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Champions of Limited Government?
by J. H. Huebert

The Collegian 
September 8, 2000

Conservative Republicans usually say that they favor "limited government." That sounds pretty good to me. Our federal government is too big, so I like the idea cutting the government back to a point where it takes less of my money, spends less of my money, and doesn’t involve itself in my life any more than is absolutely necessary to defend me and my property.

But what do the Republicans mean when they talk about "limited government"? Looking at George W. Bush’s proposals, I’m not sure.


Between all of his programs, Gov. Bush proposes adding about $42 billion in spending to the federal budget each year. That includes new spending on stuff like Head Start, health care services, a new prescription drug plan, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and much more. On top of that, he wants to set federal standards for all schools and support private charities with government money. His running mate, Dick Cheney, also wants a "national oil policy" to control prices.


Apparently, the Republicans believe that the government isn’t big enough yet, because we still need these programs. So when will the limiting begin? After these new controls and spending are added? Or will there be still more to do before the ideal "limited government" has finally arrived?


Based on recent history, I doubt that the politicians will ever be ready to start limiting themselves.


When the "Republican Revolution" took place a number of years ago, there was some excitement about finally getting government under control, back where it needed to be. Yet the expansion of government has continued.


According to a recent report from the Cato Institute, this year’s Republican Congress is well on its way to becoming the biggest-spending Congress on social programs since the 1970’s. Earlier this year, they approved an extra $12.5 billion in spending—more than double the $5.5 billion President Clinton had asked them for.


The current candidate sounds as if he understands something about what limited government is about when he says that "the surplus isn’t the government’s money, it’s your money!" But, like almost every modern politician, he fails to acknowledge is that all of it is really our money—every penny he’ll be spending, because the government produces no wealth on its own.


Although many either don’t realize it or remain in denial, the fact is that it has been decades since a presidential candidate of either major party really recognized any limits on state power.

How long has it been? In 1952, Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party’s perennial candidate, decided not to run for president. He explained that it was no longer necessary for him to do so, because the Republican and Democrat parties had, between them, adopted nearly every plank in the Socialist Party platform.

Since that time, the Republicans and Democrats have only continued to promote bigger and bigger government.


Whatever they may say, the two major parties are more or less alike. Both proceed from the assumption that your money, along with your life, is the government’s to spend as it pleases.

What they support is nothing like "limited government," and no one should be allowed to get away with pretending that it is.


© 2000 J. H. Huebert