07 May Bigger Badder Government
“Too much government means less individual autonomy and freedom.” – The Lonely Realist
“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” is an oft-quoted Ronald Reaganism that states the conservative view of American government as a bureaucratic behemoth that intrudes in individuals’ lives. While Republican politicians continue to chant the Reaganite small government mantra, Republican actions today – and for the last two decades – often are the opposite, sponsoring the adoption of ever-increasing Federal and State paternalistic laws, rules, regulations, and executive orders in an effort to placate an avowedly non-conservative populist fringe. The result is what TLR has referred to as a slide towards Statism. Democrats are equally enthusiastic in their taste for enlarging government, advocating for an activist Progressive Wing populism intended to right American wrongs, in part by bridging income, racial, sexual and gender inequality. Talk about ambitious Statism! This tacit bipartisan consensus to increase the centralization of power (taking it away from local governments and individuals) is an outgrowth of populism at both extremes. It has stunningly achieved simultaneous traction in both political parties. Don’t be fooled by politicians’ rhetoric! They may deride China for its central planning and trampling of individual rights, but both Republicans and Democrats are practicing versions of what President Xi preaches.
“Not so!” say some readers who place the lions’ share of blame on Democrats. After all, the Democratic Party advocates Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a guaranteed minimum income, forgiving student debt, and a panoply of entitlements under the banner of Build Back Better … all of which are being offered without a viable method of payment under the illusion belief that Modern Monetary Theory will paper over excesses (MMT is discussed here and here). Each such policy proposal would enlarge America’s government and increase America’s debt and deficits. If enacted, the Democratic Party agenda would create an even more paternalistic, Statist America. Yet whatever the merits and demerits, there is no chance that the Progressive wish-list, or even a significant part of it, will become law. Moreover, the Democratic Party proposals tell only half the story. They omit the actions and policy prescriptions of today’s Republican Party and overlook the culpability of Republican law-makers in failing to moderate, simplify, consolidate, and/or reconcile existing entitlement and spending programs. Whether through unilateral inaction while in power or missed opportunities to compromise while out of power – a forbidden concept in 21st Century politics –, the Republican Party has more than merely perpetuated government growth. It has accelerated it. Although the progressive policies of the Biden Administration increase regulatory burdens, they are not solely responsible for the increasing aggregation of power in Federal and State governments. America’s slide towards Statism is a two-party effort.
The meaning of the Democratic Party populist-progressive agenda is apparent. The consequences of the more diverse Republican Party populist agenda is less so.
Whereas Republicans of yore talked-the-talk and walked-the-small-government-walk by devolving authority to local governments and elevating individual rights, Republicans today merely mouth the slogans. As the Democratic Party has bowed to its Progressive Wing, the Republican Party has bowed to its populist-extremist fringes, few of the members of which share Reagan Era values of American capitalism, reduced government support, internationalism, and non-intrusion into individual liberties …, unless, that is, those principles are applied to Americans other than themselves. Isn’t that what populism is all about? Among other things, the Trump Administration actively intervened in American markets (including through its America First manufacturing and corporate management policies), politicized the Federal Reserve’s policy-making, attempted to steer nation-wide hiring practices, adopted unprecedented deficit spending budgets, erected protectionist tariff barriers while subsidizing affected constituencies, and issued executive orders and Constitutionally-questionable regulatory edicts, all of which concentrated increased power in the Federal government. The Trump Administration eschewed a strong Reagan-like foreign policy, abandoning Pax Americana (taking isolationism several steps beyond “leading-from-behind” Democrat President Obama), and pursued a national anti-immigration policy (discussed here and here) at odds with a Republican Party position articulated as recently as 2007. As The Economist noted in an April 30 editorial (titled “The New McCarthyism”), the principled conservative views of Republican senators and congressmen “might be listed on a postage stamp.” Republicans once reliably stood up for business and corporate interests. No longer. Populism reigns.
Core conservative and liberal principles no longer are applied at the State level either. A noted example is Florida where the application of conservative values by the decidedly Republican government has been abandoned in favor of populism. Republican Governor DeSantis – similar to his counterparts in other red States – has had no reluctance in wielding State power to attack political targets at the local level, even major corporate ones like Disney, shape electoral laws and Congressional districts to his Party’s whims, and pander to extremist special interests rather than traditional Republican ones. Those are neither conservative policies nor democratic ones – and a distance from fundamental American ones. They are a wholesale retreat from the core Republican values of individual freedom, limited government, devolution of power to local government, and free-market capitalism.
Americans have become philosophically and politically fractured, with one-issue voters selecting candidates and, in so doing, setting extremist agendas that have created a degenerative democracy. Extremist populism has moved the two Parties farther apart … and further away from their middle-of-the-road conservative and liberal roots. Social media have widened the gap. The result is that diatribe exceeds dialogue … encouraging extremists with the largest megaphones to scream the loudest. Labels of conservative, liberal, Republican and Democrat have mutated into slogans. Facts don’t matter. Nor do time-tested, consistent philosophies. 21st Century invective dominates, marginalizing the middle and leading to unilateralism – bigger and badder government. There nevertheless is much common ground that can be found. True conservatives and true liberals understand that “E Pluribus Unum [one out of many] defines America.” It is high time that they began practicing what America preaches.
An index of TLR titles can be found here.
Finally (from a good friend)
THIS IS HOW BAD INFLATION IS:
• My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
• CEOs are now playing miniature golf.
• Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.
• McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer.
• A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.
• A picture is now worth only 200 words.
• When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.
• The Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.
• When I called to get Blue Book Value on my car, they asked if the gas tank was full or empty.
• I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Afghanistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.