Over at the Washington Post‘s PostPartisan blog, Jonathan Bernstein discusses the rising influence of the “Ron Paul crowd” on Republican state party platforms. Bernstein cites a derisive piece from Ed Kilgore on a draft platform being considered by the Iowa Republican Party:
Now, a new group — the Ron Paul crowd — is taking over some formal GOP structures, including in Iowa. Ed Kilgore has a great post detailing some of the wackier things they’ve put in the official Iowa Republican Party platform — for example, eliminating the Agriculture Department. In Iowa. Oh, there’s plenty more, including phasing out Social Security and Medicare; overall, it has called for a federal government half the size of what Paul Ryan has advocated.
I don’t take issue with Bernstein’s contention that a platform like the one being proposed by the Iowa GOP would be a problem for most Republican politicians because the overall program “is just spectacularly unpopular with the general public.” I quickly scrolled through the hundreds of proposed “planks” in the platform and, as a libertarian, often found myself shaking my head and rolling my eyes. So it struck me as odd that of all the ideas in the platform that one could deem to be “wacky,” Bernstein chose to focus solely on planks that would cut – admittedly, dramatically – federal spending.
Many libertarians have fooled themselves into believing that the American people are with them on their basic program, but if that were the case, Ron Paul would have been a viable presidential candidate, not someone who finds it hard to break 15 percent in primaries. Nor would the polling on government spending be mixed, with majorities for cutting spending overall (good for libertarians!) and for increasing spending on most programs (disaster for libertarians!).
I could be wrong, but I think most libertarians are aware that the average American favors spending cuts in general but is often less enthusiastic when the cuts are specified. And while Paul isn’t going to be the next president of the United States, his campaign has been successful in getting a lot more Americans to understand that the federal government needs to be downsized. Younger people in particular have been drawn to Paul’s limited government message. Paul was never going to win over the older folks who at the end of the day are primarily concerned with making sure that their Social Security and Medicare benefits aren’t touched. But the younger crowd is becoming increasingly aware that they’re eventually going to take it on the chin in order to maintain the federal government’s intergenerational redistribution schemes. Perhaps that’s what concerns people like Bernstein.
Circling back, proposing to eliminate the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be called a lot of things: provocative, controversial, dramatic, etc. But dismissing it as “wacky” is lazy. If Bernstein thinks that it’s a bad idea, then he should just say so (of course, my colleagues and I would argue otherwise).
For more “wacky” ideas, check out Downsizing the Federal Government.