Out of Control Policy Blog

Voters Must Decide on the Proper Role of Government

As voters across the nation head to the polls today, I am reminded of an excellent Ventura County (CA) Star column I saw during the run-up to the elections. The article argues that elections do matter, and that there are fundamental choices voters must make regarding the nature and purpose of government that will affect the nation's future path. The following is an excerpt from the column.

Clarity on the facts and issues that matter to America’s future should be important to every informed voter. As you’ve noticed, we, the people, are creating havoc in the establishment of both parties giving American voters important choices.

Choice No. 1: Bigger government or more empowered individuals:

Do you want big government determining which special interests are rewarded and which companies are “too big to fail” or do you want limited government where all people can pursue their dreams, to succeed, to fail and to take personal responsibility for inventing their own future?

America was built on individual responsibility, caring communities and free-enterprise opportunity where you earned your own success. The current administration is trying to spend and regulate its way into a recovery and job growth.

Since President Barack Obama’s first month in office, the number of private-sector jobs has decreased by nearly 2.7 million and the number of federal government workers has increased by 379,000.

It’s the private sector, not big government, that is the economic engine. Have you had enough of big government and big spending?

Choice No. 2: Government entitlements or individual responsibility and charity:

Prior to 1929, if somebody fell on tough times, family, friends and neighbors helped. Now, 60 percent of Americans get more in public services than they pay in taxes. That isn’t charity; that is government taking money from some citizens by force of law through taxation to provide benefits to other citizens.

Since 1929, entitlement benefits have exploded, from school lunches to food stamps and from Medicare to healthcare programs. No government entitlement has cost less than projected. When government makes promises it can’t afford, it either increases taxes, prints more money funded by debt, or drastically cuts promised services.

A government creating dependent citizens is no more caring than parents spoiling dependent teenagers. Such programs leave future generations buried under the weight of our government largesse. Entitlements now account for more than half of federal spending, and unfunded liabilities, the obligations not covered by payroll taxes, exceed $100 trillion. Are we ready to stop digging the hole deeper?

While I agree with author Terry Paulson on the importance of such fundamental questions about the proper role of government, and have been encouraged by the movement of so many people across the country calling for returning to fiscal responsibility, minimizing the size and scope of government, and maximizing individual liberty, I am not as optimistic that the differences between the two main parties are so stark, or that either of them, with Tea Party support or not, will help get us back on the right path.

It will take much more than some political rallies and a single election to roll back generations of government entitlements, dependency, bailouts, wars, and countless usurpations of personal freedoms. Remember that it took all of a year and a half or so before those of the "Republic Revolution" of 1994 abandoned their professed principles. It was those "limited government conservatives" that not only failed to reduce the size of government, but actually grew it, such as when they substantially increased the Department of Education's budget. It was those "free-market supporters" who increased the minimum wage. That was about the time I gave up on the Republican Party, as I realized that it had abandoned me and the principles for which it claimed to fight.

If the Republicans, backed by those who believe in advancing free enterprise and limiting government, win big today as expected and again fail to deliver on their promises, it could damage the party for many years. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, as that disillusionment might allow more people to see that both major parties are actually big-government parties, and that more significant change is needed to slay the government Leviathan. If, as I suspect, there is another Republican letdown, let us hope that advocates of liberty are not overly discouraged, and react by redoubling their efforts to fight for the right to live their lives free from the yoke of government programs and other violations of individual liberties.

Adam Summers is Senior Policy Analyst


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