Libertarian History/Philosophy

The Greatest Trick the Republicans' Anti-Government Belief Ever Pulled Off Was Convincing Us It Actually Existed


Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative backhandedly and ironically thanks Todd Purdum at Vanity Fair on behalf of the bullshit artistes of the modern Republican Party, who manage to create a phony market differentiation by pretending to be the party of shrinking government. 

In the stylized but phony Kabuki theater of American politics, the Dems and their town cryers such as Purdum pretend to believe that the Republicans are or will shrink the state, since that belief helps (supposedly) energize the Dems base to come out against the GOP even as the lie energizes the GOP's own base. But no matter who wins elections, big government wins.

As McCarthy notes, the Republicans have:

convinced panicky liberals…that the GOP really is a radically right-wing party hellbent on rolling back the welfare state and shattering the status quo. You would never imagine such a thing from looking at the record of the most recent Republican president — who added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and did not, in fact, "privatize" Social Security — but it's thrilling for liberals to pretend they're about to be ravished, and it serves the GOP well to be thought of as a party of change and, for Americans who want smaller government, hope.

Why do so few outlets call attention to the obvious: that the GOP out of power campaigns as one thing — a party of cut-government-to-the-bone libertarians (God-fearing libertarians, of course)  — but once in power practices a feed-the-base style of welfare politics little different from what the Democrats once perfected? Military budgets, particularly for bases in the South, are subsidies, and whatever Marvin Olasky may have intended with his talk about compassionate conservatism, in practice Bush's faith-based initiatives were a way to channel federal money to religious organizations, rewarding Republican churches and aspiring to buy off urban ones (which received the lion's share of the funds). Medicare Part D was explicitly aimed at shoring up the senior vote for the party. The GOP campaigns on a get-government-off-our-backs platform because Democrats are ideologically resistant to taking that line, but in practice both parties are the party of big government. You cannot look at their governing records and come to any other conclusion.

McCarthy does praise Purdum for noting another trend in national politics: the seeming death of lively and active regional interests in Congress, which means:

the old dams and harbors of our politics have been broken down — as Americans have been disaggregated from their localities and recombined in a national mass — allowing ideological currents to sweep freely from end to end of the country.

I have written in the past on the failure of the conservative movement, in the Republican Party or out of it, to actually achieve conservative political goals, all the while growing in reputation with the failure. See this March 2009 review essay for one example.

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  1. And thus the great rationalization: "Lip service is better than no service at all."

    1. Hey SF, I have been reliably informed by many intelligent people on this very website that none of this matters right now, because this is the single most important election of our lifetime, and Romney is absolutely not as bad as Obama, and so I really should vote for him.

      1. Those people have something wrong with them J.J. and it's not nice to make fun of them. If you encounter one, please direct them to the battered spouse shelter nearest to you so they can get help they need.

        1. Actually, making fun of Tulpy-poo is about as much fun as one can have. That was who you were talking about, right?

          1. If the delusion that Romney is the libertarian savor was the only delusion Tulpa possessed, I'd just feel sorry for him.

            1. Romney may be many things, but a libertarian savior is not among them. I think Tulpa is in the "he is not as bad as...." camp.

              1. "he is not as bad as...."

                No, he pushes it too hard to get to use that excuse. He's the most vocal Romney-bot regular.

              2. The problem is, going with the, "he's not as bad as..." approach has gotten us exactly nowhere (on the national scale). It simply doesn't work as a long-term viable strategy.

                1. Long term strategy? You're assuming that progress can be made over the long term in question. If that's not true, then "not as bad as" may be the best strategy. It may be that for the time being, losing as slowly as possible may be the best that can be achieved, and that attempting to win would result in being routed.

            2. Tulpy-poo's capacity for delusion is quite impressive, it's true. However, there's no reason to ever feel sorry for someone who is aggressively stupid. They bring it on themselves. All they have to do is not be aggressively stupid, and their problems cease.

          2. It's not just Tulpa dude, and you know it. Don't make me name names.

            1. I'm making you name names.

              1. Who made you hegemon, Episiarch?

                1. Hegemon? More like Hive Queen.

        2. There is one and only one benefit to a president Romney: SCOTUS is getting really fucking old and letting Obama put four more Kagans on the court would be a cluster fuck that lasts for decades.

