As we move closer to another election season, politicians, the major media and academic experts will serve up a rich menu of political labels for the electorate to digest. Words like “right-wing” or “Tea Party” are to be expected, but even more conventional words like “conservative,” “liberal” or “moderate” should also be viewed with skepticism.
In the waning days of the Soviet Union, those who wanted to keep the empire together, staunch Communists, were called conservatives. In the U.S., during Reagan’s ascendancy, the word liberal became synonymous with political permissiveness as well as big spending.
Fast forward to today and you often find that those who used to call themselves liberals now call themselves “progressives,” and favor the expansion of the size, scope and reach of government in all aspects of our lives. Individual permissiveness is not generally promoted outside of sex and reproduction; however, Big Government permissiveness is embraced.
On what was once the conservative or Republican side of the equation, we see a split among those who speak for smaller government but vote for bigger government lock horns with those who are simply willing to vote for smaller government. This is particularly true in a state like Idaho. The term “libertarian” has gained some credibility, but even within this group there are disagreements over priorities.
The task for those who support the growth of the state is made easier by the fact that one party is now unabashedly supporting it and a significant piece of the opposition party is as well. The task for Idahoans who favor political and economic liberty is made more challenging; we must pick through the inflated rhetoric, look past party labels and identify the policies and the people that advance those beliefs.
This requires that we pin down those running for office on key issues like Medicaid expansion in Idaho, tax policy reform, state general fund spending increases and regulations like occupational licensure. If you want liberty-minded people elected identify the ideas that further liberty and support those who support them.
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