The Difference Between Limited Government and Good Government

May 5, 2021

If Republicans are to have any chance of fighting the radical, ‘woke’ agenda that threatens to abolish the American nation, then they must make an effort to apply their agenda to the issues of the modern day, and present such an agenda with intellectual honesty.


Limited government has always been a crucial component of the conservative creed. From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, less bureaucratic oversight, and more emphasis on the autonomy of the states is something that has always echoed throughout the American right.

But what does that mean?

Spencer Klavan, as he wrote in The Daily Wire, brilliantly points out the modern limitations of the Reaganite slogans of the 1980s, how establishment Republicans will typically slap such rhetoric onto any problem, and then wonder why the new conservative platform has such profound disdain for them. Klavan uses the transgender debate, specifically relating to whether children can be prescribed puberty blockers, as an example. He then proceeds to swiftly annihilate Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “individual liberty” argument regarding his support of minors being able to legally mutilate their own bodies.

Governor Hutchinson thought that he could hide behind the tired platitude of “limited government” as a way to justify his vetoing of a bill that bans doctors from prescribing puberty blockers to minors. Of course, limited government is, and still should be, a desirable outcome for the Republican Party; but what good is a limited government if it means turning a blind eye to the morally egregious reality of children making the permanent decisions to mutilate their genitals?

Such a concern, regarding “good” or “just” government, can also be applied in all other aspects of the modern Republican platform; and therein lies an effective answer against the left’s accusations of the right’s inconsistency on limited government.

For example, such accusations arise when conservatives express outrage towards big tech companies censoring the right on social media. “Wait, weren’t Republicans for limited government? Why are they angry about private companies exercising their own autonomy?” Such a snarky accusation from the left, for some reason, puts many conservatives out of commission argumentatively – but it shouldn’t.

A government that is simply “limited,” is not good enough when it fails to protect and secure the rights of individuals, in this case the right to freedom of speech, from the broad censorship powers of big tech companies (which ironically are derived from governmental privilege, courtesy of the Communications Decency Act) that have created a de-facto information oligopoly.

Conservatives taking issue with big tech’s information oligopoly is eerily reminiscent of big pharma’s monopolization of the prescription drug market, exploiting the fine print of federal patent laws to create de-facto prescription drug monopolies, which further excludes smaller companies from getting in on the action; thus, competition is stifled, severely hurting the patient’s wallet. All of this greatly contributes to the issue of rising prescription drug costs in America.

The age-old neo-conservative cliche of “limited government” in both of these contexts, is surely not enough. With these commonalities in mind, we once again resort to Klavan’s summarization to drive the point home:

But ‘limited’ is not the only thing we want governments to be. We also want them to be just, or else they are hardly governments at all. We want our leaders restrained and humble, not neutered and incapacitated. We want our federal powers chastened, not nonexistent. Students of American history will recall that this was basically the whole point of replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution in the first place. If Republicans are the defenders of personal liberty, or should be, they should also be the defenders of law and order — which means the government needs to be in the business of securing both liberty and justice.”

Limited government is only good and just when it is not only able to restrain itself from violating the autonomy of the individual or the states, but also rushes to the defense of such autonomy when it is violated by large and powerful entities, both public and private, for political or economic motivations.

If Republicans are to have any chance of fighting the radical, ‘woke’ agenda that threatens to destroy the American Experiment as we know it, then they must prove that they are receptive to the concerns of not only the current conservative movement, but the nation as a whole.

Klavan is correct when he asserts that establishmentarians such as Asa Hutchinson shouldn’t feel comfortable falling back on “outdated claptrap to defend indefensible decisions.” 

I believe that modern American conservatism, more specifically the populist values brought about by President Trump, is a winning message. But such a message will only succeed if it is presented with intellectual honesty, and that means actually trying to apply our values to the issues of the present, instead of blindly slapping on Ronald Reagan’s one-liners on every left-winged objection that comes our way.   

Luke Lattanzi, Staff Writer and Contributor at American Pigeon

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