What does Limited Government mean?
Limited Government. All sorts of people say it. It’s a great political bumper sticker. It’s short, sweet, and can mean almost anything to anyone. But what does it mean?
Pro-abortionists imagine it meaning the government not telling women which medical procedures they can have. Pot heads would like a government limited from criminalizing pot. Fiscal conservatives want a government limited in the quantity of taxes the government can impose. Foreign policy-conservatives want a limited approach to wars overseas. Republicans in Congress want a government limited from directly providing healthcare to non-military, non-orphan, non-Senator, non-elderly citizens. Democrats in Congress want a government limited from defining marriage.
But put all those people in one room, and you certainly aren’t looking at a single party. So the first part of the answer is this:
Limited Government is not owned by either party.
I’ve told people for years that I am a limited-government conservative. For me, this is not a bumper sticker fly-by-night vague thought. So I thought I’d share with you what I mean when I use that phrase, and I encourage you to think both about what you think the phrase might mean, but also to think if maybe you agree with me.
I don’t want a small government. I’m completely okay with a big military, a big transportation bill, a big national park agency, an FDA and an EPA. We need government. Some of that has to be at the state level, some at the federal level. We need a government large enough to handle the threats we face. For that reason, I was never ideologically opposed to healthcare reform or the public option. Big Government isn’t necessarily bad. What it is, is inherently inefficient.
The US military is effective, and that’s what’s most important, but it is hardly cash-efficient. We spend more money per soldier than any other country on the planet. We’re spending about a million dollars per month per soldier in Afghanistan. Think about that for just a moment, think about the dollars and cents of that. Sure, our soldiers are the best soldiers on the planet, but we pay for every last drop of it.
There are three ways I want my government to be limited
1. Limited ability to take.
I don’t want them to be able to tax me to death. I don’t want them to be able to hide taxes. I don’t want to carry an unfair amount of taxes. I don’t want the government to take my daily bread so that someone else doesn’t have to earn theirs. This is one of the reasons I like the Fair Tax. It is the most transparent tax possible. The more you prevent Government from hiding the taxes you pay the less they’ll wind up taking.
2. Limited ability to provide
We have to make decisions sometimes as a people, about what is the most important. We need a military, police, justice department. Some Libertarians don’t like public schools or Social Security or the vast majority of other federal programs. I’m of the opinion that a social ‘floor’ is needed. No matter how poor someone is, their kids should be able to get a good education. I don’t say that to transfer wealth or equalize anything, I say this for our future. If we allow poor children to grow up uneducated, we allow a generation of uneducated citizens to replace us. Likewise if a 70-year old man without family has worked his whole life and has run out of his savings, I’m ok with the Government protecting their citizens with some Social Security checks.
The concern then, is a matter of scale. If it is okay to send money to a 70-year old man without a family, why isn’t it okay to send that same check to a guy in his 40’s that just doesn’t feel like working? Opinion and scale. That guy hasn’t hit the floor yet. The more our government provides, the more they must take. Additionally, the move they provide the less incentive there is to work hard.
3. Limited ability to punish
It’s good to have a large military. It’s also good to limit our government and tell them they may not use that military against us. It’s good to have a government big enough to tell every food company they have to label their food. It’s also good we limit our government from telling our food companies what food to sell.
Though I think a public health care option would be inherently ineffective, as long as we limit government by making it not funded by taxes, not provided free of premiums, and provide no punishment for not buying into it, then it won’t do any harm.
More important is limiting the power government already has.
- Right now, today, the government has the power to put you in jail for using drugs they don’t like.
- Right now today, the government is taking 15% payroll taxes from lowly dishwashers, and giving that money to bankers.
- Right now, today, people who rent are paying extra taxes so that those who buy homes can pay less in taxes.
- Right now, today, the government intentionally creates laws too strict to obey so that anyone can be arrested and searched if necessary.
- Right now, today, the Government decides which political parties get money and which don’t.
- Right now, today, our Government has more people in jail than any other country.
- Right now, today, our Government will put people in jail for exchanging money inappropriately after sex.
- Right now, today, there are 67,000 pages of tax code loopholes, punishing those the Government don’t like and rewarding those they do.
- Right now, today, the Government is taxing you extra so can Coca Cola buy high-fructose corn syrup cheaper.
- Right now, today, the Fed provides the government the ability to go to war without paying for it.
Each is an action of an abusive overly powerful government. All else being equal, I’d prefer a smaller government on most domestic matters. But vastly more important is limiting it’s power to run our lives. So that leads me to the fuller answer to the question of What does Limited Government mean?
Limited Government means More Freedom.