Selling Limited Government

A few weeks ago at Next Right, Josh Kahn pointed to polling data showing that

the public simply does not like the Republican message

.  The public isn't buying what the Republicans are selling.

Today, Paul Krugman makes another important point...

Take, for example, that old standby of conservatives: denouncing Big Government. Last week John McCain’s economic spokesman claimed that Barack Obama is President Bush’s true fiscal heir, because he’s “dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything.”   ... the McCain campaign is deluding itself if it thinks this issue will resonate with the public.

For Americans have never disliked Big Government in general. In fact, they love Social Security and Medicare, and strongly approve of Medicaid — which means that the three big programs that dominate domestic spending have overwhelming public support.

This is an important, and painful, point for the Right.  Americans, as the old saying goes, are philosophically conservative, but operationally liberal. 

In part, Republicans haven't been able to get traction on enacting limited government ideas because Republicans have never come up with politically viable ways to limit government - and particularly to address the underlying public choice incentives that make the growth of government   Reagan entered office in 1980 promising to eliminate the Department of Education.   But there was never a politically viable way to do the Department of Education grew. 

Republicans need to step back a few paces from the big limited government goals and start thinking first about the underlying incentives - the structural, public choice problems that make limiting government such a hard sell.   These may be difficult, but they are a much more practical way of rebuilding the Republican brand and making the Republican Party relevant to modern problems.  Some initial opportunities...

  • Transparency
  • Ethics reform
  • Government accounting reform
  • Entitlement reform - safety nets, not massive redistribution programs
  • Tax reform - reduce perverse incentives, rather than merely cutting taxes
  • Regulatory reform - elimination of regulatory capture that produces monopolistic practices and government-created cartels

What are your suggestions?


Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)


Krugman... Really.....

Well that would be Right if McCain has (with the exception of his ACU speech) advocated for Limited Government.


McCain consistantly advocates (along with congressional republicans) slightly less government

McCain is consistently for limited government....

...except for the cap-and-trade (which is a big 'except', I'll grant you that).  However it seems that he is backing away from the cap-and-trade bill because it doesn't include India and China and it doesn't do enough to push nuclear energy.

He is better on limited government than Bush, and a universe better than Obama.



McCain-Feingold (which passed tons of new government regulations)

and his wanting to meddle in Baseball over steroids


and thats just two mor I can think of


Lets split the middle and say that McCain is as bad as President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership

No, I won't meet you there. McCain is better than Bush...

....since Bush also supported McCain-Feingold, and Bush supported Medicare D when McCain didn't, and Bush has been in favor of massive ethanol subsidies when McCain hasn't been.

And McCain also

Supported NCLB

So it sorts out to about the same amount.


Now if Bush does win on a tie breaker its because he didn't show any leadership over congress

Yes, but he (McCain) is also a big proponent....

....of school choice, vouchers, charter schools, etc

Well thats nice

While he supports that and supports robbing me out of my pocket with his Gorebal Warming energy schemes It'll be nice because I won't be able to afford to take care of my own future children

I'm not happy with McCain on climate change, either...

...but I think you vastly overblow how "bad" you think McCain is.  You have two choices this election.  The other choice is Obama.

(Your next response will be....) "Oh great, a choice between worse and worser".

Nope.  McCain ain't that bad.  He's surely not perfect, but not that bad.

Obama's less agressive on Climate Change then McCain

So on the issue of gorebal Warming Obama will kill less jobs and cost me less money then John McCain


but maybe his bigger taxes elsewhere will balance that out

Ok, now you're just throwing out falsehoods.

You're not entitled to your own facts.

Obama's plan is a 60% Reduction, McCain's is an 80%

60% is still smaller then 80% last time I checked the math world


....please provide a link.

Go to their campaign websites

The plan is discussed on Both


On Gorebal Warming McCain is to the left of Obama

Well, conservatives don't go out and demand....

......that we totally scrap Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  We are in favor of reforming the programs, offering more choice, more competition, and more transparency.

If what Josh Kahn and what Paul Krugman say are totally true (they don't have the final word on this by any means), then the GOP will whither away and become the whigs.  The people who run The Next Right might as well pack up shop and save their time and money if the public isn't buying conservatism and wants big government socialism.

I don't believe the study, at least not 100% of it.

Well we should

Because their are better ways to solve those problems without government

Yes, I agree. I'm talking about what we can get done....

...politically, realistically.  In a perfect world, we could decimate those programs.  Realistically, the best goals at this point are to reform them in the manner I laid out above....personal accounts, co-pays for Medicare, more choice & competition, etc

Mhmm but the problem is

We have Republican party leadership in congress who see's those ideas as losers so they will never come up


Instead they thing putting over 50% of the kids in this country should be on publicly funded health care even if their parents have one

The GOP upheld the SCHIP veto....

....and all of the leadership voted to uphold it too.

And they now say

Thats why they are so Unpopular.


Which is why the Bumbs need to go

I've only heard one person say this: Tom Davis....