          1. That's about it for me. There's a vague chance that Romney will have less desire to utterly destroy the remnants of the free market as well, but I'm dubious.

          2. The Wise Latina actually hasn't turned out to be nearly as bad as everyone thought. I believe several commenters, even John, brought this up in the last SCOTUS decision we had before Obamacare. Kagan remains a party hack.

            Besides, are you really saying we need to elect Romney so that we can get the justices we Roberts?

            1. We're fucked, either way.

            2. Yeah. Great. Let the Republicans continue their tradition of caving on SCOTUS nominees and putting up hacks and centrists.

          3. As opposed to more "new professionalism" Scalia and Thomas The Pantie Pervert? It's a wash at best.

            1. Yes, Scalia and Thomas are better than Kagan.

              1. An equal loss of freedom, just a different set of freedoms.

                1. que sera sera

                  But I do expect Kagan's legacy to be far more damaging that Scalia's or Thomas's. Of course, I am biased in that I believe stupid people are more dangerous than evil people.

                  1. Romney may keep a Kagen off the court, but he may get a Harriet Myers through.

                    1. I've been thinking about Harriet the last couple of days. After Kagan, there's no real reason that another Harriet can't make the cut.

                2. Taxpayer-funded free contraception vs the right to keep and bear arms. Yup, I suppose it's all a matter of which freedoms you value.

                  1. I know the two-position switch you use as a brain makes it hard for you to understand that not endorsing your TEAM isn't the same as endorsing the other TEAM, but I expect you to at least fucking try, SIV.

                    1. Buy your own fucking estrogen you little TEAM BLUE bitch.

                    2. See, only a two-position switch. You're a caricature of caricature, you sad little short man.

                    3. I wonder how incredibly short he is. You think joe short, seeing as he's the TEAM RED joe? What was joe's quote: he was "5'6" with work boots on"?


                    4. Your wife doesn't think I'm so short.

            2. It's a wash at best.

              There's only a difference in SCOTUS Justices if you care about "meaningless KULTUR WAR issues" like free speech, gun rights, property rights, the Commerce Clause and all that other Jesus hates teh Gayz bullshit.

              1. Cool story, bro.

              2. the Commerce Clause


                1. See the dissent in Raich.

                  1. See the majority in Hiibel, GOP scum.

          4. There is no benefit. Believing this is the delusion that TEAM RED wants you to do to yourself.

            Voting for one statist over another is no choice.

            1. Voting for one statist over another is no choice.

              Maybe so, but who is more likely to replace the upcoming retirees with more Kagans, and who is more likely to pick more Thomas's?

              1. You mean the guy who thought strip searching a teenage girl over ibuprofen tablets was OK?

                They're all fucking scum. The ways they differ in being scum only matter to partisans.

                1. Being against Wiccard is something partisans support?

              2. Scalia is the one who gave us one of our favorite memes - "new professionalism". So tell me one TEAM is better than the other on SCOTUS nomimees. Go right ahead.

                1. This actually isn't about teams. It's about the only two individuals running for president that can get elected.

                  Obama has already proven that he is nothing but a corrupt chicago-machine politician who is willing to put a totally unqualified person on the court to score political points with some favored interest group.

                  I'm saying that Romney might be better.

                  So do you want to put a proven bad-actor in charge of replacing the next several retirees from SCOTUS or do you want to take a chance that Romney may or may not be better?

    2. What lip service reveals is that conflicting values are being compromised between. It shows that, yes, among Republicans far more than most other identifiable groupings, small gov't is valued. It's just that, given they share with everybody else (including those for whom small gov't is not valued at all) the values of big gov't, the resolution will not reflect any particular facet of the rhetoric.

      1. It means nothing of the sort, because it is not the case that they fight for small government and lose. They don't fight at all.

        1. You're seeing the result of the fight that's already taken place in producing the compromises that you see.

  2. If only there were a party committed to limited government!

    I think the GOP has benefited from being perceived as the slower form of suicide. But even that may not be true. Witness its clear refusal to state outright that the stupid healthcare tax will be repealed the moment they retake control of the government.

