Republican Antipathy Towards Government

The Early Republican Party

The early Republican Party used government to end slavery, established the land grant colleges, promoted western expansion and, in the person of Theodore Roosevelt, actively participated in the Progressive Era. Then things changed.

It was in the Depression that the Republican Party started to turn against government. After the Second World War, various writers, thinkers and politicians moved this political philosophy into the mainstream of the Republican Party, such as…

Ayn Rand, The Road to Serfdom, Barry Goldwater

The heroes in Ayn Rand’s novels represent an unfettered individualism against the state and society in general. Combine that with Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, then Barry Goldwater’s extreme anticommunism and the overall idea that the government must be curbed and dismantled became the unofficial position of the Republican Party. Then it became official with…

Ronald Reagan and Voodoo Economics

Ronald Reagan saying “government wasn’t the solution, but the problem” is about as anti-government as one can get. And Reaganomics was voodoo economics that was, at its base, the Republican Party’s move away from government. It’s two main positions were and are that reducing taxes on the wealthy results in economic growth for everybody and that business should be unfettered by regulations. The free market can only thrive if government’s size and power is reduced.

Grover Norquist famously wanted to reduce the size of government so “he can drag it into the bathroom and drown it”. So, in the 80s and 90s the Republican Party becomes more identified with the interests of the wealthy and the corporations than ever before.

Now & the Future

Although the recent government shutdown was about “the wall,” it is hard not to find continuation of the Republican Party’s antipathy towards government in the GOP’s tactics. Trump’s administration and the Congressional Republican leadership disdain for government, and government employees, was on full display.

This philosophy is seriously out of step with reality. There is an obvious role of government in managing the issues of not just immigration, national security, education, and trade, but also inequality, climate change, health care, energy policy, etc.

To be sure, government is very imperfect, but it is also very important. Can we expect those who openly are hostile to government’s role to govern well?

Louis Harpster