What do we mean by a limited Federal Government?

“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much.”


-President Obama


Many of us on the right have only recently discovered how best to express our feelings about our government.  The Tea Party movement, among others, has given a voice to many of us who have finally had our political awakening and decided that it was time to put our foot down and stop being the silent majority.  The problem is that we haven’t had decades to clarify and unify our message to a point that we can present a common front that isn’t easily twisted by liberal politicians.  The concept of small government doesn’t mean that there should be no federal government or that it should be powerless.  It means quite the opposite; the federal government should have significant power to act.  However, it should be very strictly restricted in which areas it is authorized to act.  For example the ability to wage war should rest only with the federal government; the ability to require individuals to buy health insurance should not rest with the federal government. 



The liberal establishment likes to make the government size and scope argument a black and white discussion.  Either you are for a large government with very significant power to influence our daily lives or you are for a government that does virtually nothing but supply the military and sends out diplomats.  Once they are able to frame the discussion in that manner a conservative is instantly at a disadvantage.  Conservatives are backed into the corner the President is trying to paint us into, if you say you want limited government you shouldn’t expect the government to be there when disaster strikes.  This argument is fundamentally flawed and skewed in the liberal’s favor.


The argument for a smaller more limited government isn’t one that limits the existence of government but one that clearly defines the scope and authority of that government.  Most conservatives are in favor of a federal government that regulates natural resources and negotiates trade agreements with foreign governments but not all are in favor of a federal government that dictates education policy to the states.  The argument isn’t “either/or,” it’s a series of discrete arguments representing the many aspects of federal influence.


It is imperative that the discussion is framed in this manner.  It is much more realistic and it allows for a legitimate discussion about specific points of the government.  At a Tea Party gathering you would have a hard time finding someone who would say that the federal government shouldn’t have a hand in the recovery from a major disaster on the gulf coast.  You would find differing opinions on the extent to which they believe the government should be involved and what role it should have.  The same goes for national defense, infrastructure, trade and so on as these are legitimate and accepted roles for the federal government as outlined by our constitution.  The disagreements with liberals begin when we start talking about the extent to which the government is allowed to influence the way the States execute their own policy and the influence the government applies directly to individuals.


As long as we break the conversation down and have logical debates about specific portions of federal power we will begin to more accurately reflect our viewpoint and illustrate that we are in fact much more mainstream (and main street) than the liberals make us out to be.  This is what keeps them up late at night. They know that most Americans just want to be left alone to seek their fortune with the gifts they were born with and the sweat of their brow.  They know we like to keep our money and raise our children as we see fit.  This flies in the face of the liberal elite who prefer to think that they know better than the poor unwashed masses.  It is our job to make them argue individual issues when it comes to the federal government and in doing so we will uncover how flawed their arguments really are.