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 formula of limited government should boil down to six principles:
1) Don’t hurt people: Free people just want to be left alone, not hassled or harmed by someone else with an agenda or designs over their life and property.
2) Don’t take people’s stuff: America’s founders fought to ensure property rights and our individual right to the fruits of our labors.
3) Take responsibility: Liberty takes responsibility. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to solve your problems.
4) Work for it: For every action there is an equal reaction. Work hard and you’ll be rewarded.
5) Mind your own business: Free people live and let live.
6) Fight the power: Thanks to the Internet and the decentralization of knowledge, there are more opportunities than ever to take a stand against corrupt authority.
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 and placing much greater limits on the government’s ability to invade citizens’ 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 said it will take a unique confluence of events to make it happen. 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),” Kibbe said. “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. 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.”
But Kibbe admitted rolling back big government will take a long, committed effort. First, he said 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,” he said. “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.”
Kibbe warned 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 said 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,” he said.
Kibbe added, “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.”
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,” Kibbe said.
“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.”
He added, “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.”
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,” he said.
“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?”