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January 06, 2010



I read Ryan's little essay. It's really an interesting hodhe-podge of ideas grabbed from every section of conservatism and even progressive politics but with no real overarching theme.

When I read or hear the term "limited government" I translate it to "limited responsibility".

In other words, social/ economic/ political
questions are outside my life and have no link to it. I'm only responsible for myself just as everyone else is responsible for theirs. Whatever problems there are do not demand nor command my attention.

Corporate America has essentially overwhelmed , ( or so it seems),any possibility of changing the political and economic system in the U.S.

But history has shown that there's always surprises for those who think they've planned for everything.

"Put not your trust in princes nor sons of
men in whom there is no help. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans perish."

Psalm 146.


evagrius, i'm curious why you translate "limited government" to "limited responsibility." They are in many ways the opposite when it comes to organizing society. The fact is, we are all responsible with our own lives and decisions, but "limited gov't" doesn't dismiss the idea of interconnectedness of humans who dwell together in society.

And for the record, most "limited government" folks are "limited FEDERAL government," not anti-government in every instance it exists. The idea is that centralized power lacks the flexibility and adaptability to changing social needs and feedback. But that's getting off track from the original post.


I think Chuck's obsession with ideology is interesting. Apparently everyone he disagrees with is just an ideologue. I'm curious about how you tell the difference between an ideologue and someone with a truth you don't like.


evagrius, do you think government should have no limits?


Clearly evagrius wouldn't advocate unlimited government, so he believes in limited government as well. He just disagrees over where to draw the line.

If no government and unlimited government are unacceptable extremes, then it seems obvious that there should be an optimum level of government. And quite a few economists have worked on that problem for decades. In terms of economic growth (or poverty reduction) they usually find that the total tax rate needs to be somewhere around 25% of gdp. In the US that rate is around 40%.

A recent study with similar findings comes from the NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS in their paper, "Optimal Taxation, Economic Growth and Income Inequality in the United States." They find the optimum to be 19.3% of gdp. So if you care about the poor, you'll want to reduce the size of state and federal governments until they take in no more than 20% of gdp.


With regards to "limited government" meaning "limited responsibility", I think that many advocating the former do mean the latter.
They wish no impediment, local, state or federal, to their economic activity.

If by "limited government", is meant subsidiarity, I am in accordance. See

The problem is that corporations are not based on subsidiarity. They can easily circumvent any government, local, state or even national, in their quest for profit.

That's why the call for "limited government" is rather deceptive.


On another note but with some relevance, here is a link to an article reviewing a book published in 1909.

The U.S. has its version of these critiqued revolutionaries, not from the left but from the right, in most cases.


evagrius: "They can easily circumvent any government, local, state or even national, in their quest for profit."

That's a pretty serious charge. You're claiming that corporations break the law with impunity. I think you would be hard pressed to prove that. The fact is they don't need to break any laws because the pay Congressmen to write the laws that suit them.

Republicans are definately hypocrites because they expand state power as much as Democrats. But you can't give the state ultimate power over the economy and expect anything different. One of Adam Smith's complaints was that all politicians were owned by businessmen. But as long as the state controls any aspect of the economy, politicians will seek out wealthy people to whom they can sell that power. It's human nature.

The only way to limit corporate power over politicians is to limit political power.


Evagrius, I think you want more limits to government than just what subsidiarity would provide. What about the Bill of Rights? Do you agree with those limits on government? Of course you do. You can extend that to the entire Constitution which was nothing but a document to limit the power of the federal government.


I agree, evagrius, that the essay is not terribly helpful in charting a way forward. I was more struck my the loosely similar thread to what I had sensed in Sulivan's writings.


No, not everyone who disagrees with me is an ideologue, and some who do agree with me are, i expect. While I disagree with Doug deeply on many things (probably way more we agree on, though), I don't sense him as an ideologue, I have wondered a time or two if he had not let his ideology drive his ready of history rather than vice versa. Philip and I have had some "knock down, drag outs" on religion, but I don't think he is an ideologue. In fact, I've disagreed with just about everyone on here on something, and the list of those i'd consider an ideologue is very, very small:)

Philip Koplin

Perhaps when Roger replies to the questions I posed on an earlier thread (How did you arrive at the truth that economic history begins with Adam? And who are the contemporary scholars of economic science who agree with you?), we'll have a better understand of how he comes to his conclusions.


Oh, I suspect we have enough data to figure that out, don't you, Philip?


Chuck: "I don't sense him as an ideologue..."

That's typical of socialists. Everything is based on feeling and subjective. People are ideologues if Chuck "senses" it. He doesn't have a objective principle for determining anything. It's good if he likes it, bad if he doesn't.


It has been my experience that when someone fixates on "ideology" it's because they don't believe truth exists, only opinions. Can I assume that is the case with you guys?


From Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: ide·ol·o·gy
Pronunciation: \ˌī-dē-ˈä-lə-jē, ˌi-\
Variant(s): also ide·al·o·gy \-ˈä-lə-jē, -ˈa-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural ide·ol·o·gies
Etymology: French idéologie, from idéo- ideo- + -logie -logy
Date: 1813
1 : visionary theorizing
2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.

So I guess if you're not ideologues, then you 1) are not visionary 2) have no systematic knowledge 3) belong to no group and have no culture and 3) have no integrated theories.


It just occurred to me that I am an ideologue. I'm a visionary. I hold to a sytematic body of concepts called economic science. I belong to a group and culture called Christians. And I have integrated theories based on both Christianity and economic science.

Philip Koplin

Still waiting for you to explain how you arrived at the truth that history begins with Adam.


"That's a pretty serious charge. You're claiming that corporations break the law with impunity. I think you would be hard pressed to prove that. The fact is they don't need to break any laws because the pay Congressmen to write the laws that suit them."

Of course corporations "break the law". They break the law in Third World countries all the time. They break the law in developing countries all the time.

Oops. Some of those countries don't have the same law as in the U.S. Some don't even have laws governing corporate activities.

Since they don't have those laws, they didn't break them.


From Wikipedia;

David W. Minar describes six different ways in which the word "ideology" has been used:

As a collection of certain ideas with certain kinds of content, usually normative;
As the form or internal logical structure that ideas have within a set;
By the role in which ideas play in human-social interaction;
By the role that ideas play in the structure of an organization;
As meaning, whose purpose is persuasion; and
As the locus of social interaction, possibly.
For Willard A. Mullins, an ideology is composed of four basic characteristics:

it must have power over cognition
it must be capable of guiding one's evaluations;
it must provide guidance towards action;
and, as stated above, must be logically coherent.
Mullins emphasizes that an ideology should be contrasted with the related (but different) issues of utopia and historical myth.

I think that we are all ideologues to some degree. However, ideology becomes an impediment to true thinking when facts and data are filtered to reflect the ideology rather than reflect reality.

This is, I think, what is meant these days about "reality-based" politics versus ideological politics.

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