...who is retiring.  He hardly speaks for the entire party, and his position is at odds with Boehner and the leadership on this one.

The House Campaign Committee Chair said it to

And the offical House Documents for their new agenda advocate expanding SCHIP as well


So really they think Democrat Lite is the way to win

Please provide a link to substantiate this claim.

The GOP is not in favor of expanding the program.  Rather they want to ensure that it covers only POOR children (not adults like the Dems do), as it was originally intended.

I'll get you the link but the problem is

The Expansion of the program was because Poor Kids don't sign up for the program

Further, I would say....

...that Republicans haven't had a unified congress and presidency except 2004-2006, and Bush clearly wasn't interested in limiting government.

Reagan didn't succeed in eliminating the Dep of Education because the Democrats had a near-supermajority in the House.  If Reagan had Newt's congress, then it would have been done.


Bush let congress pretty much run away with the store in 04-06

That was a failure of Bush and the Congressional leadership...

...and that is what we are working to reform within the GOP.

No more compassionate conservatives like Bush, and no more pork-barrelers like Hastert/Delay/Blunt, et al

And yet

We have a Presidential Canidate like John McCain who has never stood up for Republican ideas when it was politically unpopular. So why would he be tougher on Congress then Bush? why should I believe him?

He stood up for the surge when almost no one else did.

He also opposed Medicare D against the wishes of the president and the party.  Isn't that what you like to see?  Someone opposing the party from the RIGHT?

He's also opposed ethanol & farm subsidies and earmarks.

Well you forgot

Most Republicans hated Medicare D. So He didn't stand up for the party as he knew enough Democrats would give the president his ginormous government spending.


Geez louise. Can't you even give the guy credit for THIS!

I think you need to get real, quite frankly.  McCain isn't the anti-Christ.

And My point

Is when Republicans Need him where is John McCain?

On this issue he only took a stand when he knew republicans were going to lose


Vote for Obama then.

Uhhhh No

If McCain Screws up the election that he is within 2% or less of a Pro-Castro, Anti-Israel, Pro-Chavez Democrat I'll vote for him. Otherwise I'm voting for Bob Barr. If McCain is close enough to be 2% or less in Florida he screwed the pooch on this election

opposed Medicare D

So did a couple of other Republicans. Lincoln Chafee and Trent Lott.

If that's the standard, we have some pretty funny fiscal conservatives in Congress.



Funny Feeling

I have a funny feeling that Chafee opposed it for the same reasons the Dems did - because it didn't do enough, and the "doughnut" benefit structure.

Lott, well, who knows.  Could go either way.  Even Lott had his limits on big govt.


I won't argue with that. It's just odd to me that everyone is willing to assume that McCain opposed it for good and pure fiscal conservative reasons. It's not exactly consistent with his position on other issues.



Limited governemnts? Why

Limited governemnts? Why would someone want to sell this? Hmm? I am interested. Mike

jump manual review - winter coats - buy regcure

Some of it is messaging

I think both sides are right on this: Americans are fundamentally distrustful of government, but they also are skittish about anything that they feel endangers their economic security, such as cutting or eliminating entitlements. 

That said, how we sell our policies are just as important as the policies themselves.  Americans have generally responded favorably to conservative, small government messages under two circumstances:

1) In the face of liberal excess or incompetence.  After Jimmy Carter's disastrous presidency, and the first two years of the Clinton administration, Americans had seen up close the failures of a liberal approach to government.  In Clinton's case, he had been elected largely on the economic security I mentioned above, and then badly overreached on social policy. 

2) When conservatives successfully communicate that the size of government and personal freedom are inversely proportional.  Most Americans don't feel that Medicare or Social Security are threats to their freedom, but they do feel that way about high taxes, overbearing government regulation, and attempts by government to dictate social mores, whether by curtailing religious liberty in public schools, using tax dollars to fund grossly offensive art displays, allowing gays into the military, etc. (see above).

I'm sorry to say it, but the Bush presidency has done tremendous damage, first by turning the various components of the Reagan coalition against each other, and second by being perceived as no better than Democrats (and maybe worse) when it comes to personal liberty.  It was no surprise to me that Ron Paul resonated as he did in 2008,  after years of Bush administration officials either testifying before Congress, or just telling us directly, that we were just going to have to live with less freedom, and worse, if we had a problem with that, maybe we weren't really patriotic Americans.

Lots of Republicans parrot "small government" because they think that's what Ronald Reagan would do.  However, Reagan spent a lot less time singing the praises of small government than he did the virtues of freedom -- and trumpeting the threat big government posed to said freedom. 

A country that was founded on tax revolt is inherently weary of government power, but they don't always equate size with power.  It's our job to tell them.

Missing the point

This post isn't a re-hash of what the GOP did wrong the last few years or who's more for limited government: Bush or McCain. Jon wants a discussion of ideas needed to tame leviathan and convey that to voters in a way they can accept.  Focus people.

I agree.

