Persuasion. It is the cornerstone of the political philosophy of any classical liberal, libertarian, or voluntaryist you’re likely to meet. We oppose the initiation of force to achieve political, social, or economic goals and as a result, are left with no other option when trying to accomplish a goal than to try to persuade others that our ideas are correct. Now, it’s no coincidence that in a country founded on classical liberal philosophy that persuasion is a crucial part of the fabric of the American experiment in self-government.
From the floor of the United States House of Representatives to the comments section of any political blog floating out there on the interwebs you’ll see individuals debating ideas and trying to persuade each other to their side. On topics ranging from Obamacare to foreign affairs you’ll find no shortage of heated, passionate debates between individuals carrying the banner of their beliefs. Typically on any subject you’ll find the cliché “big government liberals” vs. “small government conservatives” waging a war of words.
A person must ask themselves though, is mainstream American thought so unoriginal that we are so easily divided into these two neat, tidy little groups? Are these two labels really indicative of the people carrying them? Is it really all just that simple? “Big Government” vs. “Small Government” locked in a seemingly never ending cage match for the future of the Republic!
I would argue no, it isn’t that simple. Even when you break it down to “mostly liberal” or “mostly conservative” groups, you will rarely find two individuals that agree on all issues. There are actually anywhere from 6 to 12 identifiable political groups depending on what research you have in front of you, and even in those groups agreement is rarely unanimous. However, for the point of this article I want to attack one very specific stereotype. The “big government liberals”.
Are the majority of self-identifying liberals out there really just chomping at the bit for bigger and bigger government and endless increasing taxes? Perhaps, if you only examined elected members of the Democratic Party it might seem so, but on that note, if you examined elected members of the Republican Party I think you’d have a hard time not saying that they too are pretty well in support of an ever expanding government, so let’s leave our elected officials out of the discussion for now. What about the people? The average voter. Perhaps, if you asked them directly, they might identify on the side of big government. But what happens when you actually examine what they believe on an issue by issue basis? You might end up coming to entirely different conclusion.
Sure, the average “liberal” is likely to support ideas like universal healthcare, a social safety net, and as much free education as they can possibly throw at someone which all cost a lot of money and are by definition expanding government. However, you can’t just label someone “big government” without really taking into consideration the entire size and scope of government. Are there are other areas where the average “liberal” actually wants to cut government and shrink its size and scope? If you’re going to label someone as “big government” don’t you have to consider how these cuts would relate to the overall size and scope of government? Truth is, even if our hypothetical “liberal” supports all those previously mentioned government expansions, if they also support cutting defense spending, ending needless foreign wars, corporate welfare, the “War on Drugs” and domestic spying programs, when you figure the entire size and scope of government, liberals are FOR smaller government, drastically smaller.
So, why all the fighting over “big government” vs. “small government” when both sides of the political spectrum seemingly want the same thing, but just disagree on the programs to be cut? Why, when we are facing a deficit and debt crisis like never before are we fighting over tax cuts or tax increases rather than compromising and each side giving a little to get to a size of government that we can actually afford? Well, that’s where we come back to those pesky elected officials we discussed earlier. You see, we are largely “represented” in Washington DC by lawyers who have mostly shown no exceptional ability except for that of getting elected and staying elected. So how do they accomplish this? Mostly by raising obscene amounts of money for their campaigns, and to raise that kind of money, you better have something to offer. Well, the only thing an elected official really has to offer are government favors and a smaller government doesn’t have as many favors to offer as a bigger government.
So, if our elected officials aren’t giving the people want they really want, why don’t the voters toss them out and put in someone who will? Never underestimate the power of marketing. If Coca-Cola can convince consumers that there is a drastic difference between their product and that of rival Pepsi-Cola, then its easy to see how one candidate can use his stockpile of money to convince you of that same difference between himself and his opponent. The major party candidates in large races will raise millions of dollars and go toe to toe convincing you that they understand you, stand for what you stand for, share your values, etc, etc, and whoever runs the most successful marketing campaign usually wins. Once they get back to Washington, its time to start rewarding all those large donors, most of which aren’t individuals, but special interest groups formed solely to seek government favors. In the end, the people are left with a huge government they didn’t want and can’t afford, and politicians live a life of luxury and privilege.
How do we fix it? Competition is the key. More choices for the voters will lead to better results from elected officials. Think about it. Do you get better service form your internet provider they have one competitor or multiple competitors? Obviously the answer is multiple. Of course, if voters don’t take control and do a little work themselves to help spread the word about new competition, the money from the Republican and Democrat Duopoly will continue to smother competitors. I am a member and former candidate for the Libertarian Party of Arkansas. The Libertarian Party has always been known as the party of principle, and they have always stood for smaller, more efficient government. Libertarians, when elected, will go to Washington on behalf of the people, and they will start scaling back government across the board. The people deserve a government they actually want and one that they can actually afford without having to bankrupt their children and grandchildren. We want to see this change happen and happen sooner rather than later. Liberty in our lifetime.
David Pangrac is the 3rd district chair for the Libertarian Party of Arkansas, 2012 Libertarian candidate for Arkansas’ 3rd US Congressional district, lead singer for the band “Awkward Silence”(http://www.facebook.com/stupidshouldbepainful), and administrator for his Facebook page “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Geekiness”(http://www.facebook.com/lifelibertygeek