual and the states over every sphere not listed in those enumerated powers.
The Founders understood the truth and wisdom in George Washington’s declaration: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!”
Few Americans, for example, would disagree with the idea that everyone should have access to health care, but the devil is in the details. Without the vote of a single Republican, arrogant Democrats, invigorated by their electoral victories, passed ObamaCare, ostensibly to guarantee health care to every American. As a result, the IRS was granted access to our medical information, we were forced to buy an outrageously expensive product whether we wanted it or not, we faced a bevy of new taxes and burdensome regulations, and tens of millions of Christians were forced to fund abortion through their insurance.
Government is necessary to protect the rights of individuals, but it is the nature of government to expand and acquire power, and that power is acquired at the expense of individual liberties. As another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, so eloquently put it, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
Ironically, the very government that we empower to do our bidding against our neighbor ends up being the government that becomes our master.
Disagree? Keep in mind that when the 16th Amendment (the income tax) was proposed, its proponents promised that it would only affect the very rich. The bottom bracket was a 1% tax on income over $20,000 ($488,341 in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars) and a top bracket of 7% for income over $500,000 ($12,208,535 in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars). It was a way, its proponents argued, to make the rich pay their “fair share” (sound familiar?). Yet in a very short time the rates went up and the entry point for the bottom bracket went down, eventually capturing many more Americans in its web, and creating the IRS, possibly the most feared institution in American government, with the power to ruin your life and take everything you own.
Government is a necessary evil. As a third Founder, James Madison, argued in Federalist No. 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
Thus, individual liberties are safest when government is smallest, and when the power of government is closest to the people. As constructed by the Founders, the vast majority of government is intended at the local and state level, with only a small portion belonging to the federal government.
When they held the White House, Senate, and House under George W. Bush, the Republicans blew a golden opportunity. Instead of reducing the size and scope of government, they doubled government spending and gave us Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and an expansion of nearly every federal department and agency.
In 2016, Republicans get a do-over. While Democrats claim the GOP has no mandate because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Republicans can counter with the fact that the GOP won a 3.2 million national popular vote majority in House races, and under Barack Obama, Republicans have won a net 11 Senate seats, 63 House seats, 14 governorships, and roughly 1,000 state legislative seats.
Republicans have a rare opportunity to reduce the size and scope of government at every level, and return to the form envisioned by the Founders, where government is limited and individual liberty is vast. It’s in the best interests of every American to encourage them to do just that. Our job is to educate our fellow Americans accordingly.