"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." (Ronald Reagan -- First inaugural address, January 1981)
"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." (Grover Norquist, Executive Director, Americans for Tax Reform.)
The modern conservative movement is united less by belief in small government – a traditional constitutional value – than by disdain for government. They don’t just want to shrink it. They want to “drown it in the bathtub.” That willingly courts anarchy and chaos.
Related Conservative Failures
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was a model of efficiency and effectiveness in the 1990s—until the conservatives took it over and made it a dumping ground for conservative cronies. Gulf Coast hurricane victims paid the price, even as conservative think tanks held up the crisis as an opportunity to further cripple government. read more »
When America’s founders threw off the British yoke, they didn’t just tell government to stay out of everyone's hair. They didn't believe government was a burden or a mere infringement on liberty. They understood that organized civil society is the keystone of liberty.
Modern progressives understand that, too. It’s not about big government or small government. It’s about effective government. Modern conservatives hate the notion of government itself. And people who hate government can’t be trusted to govern. It's that simple.
Symptoms of Disdain for Government
The idea that government can and should be administered by a disinterested and expert corps of public-minded civil servants is foreign to conservatism. Conservatives don’t believe that such a person can exist because they can't imagine serving the public without a profit motive. read more »
The kinds of public resources big enough for only the government to fund—bridges, roads, electricity grids, watersheds—are the foundation of a nation's shared prosperity. But the conservative contempt for taxation has led to our infrastructure’s atrocious decay—with the American Society of Civil Engineers giving our waste-water infrastructure a near-failing grade of D-minus. read more »
With the brackish floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina not yet receded, George W. Bush's secretary of housing and urban development made the mistake of uttering aloud an unspoken truth: Contracts would only go to the president's political supporters. Without a robust vision of disinterested public service, that's the best we can expect from the conservatives. read more »
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the provision of public services. Hollow out the government and greedy and opportunistic businessmen, unaccountable to the public, will come calling to fulfill its functions—whether it's Blackwater providing "security" in Iraq, or Enron gaming the electricity supply in California. read more»