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Socialism or Limited Government?

The clash of visions regarding the role of government has never been greater in US politics.

President Obama and the Democrat Party want to move closer to the European Socialism model, if not even further to the left. The Republican Party, not wholly against this trend, seems directed toward the same destination, only with a later preferred time of arrival. The 2010 election brought a third group to the table — “Tea Party” Republicans. This group represents a vocal minority uncomfortably residing in a Party which is happy to have their numbers but not necessarily their ideas.

The clash is less between Republicans and Democrats than it is between the concepts of Limited Government and Big Government. Republicans are represented on both sides of this debate, if not in argument certainly in action. The Tea Party represents the philosophy within the Party arguing for a return to Constitutional constraints that required limited government. The GOP establishment is a form of Democrat Lite.

Michael Barone wrote an excellent column on this conflict of what government’s role should be. Much of his discussion relates back to Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic book “Democracy in America” which was written in the 1830s. Tocqueville foresaw the dangers back then that have led to our current plight. According to Barone (my emphasis added):

Tocqueville, after describing in “Democracy in America” how Americans avoided the perils of equality by forming voluntary associations, engaging in local government and believing in religions that disciplined their pursuit of self-interest into a pursuit of virtue, painted the picture of a darker future.

Above a democratic populace, he writes, “an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, rigid, far-seeing and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that.”

Thus Tocqueville, writing in the 1830s, foresees Obamacare and the crony capitalism that produces a Super Bowl commercial from a government- and union-controlled company that seeks Obama’s re-election.

Barone’s article is a must-read to better understand the conflict that divides the country today. It might even inspire a reading of de Tocqueville’s classic, a true gem.