Americans have made a bargain with the devil. Dispensing with the idea of limited government in realm of benefits has meant dispensing with the idea of any limits to government power at all. Once we accept the notion that government should ensure that our pursuit of happiness succeeds, we have accepted the notion that government has the right to define what a happy life should look like.
We can call this trend the encroachment of the “nanny state,” which it is, or the spread of “liberal fascism,” which it also is. But it is also the inevitable result of Americans’ increasing desire to have government guarantee that more and more aspects of our lives turn out all right.
Limiting government power requires limiting the benefits that government can bestow upon us, and right now that seems a bridge too far for some Americans. The revival of the conservative movement will not depend upon conservatives making peace with the welfare state, as some are arguing. It will depend, instead, on tapping into Americans’ uneasiness regarding the encroachments of the State into more and more aspects of our private lives.
Can conservatives succeed in convincing Americans that government benefits, and hence power, should be limited? Perhaps. But only if they remind Americans (as Barry Goldwater did) that a government big enough to give you everything you want is one big enough to take away everything you have.
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