Mandeville, LA – About 10 years ago I wrote an article for Austrian readers explaining that American politicians who say they’ll “get government off our backs” have no intention of keeping that promise. Their real plan is to provide favors for their donors at taxpayers’ expense and with a little luck maybe create a new agency to “help the people.” Moreover, those who vote for politicians inveighing against “big government” usually don’t expect them to reduce the size of government. What they’re voting for are Republicans who are expected to make a certain noise in order to distinguish themselves from Democratic candidates. Those who promise to “get government off your back” can be expected to vote for tax cuts but also for the procurement of more weaponry by the Pentagon, and in the past for expanded immigration in order to provide cheap labor for GOP donors. Saying that “the government is the problem” is music to the ears of many voters. But it hardly obliges the speaker to work toward significantly trimming, let alone rescinding, the existing welfare state.
Unfortunately, impotent or dishonest complaining has become a hallmark of Conservatism Inc., which engages in its own brand of virtue-signaling. Instead of deploring sexism and homophobia, professional conservatives scream against “big government,” which they insist hurts the poor and deprives us of virtue. This is meant to show one’s donors and followers that the speaker is clubbable and perhaps even fit for a post in a “conservative” think tank. One of the few times I ever agreed with a neoconservative is when Irving Kristol addressed the Philadelphia Society 30 years ago and told the audience that they’d better come to terms with the welfare state. Most of the auditors were horrified that anyone at their gathering would make such a statement. They were like European socialists before the First World War, who publicly called for a workers’ revolution but who quietly negotiated for posts in bourgeois governments. – Paul Gottfried, Stop Trying To Make Small Government Happen