The Corner

The Limited-Government Big Tent

In February an impressive cross-section of national conservative leaders, including one Kathryn Lopez of NRO fame, released the Mount Vernon Statement. This succinct document eloquently sets forth the tenets of constitutional conservatism. To me, its most significant passage is the one that summarizes how the “natural fusion” provided by America’s founding principles unites the various traditions of modern American conservatism:

[Constitutional conservatism] reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.

The Contract From America sets forth a similar case for limited government, arguing: “When our government ventures beyond [those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people] and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.”

Its policy platform calls on lawmakers to first, do no harm: repeal Obamacare, jettison the regulatory nightmare of cap-and-trade, and reject tax increases of any kind. On the proactive side, the Contract calls on Congress to approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a “simple and fair single-rate tax system,” an “all of the above” energy policy that would revive domestic energy production, an end to earmarks, and a hard cap on overall federal spending.

All this is to be commended; indeed, we should shout these ideas from the rooftops. To the extent that anything is missing, it is the recognition, found in the Mount Vernon Statement, that all the various strains of modern conservatism stand to benefit from these policies. Discomfort with the country’s current trajectory comes in many forms and from many sources — all the spending and taxing and regulating will cause entrepreneurs to stuff their money into mattresses and leave us with European-style economic malaise; the debt burden on our children and grandchildren will stifle their shot at the American Dream; out-of-control entitlement programs will crowd out essential national-security spending; government will crowd out families, churches, and charities; and so on.

The Contract From America should recruit all these potential allies to the cause of limited government.


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