“Limited Government”

In the “another great blog post I found in a friend’s facebook feed category” here’s a really nice one on the intellectual dishonesty and logical incoherence in conservatives’ cries for “limited government.”  Former Cato scholar, Timothy Blee:

In the conservative (and fusionist) worldview, government activities are evaluated using a simplistic “size of government” metric that treats every dollar of government spending as equally bad, regardless of how it’s used. This has some unfortunate results. It means that cutting children’s health care spending is just as good as cutting a dollar from subsidies for wealthy corporations. And since wealthy corporations typically have lobbyists and poor children don’t, the way this works out in practice is that conservative politicians staunchly oppose the former while letting the latter slide.

Worse, mainstream conservatives give programs involving the military and law enforcement a free pass. Conservatives vociferously (and correctlyoppose giving the FCC expanded power over the Internet, but they actively supported the NSA’s much more comprehensive and intrusive scheme of domestic surveillance. Conservatives support a massive expansion of government power at our southern border to restrict the freedom of Mexican migrants. They seem unconcerned by the fact that we have more people in government-run prisons than any other nation on Earth.

This distinction makes no sense. When American soldiers gun down Iraqi civilians and blow up a van that comes to rescue the survivors, that’s a government program. When a SWAT team conducts a military-style raid on the home of an innocent Maryland mayor and kills his dogs, that’s a government program too. Obviously, law enforcement and national defense are important functions of government, but these highly coercive government programs should be the subject of more public scrutiny, not less.

Personally I’m not interested in “limited government” as an end in itself, but as a means to greater individual liberty. I’m opposed to government programs that waste taxpayer dollars because higher taxes restrict my freedom. But I’m much more opposed to government programs that use taxpayer dollars to restrict freedom directly. I’m not interested in joining a “limited government” movement that considers the two equivalent. And I’m definitely not interested in being part of a movement that gives torture and preemptive war a free pass under the heading of “national defense” while it focuses instead on fighting the tyranny of SCHIP and unemployment insurance.

True dat.  Mostly, that is.  I really don’t feel like my freedom is particularly restricted when my marginal tax rate, etc., goes up by some modest amount, but Blee is exactly right in focusing on the fact that “limited government” in and of itself is just a non-sensical goal.

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