The big government traditions of the Republican Party
I've been meaning to write an entry about this for a while. The Republican Party was just a reincarnation of the Whigs, who were big-government types that believed in "internal improvements" and tariffs. Thus Republicans have always been about big government from the beginning. Abraham Lincon, Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, was "The Great Centralizer" in how he expanded federal powers during a time of war -- just like today. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive, Herbert Hoover tried proto-Keynesian attempts to stimulate the economy, Nixon was a self-professed Keynesian, and then there's GWB. He has more than disappointed me because I still support him about Iraq, and I applaud his 2001 tax cuts as having come at the perfect time (keeping the recession from getting worse). But he's just a big government believer who is loyal to his party -- he's "conservative" when it helps the GOP, and he's an LBJ-class spender when it helps the GOP. If anyone had doubts, Katrina's aftermath proved that he doesn't think twice about new big government programs.
Reagan once said in an interview with Reason magazine that "libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism," but conservatism has never been the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Modern conservatives (genuine conservatives who are libertarian-leaning because they promote limited government) are actually a relatively new to the GOP in terms of having a major influence. Coolidge was quite free-market and worked with Congress to slash taxes, but Republicans as a whole didn't really emphasize limited government (Russell Kirk's 7th and 9th principles in particular) as the ideal until Goldwater and Reagan. That revolution didn't last long, because most Republicans hypocritically touted "limited government" only as a way to criticize Democrats and regain control of Congress. What's happened since 1994? After retaking Congress on a platform of limited government principles, Republicans learned that they can create more and more big government programs (which they always loved at heart) to stay in power.
I used to consider myself conservative, even one with libertarian leanings, but I realized that conservatives want limited government only as a means to an end. Prof. Bainbridge, a genuine conservative in the vein of Russell Kirk, has admitted as much. "Classic liberal" would serve well, and in fact that's what my patron saint Bastiat is described as. However, I refrain from using that because most people would confuse that with modern liberalism. So I call myself libertarian, but not a libertarian. Using the word as an adjective, instead of a noun, identifies my general leanings without giving me a label.