Unfortunately for those of us who believe in limited, constitutional government, we have been out of luck for at least 60 years–more accurately a century. The idea is that liberals generally grow the size of government, while conservatives generally shrink government. As the chart above shows, whoever has been in power since after WWII has made the federal government bigger. This contradicts the myth that conservatives are always in favor of cutting government. Really the major difference between conservatives and liberals is where they like to see government grow.
This could also be why conservatives seem to have so much trouble fighting against liberals in elections. Conservatives are supposed to be fighting for smaller government, yet their rhetoric is often undermined by their actions. This means their message is weakened, and the conservative must constantly make excuses for why he decided in any particular case that it was necessary to grow government. What happens in these situations is that the public sees the conservative and liberal as adhering to the same philosophy that government can solve our problems. The problem for conservatives in this case is that they are seen as less ideologically consistent than their liberal counterparts whose rhetoric about growing government matches their actions.
We need the right to return to its libertarian constitutional roots. If the right says we need less government, and then follows up by decreasing the size of government, conservatives will reclaim ideological consistency. At least then they will be on the same playing field as ideologically consistent liberals, however they will be offering the opposite message. The message however will finally come into clear focus if the new right actually walks the walk, and cuts government. In fact the right could become the saviors of America if we successfully avoid financial collapse because of libertarian and constitutional policy.
First of all, true constitutionalists know that many of the tasks the federal government takes on are meant for the state governments. The tenth amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. This means the Department of Education, all Welfare, the EPA, the Department of Energy and so many other government programs should exist only on the state level, if at all. This shift of responsibilities to the states would free up vast amounts of tax dollars, meaning the budget could be balanced and the federal government could focus on its actual tasks like protecting the border, which have fallen by the wayside. States would then compete with each other in terms of which programs work, attracting people and business. The programs that fail will only affect one state negatively, instead of the entire country.
Repealing the 16th amendment would also be a step towards ending the growth of federal government. The sixteenth amendment authorized Congress to collect taxes on people’s income, which funds much of the operations of the federal government. As discussed much of these operations should be done at the state level, and therefore by denying this funding to the federal government it would force the responsibility back on the states. Without income taxes people would not be so up-in-arms about state level tax increases for state level programs–and if they do not favor the programs, it is a matter of moving to a different state, instead of a different country. (Not that there are many countries left with more pro-liberty positions than America, which makes it that much more important to defend the last bastion of freedom on earth).
Conservatives and Republicans deserve better from the politicians we send to Washington. All too often these are the same big government, deal making, crony capitalists that continue to grow government to the detriment of the taxpayers and American people. It is not enough to be vigilant in the general election, in primaries we must insist that candidates who will actually represent us are chosen for the ballot. Enough of the watered down wishy-washy politicians who allowed government to advance in size over the last hundred years.
We need another Calvin Coolidge who actually did shrink the size of government during the roaring 20’s. He reduced personal income tax rates just a decade after the income tax was first made law. He reduced taxes numerous other times during his administration, all the while keeping spending low in order to reduce the deficit. A quarter of the federal debt was retired under Coolidge, and only the top 2% of earners payed any income taxes at all by the end of his time in the White House. Predictably state governments grew in size during this same time, taking on more responsibility for governing. When state government are empowered, it is another check in the American checks and balances system, which does not allow one group or person to gain too much power.
“It is much more important to kill bad bills, than to pass good ones”. -Calvin Coolidge