"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden" - Barry Goldwater
While it is newspapers frequently run columns on aspects of the economy and politics it is fairly unusual to see any space devoted outright to the idea of small government. Fairfax or what is left of it and the ABC tend to chase the idea of more control or regulation of more things as an answer to our economic woes, and more Gillard as an answer to our political ones.
It was therefore quite a pleasant surprise to see one devoted to dumping the nanny state, allowing people to take responsibility for their lives, and reducing the size and scope of government. While space being given to such ideas is unusual, probably News Ltd paper, The Australian is the only one it would appear in:
… Ms Gillard outlined a five point plan for western Sydney people, which included the standards like the National Broadband Network and more money for education. But the fifth promise was this: “And we will help you manage the pressures of modern family life and modern society.” No. No. No. Surely we do not need governments to help us manage our family life. Don’t we want governments to leave us alone, to keep our taxes low and allow us and our families to look after ourselves as best we can?
It troubles me that a political leader could think in these terms. It worries me that anyone would applaud it, welcome it or encourage it. We need someone to be standing up for small government, self-reliance and personal responsibility. Sadly, the Coalition hasn’t done enough to make this a point of difference. It has been tempted to pander to this culture of entitlement, promising to make our lives better – even pledging an extra generous new parental leave scheme.
Governments are not the centre of our well-being, nor do they provide a path to happiness, self-fulfilment or even prosperity. They can actually allow us to seek all those things for ourselves if they manage their own affairs competently, keep taxes to a minimum, and leave us to strive for what we want with out own resourcefulness and earnings.
It looks like we are about to see a bidding war in western Sydney, with Labor and Liberal promising roads, cost of living relief and various baubles. What we really need, and a surprisingly large number of us actually want, is smaller government that is, above all else, competent. What we are really entitled to is a government that would let us keep as much of our own money as possible (because we know how best to spend it for the benefit of our families), and ensure that what it must take from us is not wasted. Perhaps that is too much for which to ask.
From a libertarian perspective, this is refreshing.