© Josh Sager – September 2012
In modern American politics, conservatives across the country near-universally support the ideal of “small” or “limited” government. In invoking the idea of a small government, conservatives attempt to paint the picture of a large, intrusive, wasteful, and ineffective government that they are trying to reign in and make effective. Oftentimes these conservatives claim that government is the thing holding the United States back, thus simply removing regulations, cutting “wasteful” program and reducing taxes will result in success for all Americans. Unfortunately, the conservative ideal of “small government” is merely a fantasy, created by conservative elites as a smokescreen for the true intentions of the conservative movement.
In reality, the modern American conservative’s ideal of “small government” manifests through the cutting of programs which don’t benefit the wealthy individuals and special interests that fund the conservative movement—examples of such programs include entitlements, welfare, environmental/worker protections, and education. Because the people who lead the conservative movement are motivated primarily by “enlightened self-interest” (Read: greed), and garner no benefit from programs which help the poor/middle classes, these conservative elites see such programs as wasteful “big government”. Once the elites who run the conservative movement determine which programs are useful to them and which should be labeled as “waste”, they propagate this determination down to the average conservative individual; as these individuals have little to no knowledge of the actual effects of policy, the conservative elites have little problem convincing the rank and file conservative to vote against their own interests in favor of the interests of the elites.
Programs which prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from exploiting others are held in particular contempt by modern conservative elites. Regulatory bodies such as the EPA and the FDA, as well as numerous worker protection laws have endured incessant conservative attacks over the past decade, despite the very real good that they do for society. These programs not only “waste” money on helping the poor, but are specifically designed to interfere with the wealth entity’s “freedom” to act as they see fit. In protecting the rights of society, these programs prevent those with power from exploiting or harming others for a profit; conservative elites (many of whom are the exploiters) see this intervention as an attack on their “liberty” and will do virtually anything to remove these obstacles.
In the minds of conservatives, money which is “wasted” on things that other people rely upon is simply money that could be given to them in the form of a tax break. By this mindset, the individual simply doesn’t care about the needs of their neighbor and is content only when they are exempted from paying into any program which they don’t receive a direct benefit from. An utter lack of empathy into the situations and needs of others has become and endemic characteristic of the modern conservative movement to an extreme which has never been seen in the history of the ideology.
With social issues, particularly surrounding gay rights and abortion, we see an illustration of the conservative “small government” fiction. Despite claiming to support a small and unobtrusive government, the conservative movement has pushed heavily for increased governmental regulations on personal activities that they find objectionable—gay marriage and abortion rights being the most common things that modern conservatives decry and attempt to legislate away. These conservatives don’t see these restrictions as “big government overreach” simply because such regulations don’t overreach into THEIR lives, only the lives of others. The conservative hypocrisy in the realm of social issues is indicative of their ideological mindset and gives us a clear look into the conservative views on the size of government.
While there is a legitimate argument about the size and scope of government to be had, the modern conservative movement is not even attempting to make this argument. Rather than pushing for a truly limited government, the modern conservative movement promotes a government which gives its members big government benefits while ensuring that everybody else only receives a small government pittance; small government regulations are put on to guns, religious institutions, and civil rights, while big government restrictions are imposed upon gays, women, and atheists. This vision is a product of a selfish minority and all Americans should reject it on its premise, regardless of ideological vision.