    A difference that makes no difference is no difference. Visually illustrated here and here.

    1. "Lokai is TEAM BLUE on the right side. All of his people are TEAM BLUE on the right side."

      1. I still can't see the difference. Is this one of those things you have to cross your eyes a bit to see the secret image? Or does it require more permanent brain surgery?

        1. "What you need is a fatty-boom-batty blunt! And I guarantee you'll be seeing a sailboat, an ocean, and maybe even some of those big-tittied mermaids doing some of that lesbian shit! Look at me, look at me, you sloppy bitch!"

          1. I'm kinda sad that Jay and Silent Bob never cameod on My Name is Earl.

            1. Crab Man and Jay interacting would have been something.

        2. Only deluded fools can't see the difference. You don't want to admit to being a deluded fool, do you?

          /naked emperor

  3. I don't recall George W Bush even paying lip service to the idea smaller government. He ran as the governor who crossed the aisle in the Texas statehouse and was respected by the opposition party. Not one of those mean ol' conservatives who hates the poor but as a "compassionate conservative" who wants accountability and effectiveness in big government.

    I must have missed that stealth campaign slogan: "Roll back the New Deal: Vote Bush!"

    1. That's one of the things I find truly odd about the left memes of "Deregulation!" and "Laissez-faire madness!" describing the years of his administration. Definitely the prototypical big-government Republican.

      1. It doesn't matter what people actually believe, just what they can get away with calling themselves and what their virtually indistinguishable "opponents" can get away with calling them. There is no truth here. Truth is something journalists made up, a fairy tale they use to sell newspapers.

        1. You say you are lying, but if everything you say is a lie, then you are telling the truth, but you cannot tell the truth because everything you say is a lie, but you lie. . . . You tell the truth, but you cannot for you lie. . .illogical! Illogical! Please explain! You are human. Only humans can explain their behavior! Please explain!

          1. "What is love?"

            ERROR ERROR [BOOM!]

      2. Because "he's exactly like the politicians we want, but he does it for Jesus instead of Gaia" isn't exactly a rallying cry.

        1. Yes. They cried for the wrong High Priest had been elected. One who worshiped a false God with the same fervor that he worshiped their true god The State.

  4. many of you will disagree, but I'm calling bullshit on the premise of this piece. Anytime a Repub even talks about privatizing just a portion of SS or implementing health savings accounts or talks about eliminating depts, the left goes into high hysteria and the Repubs lack the numbers to follow through. It is also true that a good many GOPers lack the spine as well, but Scott Walker has shown it is possible to curb govt excess at the very least. IN became a right to work state.

    Given our system, restraining growth may be the most that can be done in practice. Just look at how many Tea Party types got elected in 2010, but managed to support Boehner's wishes regarding the budget. Their own side was just as nasty in criticizing them as were Dems, and their own side includes the media right, not just the elected class.

    There is a bigger picture here and that is the voter. Lots of folks claim to be for small govt, until they see where they might lose a goody. Politicians are all too willing to pander to that personal craving for free stuff, and a large percentage of the population wants free stuff, even when it knows that nothing is actually free.

    1. You're right. But that still leaves the point of the article: since the reps were actively hostile to people in their own party when they tried to, you know, actually be conservative, and they're willing to pander to people who want free stuff, then they're utterly worthless as an alternative party.

      1. maybe it takes more TP types. With numbers comes strength. I could be wrong but it's not like the Boehner/McConnell wing is going to find religion on its own.

        1. By the time the TP gets that much power, they'll be producing and run by their own variety of Boehner/McConnell types.

        2. This is not a system that can be changed by voting in the "right people". The system corrupts people. Almost every single one of them. Even the holdouts like Ron and Rand Paul still have to compromise to exist and function.

          The system itself is the problem. You cannot correct it by shoving different people into it. It has to be dismantled.

          1. okay then, it won't dismantle itself, either. How do you propose going about it? Further, with what sort of non-corruptible system will it be replaced? Even the Founders were pretty clear that the flaw in this system was human nature. I don't see what alternative discounts that.

            1. All systems will be corrupted. This is why I am an anarchist. Just go with what all systems devolve into anyway: human nature.

