As I write this article, the Republican National Convention is being shown on television, in prime time. Please excuse my lack of political vigor, but I am not interested in having someone tell me they can “run the government” better than the folks currently in charge. I had hoped that the Republicans might actually try to represent change, but I guess that is not likely to occur in today’s age of big media and big government.
“What’s your problem, Anderson?” some of my friends might ask. Do you want the Democrats to take power? Do you really want Al Gore as President of the United States? Don’t you know what these folks would do to us?
Actually, I do know what they would do to us and the problem with the Republicans is that they have no clue as to the real damage the Democrats have done. If anything, the Republicans have demonstrated through their “inclusive” convention that the Democrats have won the war of ideas. Instead of standing up for something, the Republicans are talking out of both sides of their mouths, promising “conservative” values while trying to ape their political rivals.
Since the Republicans won’t tell us what needs to be done, and since I have some extra time on my hands (by not watching the Republican “lovefest” in Philadelphia), I will tell you, dear readers. In a word, the real problems facing us are not low education standards, racism, anti-gay prejudices, lack of prayer in schools, or even abortion on demand.
Rather, the problem can be explained in one word: statism.
Once upon a time, runaway government was actually on the menu at the Republican National Convention. I remember a few speeches in 1976 attacking big government, and Ronald Reagan actually based much of his 1980 campaign on stopping the awful intrusions of the state.
The problem was that these guys, however, eloquent their speeches, didn’t mean what they were saying. They were not attempting to reduce the burden of government, but only trying to be the folks who would have the privilege of handing out the rewards of political patronage.
Reagan staffed his political appointments with old Richard Nixon holdovers, George Bush used Reagan retreads, and, should George W. win the election, no doubt we will see a government full of his father’s appointments.
In other words, modern elections are mainly about which set of political classes will assume the reins of “power.” Granted, there are degrees of abuse of power, as has been demonstrated by the lawless administration of Bill Clinton. However, please understand that Clinton did not invent the abuse of his office; he only refined it and set new low standards for his successors to meet.
For example, while Clinton and his political henchmen at the US Department of Justice have been the ones mostly defending the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco, remember that both incidents had their genesis during George Bush’s administration. Ruby Ridge, which occurred during the summer of 1992, was fully a Bush action, as he did not leave office until the following January.
As for Waco, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms carried out their fateful raid in February, 1993, less than a month after Clinton had taken power. Plans for this raid had actually been drawn up during Bush’s tenure in office. So while Clinton and his defenders deserve nothing but contempt for how they have handled these horrible abuses of power, the Republicans are hardly blameless.
Furthermore, one of the worst legacies of the Reagan Administration is the stepped up efforts of the War on Drugs. Reagan’s “Just Say No!” campaign turned into “Just Say No! to Property Rights,” as federal and state agents turned to asset forfeiture as a tool ostensibly to stop drug trafficking.
As numerous other writers on this page, including me, have pointed out, asset forfeiture in the name of fighting illegal drugs has given governments vast power over individuals that has almost always been used in the most abusive manner.
Such laws truly threaten our freedom, and they are clearly the brainchild of Republicans, who then set their awful example for the Democrats, who were all too happy to be able to seize people’s belongings.
While Republicans lambaste Gore on his truly ridiculous stands on environmental issues, it was George Bush who strove to be called “the Environmental President.”
Those of us who abhor the confiscatory “wetlands” policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers need remember that these policies were the brainchild of William Reilly, Bush’s point man on the environment and the head of the EPA. The disastrous gasoline price spikes of this past summer had their beginnings in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which Bush hailed as the “cornerstone” of his administration’s environmental policies.
Do we resent the intrusions brought upon us by the Americans With Disabilities Act? It was also the creation of a Republican administration. Do we decry this government’s murderous military escapades around the world? They began with George Bush’s Gulf War. (Actually, the probably began with Reagan’s ridiculous 1983 invasion of Granada to be later followed by Bush’s kidnapping of Panama President Manuel Noriega in 1989.)
My point here is not to give the Democrats a free ride. I truly despise what Bill Clinton has done to his office and to this country, and I have no optimism at all that Al Gore would do nothing but try to destroy all of our liberties. Nor do I believe that all Republicans are unabashed statists. There are voices for real freedom in that party, people who long ago were banished from the Democrats.
I appreciate those folks who labor to educate Americans on the evils of abortion and the continued attempts by the state to force the Sexual Revolution down our throats. I also appreciate those who call for the drastic lowering of taxes and repeal of destructive regulations upon the free enterprise system.
However, those folks are few and have almost always been muzzled by other Republicans who, to be honest, resent the fact that such people are even Republicans.
That is why this current Republican Convention is yet another crappy tribute to statism, and that is why I plan to do anything but watch this dog and pony show.
August 3, 2000
William L. Anderson, Ph.D., is assistant professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.