It’s a challenge to be a libertarian in Washington because you have to swim against the tide.
The vast majority of people in town are looking for excuses to spend money and amass power, and a small band of us are trying to convince them that the federal government should be limited in size and scope.
It may seem like a hopeless task.
*Libertarians argue against big expensive entitlement programs like Medicaid, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.
*Libertarians argue against stupid little publicity stunts like steroid hearings, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.
*Libertarians argue against emotional gestures such as disaster relief, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.
*Libertarians argue against the entire Department of Transportation, explaining that it’s not a proper function of the federal government.
I could provide more examples, but you get the idea. It seems as if libertarians are stuck with a Sisyphean task, urging “no” in a town filled with people who want to say “yes.”
But I don’t think our work is hopeless. I’ve already shared many reasons to be hopeful, and we now have some new polling data that should make us more optimistic. According to the folks at Pew, Americans have very low opinions of the federal government.
Here are the key details from a Washington Post story about the poll.
…28 percent of the public views the federal government favorably, down five points from a year ago and also the lowest percentage ever in a Pew survey on the topic. The lowly rating for Washington compares to 63 percent of people holding a favorable opinion of their local governments and 57 percent expressing a favorable view of their state governments. Even among Democrats, who tend to show more support for government, the numbers have dipped on the federal side. Fewer than half of Democrats– 41 percent– said they hold a favorable opinion of the federal government, representing a 10-point drop from the previous year.
These numbers should be very good news for anyone who wants to push a “federalism” agenda. And Gallup also has found considerable – and growing – hostility to the federal government.
In other words, the American people are on our side. Or, to be more precise, they broadly realize that Washington has too much power and money.
Our job is to translate that sentiment into public policy.
By the way, Switzerland has the strongest system of federalism, and it is doing very well by world standards. Canada also has a decentralized system that has produced some very good policy in recent years.
P.S. For those who care about the Constitution, it’s worth noting that America’s Founding fathers explicitly limited the powers of the central government.