              1. I don't see anarchy as viable, due to a couple of components of human nature: the number of folks who wish to control others + the number who wish to be controlled the number who want to make their own decisions.

                1. You live in anarchy right now, you just don't admit it. There is no such thing as "rule of law", only "rule of man". If you think the same laws that apply to you apply to the warlords who rule you, you are as delusional as Tulpy-poo. We always live in anarchy, but invented the fiction of "government" to fool ourselves that we don't, and for the warlords, it has the added excuse of justifying them. And you go right along with it.

                  1. that's ridiculous. Team No-team is also a team. I get that laws are not applied across the board; it's why the ex-Commerce Secy gets away with what would mean jail time for us. But, anarchy is the absence of a system; a hit-and-run would not even be recognized as such.

                    1. Don't be caught by the three o'clock squirrels.

                  2. that's ridiculous. Team No-team is also a team, just one that creates an unworkable system. I get that laws are not equally applied; it's why ex-Commerce Secy gets away with things that would us in jail. But your version implies that a hit-and-run is nothing of the sort. Keep in mind the anarchy in which you live while showing up for work at the predetermined time, paying for things you want/need, staying in the proper lane, etc.

                    1. I can't be wasting my time discussing this with someone who doesn't even know what "anarchy" means. I tried, at least.

                    2. whatever. The great and powerful Oz has spoken. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

                    3. I can't be wasting my time discussing this with someone who doesn't even know what "anarchy" means.

                      I hope you don't talk to yourself much.

          2. And replaced with what? If the answer is "nothing," then that's just a fantasy, human nature being what it is.

            1. Replaced by the power some libertarian could develop to effectively command telepathically.

              1. Or, for that matter, anyone's power (regardless of ideology) to make people desire whatever that person wants. Once everyone gets what they want (regardless of where their desire came from), liberty is achieved.

    2. Scott Walker has shown it is possible to curb govt excess at the very least. IN became a right to work state.

      I think that's the big hole in the article. The backbone of small government Republicans tends to shrink the closer they are to Congress. So you do see much stronger backbones at the state and local level.

    3. There is a difference between the two parties. $.61 less Federal tax on a pack of smokes when a Republican held the executive branch. I suspect we've seen an increase in USDA/FDA paramilitary-style raw milk raids since the Donks took over too.

    4. IN became a right to work state.

      You should have left that part out.

      IN doesnt honor freedom of contract. I dont think you want to give the GOP credit for that, as its going the wrong way.

  5. Everyone wants smaller government, just don't cut the part that benefits them or someone they care about.

    So Republicans claim to want smaller government while giving no specifics, since any specific will alienate the small-government voter that benefits from that specific part of government.

    Then nothing gets cut because any cut will alienate voters.

    No libertarian will ever be elected or stay in office very long because they might cut something that would affect someone, and then the shit hits the fan.

    1. No libertarian will get elected because the 2 parties have stacked the deck against a third party. The system is corrupt, and the only ones with the power to correct the system are the ones who corrupted it.

      1. No, sarcasmic got it right. The general public wants smaller government for themselves, but bigger government, and in spades, for everyone else. The great libertarian myth is that everyone would be libertarian if only they heard the gospel. Nonsense! They might not understand that their preferred policies have unintended consequences, but even if they did it would not quench their lust for bigger and more intrusive government.

  6. I noticed that the alt-text never existed either.

  7. It's all about the measuring scale. For about a century and a half, there's been a worldwide trend towards socialism. Within that overall current there are differences that make some countries, parties, and times more or less resistant to that current. That's how you should judge -- not by some absolute scale which would compress practically the whole world into one end called "big gov't" leaving just a few libertarians relatively spread out resolved by the rest of the scale.

  8. When I was a College Republican, I went to the statewide CR convention, where the head of God's Own Party in that state explicitly admitted that Republicans didn't actually believe in smaller government and that any such talk was just to way the unwashed masses.

  9. All Republicans are not for small government.
    All Democrats are not for the largest government possible.
    All Libertarians are not anarchists.
    End of story

    1. Are you sure about that second one?

  10. Fortunately, there really is a smaller-government former-governor Republican on the ballot in November: Gary Johnson.

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