I just feel compelled to fight McCain-derangement syndrome that seems very rampant on this board. 

Feeding it...

doesn't help.

And Being apologist for McCain

Makes people like me less likely to vote for McCain

Well here is the thing

The Gop the last 8 years hasn't been about Limited Government. And people got tired of it and threw the bumbs out

a discussion of ideas

Jon wants a discussion of ideas needed to tame leviathan and convey that to voters in a way they can accept.


The answer to that is not one which libertarians can accept, I suspect. If you want to tame Leviathan you need to have a certain sort of people. And you need to create that certain sort of people. They don't spring forth from the womb prepared to do battle with big government.

Localization instead of centralization, and social conservatism instead of individualism, are the two big items.  It's no coincidence that the most fiscally conservative part of the country is the South.

A few ideas

A few ideas.


1.  No deficit spending.  If people want larger government, let them pay the full fare instead of passing part of the costs to future generations.  The Congressional Republicans from 2001 to 2006 really screwed this one up. 

2.  Fund new programs out of existing programs.  If people think healthcare for children is extremely important, then healthcare for illegal immigrants, or education spending or farm subsidies need to be cut to make up the difference.

3.  Limit tax windfalls to states.  No state should really be getting more in tax dollars than it pays in.  If Georgia wants four military bases, it should give up other forms of federal spending. If Iowa wants farm spending, then maybe it should get less education or welfare spending.

 If you want to limit government the people have to feel that the costs of new programs will fall on them instead of being able to pass the costs on others


You're on the right track

But it isn't so much convincing "the people," an abstract concept. It's about fighting off interests who want the particular programs to continue. It's the public choice idea of concentrated benefits and distributed costs. Take milk subsidies for example. A concentrated group of people, dairy farmers, benefit while the program's costs are distributed among the entire population. In order to fight those subsides a politician has to combat dairy farmers who really, really care about the program while the general public isn't as interested because it's costing them a few bucks extra per year. That's the kind of structural problem limited government advicates face. We need to develop idea and strategies to challenge the structural barrier to shrinking government.

A weakness of the right

is an exaggerated respect, even deference, towards businessmen. What tends to be glossed over in all this talk about bigger government is that it is businessmen who are driving it, to a remarkable degree. But I find that pointing that out to Republicans gets you called names. The idea that only the left criticize business owners is too ingrained. Too many people think that CEO's are synonomous with capitalism.




Conservative approaches to Liberal "problems"

Some of the programs are inherently designed to prevent reform though. Social Security comes to mind.

Picture a pure "Small government uber alles" approach to social security. Wait, in that case there simply wouldn't be a program.


So picture "What is the minimum feasible government involvement?" Not "What can we do right now?", but "What should our goal be?"


Picture an account per individual arranged like a current IRA. The government know about it, tracks it, and will tax it when you eventually withdraw from it - but they can't borrow against it, it isn't 'their' money, they didn't tax it going in, and they won't get it when you die. Perhaps a rule 'No more than 25% in any one company, no more than 50% in any one market sector'.

Now picture a regulation requiring a slice of your income go into such an account until you've reached a certain level. (Say, exactly the same slice you and your employer currently pay.)

That's a miniscule amount of governmental involvement. It would be sufficient for the vast majority of people who actually have jobs for more than ten years.

But the details are basically irrelevant - because no one is seriously preparing the arguement, and doing the little things that would make this an easier sell down the road.


Current paychecks mention the slice that's haggled off for into SSA for your own contribution, but they don't mention your employer's piece. You eventually get a pamphlet from the SSA  which mentions your ten most-recent years of contributions. But the sheet is focused on evaluating 'what your benefits might be', not comparing or explaining what sort of investment it is you've made. (Because it isn't an investment, it's a Ponzi scheme. But enough digression.) Rate-of-return, or discussion of wealth distribution, etc. 


It wouldn't take a fundamental reworking of SSA to simply require paystubs to list the full contribution, or to rework what information exactly is inside the SSA pamphlet. "Hi, you're going to get half the money you paid into SSA back, or less. Far less." is a powerful irritant. But if you've never fiddled around with your numbers, you might not know that.

Foreign Aid Reform

I would add Foreign Aid reform.   We have got to be more judicious about to whom we give aid and be more demanding about what we get in return.  I am not saying be isolationist and give no aid - that will not work.    But there is no sense in giving aid to countries like Egypt that actively encourage their own state-controlled press to stir up hatred towards us to deflect anger at their own backward policies.

There is an opening in POTUS 2008 on this front.  Barack Obama introduced the Global Poverty Act of 2007, which would mandate that the US give $85 billion per year to the UN's global poverty initiative.  The UN agency that would administer those funds has had some mismanagement issues recently. (see,2933,358953,00.html). 

I think the line of attack should be such a large amount of aid, to an international agency with no accountability, when so many are suffering here in the U.S. is irresponsible.

Granted, there are several Republicans who support this bill as well.  But if we have to throw them under the bus, so be it.