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Fighting Statism With Statism Just Creates More Statism
When does it ever end?
Even before I came into the liberty movement, I would frequently criticize the growing willingness in the conservative movement to use the power of government to impose their agenda. I was one of those who did not give Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a standing ovation when he announced he would be stripping Walt Disney Corporation of its special privileges to punish them for engaging in free speech.
Even now, after he has signed the legislation removing their tax status, I have reiterated my argument: DeSantis did the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, and that should raise more than a few eyebrows on the right. I do not believe that the state should be picking winners and losers among corporations. But I also do not believe DeSantis would have ever made this move if the company’s leadership had not publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act that passed last year.
In fact, Disney previously enjoyed a rather cozy relationship with DeSantis in the past, having given him $100,000 for his gubernatorial campaign. Many conservatives who claim to espouse limited government principles were ecstatic over the governor’s willingness to use the state to punish a hated enemy — who deserves the enmity it is receiving from folks on the right. They argued that corporations should not be involved in politics. Of course, they do not have this same energy for Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who are both avid Trump supporters.
Indeed, when discussing the matter on Twitter, I had a civil, but short, back-and-forth with one of my colleagues, Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter about the matter. He argued that his objectives is “not to conform to some alleged principle that applies only to me” and that his “goal is to be free.”
I responded, explaining why I am not convinced that strengthening the government for conservative purposes would “make us more free.”
More on that later.
I recently wrote a piece for RedState’s VIP section in which I gave commentary on a report from The Intercept detailing how Republican state legislatures are usurping the power of local governments to manage law enforcement operations in their cities. From the report:
In recent years, a movement to elect reform-minded prosecutors across the country has won hard-fought victories across a handful of large cities. Now a growing backlash is taking on a new form: At least nine bills introduced this year across five states would strip power from democratically elected prosecutors. In many of the cases, more conservative legislatures are taking away power from local prosecutors in strongly liberal and Democratic cities and putting them in the hands of Republicans holding statewide offices.
Obviously, being the liberty-minded person I am, I questioned whether this was the right move — overriding the will of the people who elected their mayors and city councilmembers to further an ostensibly “tough-on-crime” agenda. I argued for and against the move, and I might actually agree that in some very rare cases, it might be appropriate for the state government to step in — especially if the local governments are not doing enough to protect people’s rights.
I took a look at the comment section and found a myriad of folks agreeing or disagreeing with me. “To your question of, republicans may not like this card played against them if the tables were turned,” one commenter wrote. “Where the heck have you been for the last several years? The left doesn’t care about norms, equal treatment under the law, basic liberty etc. Its this kind of thinking that shows there are several folks in the conservative movement that still fundamentally don’t understand the nature of the left and the battle we are engaged in.”
Another commenter wrote: “Why is that headline a question? If the fascist dems had that power, what would they do? Do we understand the rules of engagement now?”
If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard similar arguments for using government power against the left, I’d have bought Twitter long before Elon Musk did. In fact, I’d be able to buy Elon Musk himself.
This is a troubling trend that came with the rise of the populism in the conservative movement. Populism, by definition, is an approach that seeks to appeal to the interests and sentiments of ordinary people, often by positioning the populist as a champion of the common person against the elite powers that be. These folks tend to leverage emotional rhetoric and make sweeping promises to give power back to the people.
Does this sound like anyone we know?
Yep. It sounds like former President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Bane. Folks who prefer the use of populism rather than an adherence to ideology are not as concerned with principles — they are concerned with feeling like they are getting over on the establishment elites. It’s understandable, isn’t it? After all, was there anyone on the right who didn’t want to see the Paul Ryans of the world fade into irrelevancy?
But the thing about populism is that an overreliance on that method is currently creating a new crop of people calling themselves conservatives who have no problem using the power of the state to own the libs and push their agenda. As Schlichter said, he is not focused on principle — he just wants to be free.
Unfortunately, what many folks like him — who are rightly fed up with the hard left threatening our way of life — don’t realize that conservatives trying to use the government in the same way as the left will never make us more free. Indeed, it will only allow authoritarians to dominate us further under the guise of making us more free.
When folks on the right begin wielding the state as a cudgel against progressives, they only make the government more powerful, meaning that when it is inevitably back in the hands of the left, they can do far more damage than they could previously.
Moreover, some might not want to admit this, but the far left is far more adept at using government force to achieve their ends than conservatives could ever hope to be. They have been doing it for centuries and have mastered the art of statism. It is in their political DNA. This is not a situation in which we can beat them at their own game.
Instead of trying to strengthen the state to use against our enemies, perhaps a better strategy would be to do what Republicans always claim they want to do: Shrink the government and weaken it to the point that it cannot be used as an effective weapon.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can simply point the rifle back at your enemy. Instead, unload the gun and render it as useless as possible. Stop thinking you can use the sword against those who would use it against it. Instead, blunt the blade so that it cannot do as much damage regardless of the one who is using it.
This would require us to push for an America in which the federal government becomes impotent to enforce the will of the ones controlling it. This is one of the reasons why I continually stress the importance of focusing on local politics. Getting the right people into office at the local — and even state level — can curb the excesses of “higher” governments through the use of noncompliance and nullification.
Liberty-minded folks will not be taking over the federal government anytime soon — if ever. That is a lost cause for the time being. It has grown into a bloated beast under both Republicans and Democrats and is not slowing down anytime soon regardless of the promises given by those who belong to the former Party of Lincoln.
Instead of taking over, and reforming the federal government, it would make more sense to render it impotent. This is how we preserve liberty and prevent authoritarians on Team Red and Team Blue from imposing their will on the rest of us. Yes, it’s not the sexiest of ideas to those who only wish to follow national politics. But to those who just want to be left alone, it is probably the best shot we have.
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