Americans are ready to kick a big, intrusive government to the curb, but they’re waiting for a credible alternative to the two-party approach that got us into this mess, according to FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe.
Kibbe is author of the new book, “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto.” He admits that reversing the tide of big government will be a massive task even if the right people get into office. He is also wading into the divisive conservative debates over America’s role in the world and whether elected conservative leaders ought to be championing traditional family values.
In his book, Kibbe says the fundamental principles of limited government should boil down to six principles. In addition to not hurting people and seizing their property, he extols the values of personal responsibility and and hard work, while encouraging everyone to mind their own business and “fight the power” of government when it exceeds its constitutional boundaries.
Kibbe also prescribes a 12-step solution to restoring liberty to the people, with ideas ranging from the government not spending more than it takes in and scrapping the income tax to personal choice in education and health care to placing much greater limits on the government’s ability to invade our privacy.
Despite the growth of government both long-term and in recent years, Kibbe is optimistic that enough Americans are fed up with Washington that real change is possible. However, he says it will take a unique confluence of events to make it happen, and while he is no fan of the Republican Party, Kibbe thinks it still needs to be part of the answer.
“Ronald Reagan said in 1975 that the heart and soul of conservatism is libertarian. The next year, remember, he primaried a sitting Republican president (Gerald Ford). Everyone predicted he would destroy the party. In fact, the opposite happened. He kind of cleaned out the barn and restored a certain sense of standing for something within the GOP,” said Kibbe. “I think that has to happen again today and I think there a lot of independents and Democrats with buyer’s remorse. And there’s a lot of small ‘L’ libertarians that would vote against the big government party of the Democrats if they found a home.
“Some political entrepreneur needs to offer that up, but I think we’re going to have to beat the Republicans before we beat the Democrats,” said Kibbe.
But Kibbe admits rolling back big government will take a long, committed effort. First, he says the unnecessary complexity of the federal bureaucracy is great for entrenched politicians and special interests and bad for the average citizen.
“You see this with Obamacare. You see it with the IRS and the very complex campaign finance rules that Lois Lerner used to target mom and pop tea partiers. It wasn’t equally applied and in this world of complexity, all of us are probably breaking some small piece of the federal register that we don’t even know. We don’t even know that the rule exists. And that shifts power away from us to them. It also happens to benefit all of the interests that come to Washington looking for a special deal. Incumbent firms love to lobby for more complexity in finance regulations and in the ability of new firms to enter the marketplace,” said Kibbe.
Kibbe warns that because of the deliberate complexity of the federal bureaucracy, reversing the tide will require a long and sustained effort, regardless of who wins elections. But he says approaching reform with simplicity is definitely the way to go.
“On the spending side, agree to how much we’re going to spend and then put everything on the table. On the regulatory side, I think it makes sense on really bad ideas like Obamacare and Sarbanes-Oxley (financial regulatory reforms), a lot of these failed, super-complicated regulatory regimes, pull it out by the roots. Agree what you’re trying to accomplish and then set out something that’s simple,” said Kibbe.
“There are simple solutions to health care that give patients more control that would actually create competition for scarce dollars. We don’t have to write a 7,000-page bill. We could do it with some simple changes to the tax code, but that takes away Washington’s power and that’s why it doesn’t happen,” said Kibbe.
Before confronting the federal leviathan, however, there are some major points of division on the right, both among conservatives and between conservatives and libertarians. The biggest sticking points center on America’s role in the world and whether the right ought to be champions of traditional values like the right to life and traditional marriage and the nuclear family.
On the international stage, Kibbe believes strong leadership on a limited number of issues essential to American security is preferable to how U.S. foreign policy has been conducted lately.
“I think Barack Obama’s a great example of what you don’t do because he’s combined a lack of leadership with a weakening of our economy and a running up of our debt,” said Kibbe.
“I’m with Reagan on this. I lean libertarian. I think we should be careful about getting involved in things like Syrian civil wars because it doesn’t make sense and the practical outcomes matter a lot. We don’t have a good track record there. But if we don’t have the money and we don’t have an economy that exports freedom and actually produces energy…we’re not going to be anyone’s world leader. You can talk a good game but I think the fundamentals are more important,” said Kibbe.
“Everybody took Ronald Reagan seriously and it wasn’t because he was rolling the tanks. It’s because he represented a country that said what it believed and actually was strong in the face of Soviet oppression,” he said.
Social conservatives may have the biggest disagreement with Kibbe, who believes that morality issues should be decided in families, communities and private institutions like churches in synagogues. He believes government shouldn’t be in the business of advocating anything when it comes to moral issues like the definition of marriage. He also contends the Faith Based Initiatives of President George W. Bush quickly devolved into a scrum for federal handouts, handouts that are now going to to very progressive organizations under the Obama administration.
“When you give Washington the authority to intervene in the really important things that you believe, expect that they might do exactly the opposite of what you want them to. Wouldn’t it be better to pursue freedom to allow you to raise your kids the way that you think is right instead of imposing Common Core from the top down. Wouldn’t it be better to not have Washington, D.C. opine on my marriage. I personally found it offensive that I had to get the government’s permission to get married 27 years ago. I think people are waking up to this. These guys can’t even balance the budget. Do we really think they can define marriage in a better way than we could for ourselves?” asked Kibbe.