Agenda for Anti-statists

The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, David Boaz, Cato Institute, 329 pages

Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives, Grover G. Norquist, HarperCollins, 338 pages

by W. James Antle III

If the era of big government was ever truly over, it is now back by popular demand. The voting blocs demanding largesse from Washington currently outnumber those clamoring to keep government small and taxes low. While many books and magazine articles have been written about repackaging the Right, and a few advance anti-statist arguments, only two recent releases focus on solving this problem: Leave Us Alone, by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and The Politics of Freedom, by David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute and the man who persuaded Starbucks to print “laissez-faire” on their customized cards. Both authors try valiantly to restore limited government to our political lexicon.

To get a sense of how far small-government conservatism has fallen, take a look at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s recent “Nine Real Acts of Change.” Gingrich was always a deeply flawed figure, and the original Contract with America had its share of gimmickry, but anti-statist rhetoric nevertheless played a large role in the 1994 Republican campaign. The first two to three years of the Gingrich Congress represent the last time the GOP made a serious attempt to cut federal spending.

Fourteen years and more than $1.5 trillion later, the best government-cutting ideas Gingrich can come up with are a summer gas-tax holiday paid for by unspecified reductions in discretionary spending and trimming the Census Bureau’s budget. Even the moratorium on earmarks doesn’t really count, because earmarking merely affects the disbursement of federal funds, not the level of spending. Getting rid of every earmark in a bloated appropriations bill would not directly
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