Mark W. Hendrickson
Recommend this article
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Forbes.com.

Theoretically, the elemental political choice in a democratic system is between more government or less—more government control over our lives and livelihood, or less; more government spending and programs than the year before, or less; more government power, or less.

In practice, for as long as I can remember, the choice for Americans has been between the party that wants more government (the Democrats, or the party of Big Government) and the party that still wants more government, but a little bit less more (the Republicans, or the party of Big Government Lite). There never really seems to be a choice between a presidential candidate who unequivocally wants Uncle Sam to spend more money next year and one who wants the federal government to spend less; that is, “less” as in not a smaller increase, not a phantom D.C.-style budget “cut” from baseline projections, but a real, honest-to-goodness decrease in the actual number of dollars flying out of the U.S. Treasury.

I thought of this not long ago when I attended a conference and heard some of Ron Paul’s supporters wonder how Mitt Romney could appeal to them. Here’s a suggestion: Offer them a genuine opportunity to vote for less government.

This proposal might strike some as radical, since it is outside the realm of the experience of living voters, but we face an unprecedented set of conditions today that make such a fundamental change of direction conceivable, though admittedly not likely.

Romney already has proposed cutting numerous federal agencies and programs that waste federal tax dollars more egregiously than your typical run-of-the-mill federal bureaucracy. Why not attach a dollar figure to his budget cutting? How about campaigning on a nice round number? E.g., “My first annual budget will cap federal spending at $3 trillion.”

I don’t know about you, but $3 trillion for the wasteful, economy-crushing federal leviathan sounds to me like way too much money, but at least it’s a step—a significant step—in the right direction.

Recommend this article

Mark W. Hendrickson

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.