Stop Talking About Limited Government!

Yesterday’s issue drew a heaping mail.

In that issue we took up the McCarthy ousting.

Some readers were for it — for example, this reader:

We have borrowed into the next generation, and then some. It’s disgusting to watch somebody shopping with others’ money forever. At some point reality must check in, and weigh in on somebody’s mind in D.C. For this, I do pray that somebody more enthusiastic like Matt Gaetz does get elected as a speaker to at least restore some normality back to the federal fiscal insanity!

Others were against his heaving. This reader represents them:

McCarthy had won an earlier victory by cutting Biden’s proposed budget by a significant amount, infuriating his Democrat opponents.

So what price did the members of his own party, the eight who conspired with EVERY DEMOCRAT IN THE HOUSE, what price did they pay for the Ds’ compliance?  Do you or anyone else believe they simply asked and were granted over 200 Democrat votes?

McCarthy was a standing threat to the Democrat ethos of spend spend spend and that’s why the Dems wanted him gone. They enlisted the service of eight ambitious nose-blind Republicans to get the dirty work done. Nice. No, not really.

In yesterday’s column your editor implicated We the People.

He maintained the nation’s finances are so vastly disarrayed because We demand Our bread and circus giveaways — without paying fully for them.

Some readers believed we slighted them. This reader, for example, argues he is a forced participant.

And if he is coerced into the Social Security system, justice demands he be compensated in full measure:

Every time excess spending is brought up, Social Security is mentioned. I have been forced to pay SS taxes all my working life. I was promised that I would be protected from destitution with this. Yet not only is that not the case (I still have to work at 72), but I’m even taxed on it, when I was taxed in the first place.

I wish I had the choice all along to not contribute, but since I did, I have EARNED the little money I am getting. It’s not an entitlement.

We understand. We understand.

This reader likewise believes our lovely theory lacks juice:

I’ve been a longtime reader and thank you for many of your great commentaries. I will give this one about 50-50. I do agree with you that it is an impossible job, but I also disagree with the fact that the core principle at hand is stopping everybody wanting everything for free all the time.

“Limited Government”

At such times as these our thoughts drift to the concept of “limited government.”

Limited government sounds infinitely agreeable. Who among us declares for unlimited government?

Even those who are for unlimited government keep it dark — lest they be denounced as communist hellcats and packed off to the gallows.

Yet today we refile our previous brief against “limited government.”

The term itself is hollow as a jug, hollow as a drum, hollow as a senator’s skull.

Never before have so many used a term… so often… that meant so little.

Government limited to what precisely? How does one define limited government in this, the 21st century?

Perhaps we can liken limited government to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 definition of pornography — “I know it when I see it.”

Some see limited government when federal spending is limited to $3.9 trillion rather than $4.1 trillion… or 19% of GDP as opposed to 21%…

Or when the top marginal tax rate runs to 36% rather than 39%.

But do We the People truly desire limited government?

The Reality of “Limited Government”

Ask the fellow next door if he believes in limited government. He will likely roar a hearty yes.

Proceed to ask him this question:

Should Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Education — to name some — be killed?

Not reformed, not sanded down. Killed.

Ask him if he would prefer greater retirement benefits or limited government…

Greater health care benefits or limited government…

Saving the planet — or limited government.

Up in smoke goes his belief in limited government… in nine cases of 10.

Next we come to the politicians themselves…

One minute they yell about the virtues of limited government. Mr. Jefferson is their example.

The next minute they issue impassioned pledges to save Social Security or Medicare. Or to heave more money at the Department of Education.

And so Mr. Jefferson goes into the hellbox.

An Awful Marketing Slogan

“Limited government.” The term is not merely meaningless…

It is duller than dishwater. It inspires as a man asleep in a bed inspires.

It excites as drying paint excites.

We hear it and applaud… politely. We nod our heads dutifully.

Yet it fails to go home. It bounces off the heart and heads straight for the head.

Yet men rarely act from the head. They act from the heart.

Antiquity featured two great orators — the Roman Cicero — and the Greek Demosthenes.

When Cicero spoke the people said, “What a great speech.”

What did the people say after Demosthenes spoke?

“Let us march.”

How many march for limited government?

Yet many will march for “Health Care for All.” “Save the Planet.” “Social Justice Now.”

These are the cries that awaken the blood and summon the hormones.

They are calls to action that inspire us to run off and enlist… and charge into the breach.

Limited government inspires us to… snooze.

It is a dismal marketing slogan. Imagine attempting to sell limited government for a living.

You would end in the gutter.

Limit Government’s Great Liability

Here is the cardinal sin of limited government: It is defensive in nature.

The sob mongers and tear-squeezers forever shout about this crisis or that crisis.

Only energetic government action can put it down and scotch it.

It may be the environment. Health care. Housing. Income inequality. Racism. Sexism. Bedbugs.

Anything, everything, A through Z.

These big-government drummers are commonly perceived as the angels on our collective shoulder.

They stand for social justice… and equality.

And who can come out against social justice and equality?

Not politicians seeking office.

Limited government thus falls perpetually on the back foot, crouched in a defense posture.

Yet no defense can forever remain static. The enemy ultimately punches through.

The End of Limited Government

In the 1930s, New Deal critics sobbed and moaned about the end of limited government in America.

And not — we may add — without cause.

World War II was next. A nation mobilized for war is not a nation of limited government.

The national security state came along in the 1950s. Then the Great Society in the 1960s.

To talk of limited government at that point was to talk of unicorns, of pink elephants, of circular squares, of honest liars.

The surveillance state has since been piled atop the administrative state.

Not a sparrow falls in these United States — as it was once known — that escapes Uncle Samuel’s eagle eye.

The Federal Register… meantime… runs to some 70,000 dense pages.

Its initial 1936 edition totaled 16.

The Frog in the Pot

America is an empire now. Few dare whisper the word of course.

But it is a strange kind of empire — an “empire of debt,” as our own founders Addison Wiggin and Bill Bonner argued in 2006.

It is certainly an empire in debt — some $33 trillion of it — and counting.

Yet as the frog in the gradually warming pot of water, Americans have acclimated to the changes.

Even now, many “conservatives” croon about our superexcellent system of limited government… as if the New Deal, Great Society and the surveillance state lack all existence.

Limited government may be menaced by the political opposition. But they believe the lines are presently holding.

These lines may be bulging — but holding.

They do not realize the enemy broke through long ago… and for decades has occupied the capital.

Twenty years hence, we hazard these fellows will still croon about our superexcellent system of limited government, fearing the lines will collapse if Democrats win the next election.

Thus the 2044 election will be “the most important in our lifetime”…as were the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 elections… as will be the 2024 election.

But of future elections, this we can predict safely and certainly:

Limited government will not be on the ballot.

The Daily Reckoning