Thursday, July 13, 2006

The big government traditions of the Republican Party

The following is what I just sent to the Life, Liberty, Property community e-mail list, in response to someone who said, "I'm going to have to stop telling people I'm a Republican with libertarian leanings. The Republican Party is leaving me. Like the Democratic Party did with Reagan. They may have different goals, but their solution is still government."

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.

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Blogger septagon said...

We should at all times and at all places limit the power of government.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 3:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to beat Milton Friedman's line: “I'm a little-l libertarian and a big-R Republican.”

I commented on Everyday Economist's link to this post. I'm broken hearted that the GOP's has so lost its way, but I see almost none of my values in the Democrats. Free Trade, no -- can't upset the unions. School choice (speaking of Friedman), no -- NEA/AFT. Higher taxes, minimum wage increase, yes.

The Republicans promise more freedom and usually disappoint. The Democrats promise less and frequently deliver.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 5:21:00 PM  
Blogger TKC said...

In my view, neither party is worthy of my vote anymore and they will not get it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 9:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we're seeing the inklings of the Republicans losing power. It's too bad that they're going to lose it to the Democrats. As a smarter man than I once said, "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

Power corrupts, and the Republicans are living proof. I wish I had a solution, but I don't know that there is one this time...

Thursday, July 13, 2006 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Fascinating that you should only concentrate on economic freedom. The GOP may be better than the Democratic party on economic freedom, but the Democrats are better on social freedom. Or does that not matter to you?

Also: is it better to have tax and spend Democrats or borrow and spend Republicans? It's not like the Republican controlled government from 2000-2006 curbed non-defense spending, in fact, it's gone up. So basically, both parties suck, haha.

Monday, October 08, 2007 5:18:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Yes, both parties clearly suck. Both are for their own different kinds of half-freedoms. Democrats want social freedoms but want me to supply the funds to pay for everyone else.

There is an argument for defense spending increases when necessary. What about social welfare programs?

Monday, October 08, 2007 10:19:00 PM  

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