My political philosophy is an eclectic mix of traditional conservatism (in the mold of Edmund Burke), neo-conservatism (like Irving Kristol, I was once a “liberal mugged by reality”), and the libertarian instincts of James Madison or Adam Smith.
My odyssey in life began in a political galaxy “far, far away” from conservatism. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where conservatives are a rare breed. It’s taken me years to get to where I am now. The journey has been very rewarding. I’m a conservative and I’m proud to say that I am.
The election is just a few weeks ago and I’m in the throes of deciding how to cast my ballot. I used the term “how to cast” rather than “who to vote for.” While I realize the ballot will have names fixed on it, I’ll be voting for conservative principles and deciding which candidates best embody those principles.
The first issue of importance to me in this election concerns the size, scope, and competence of government. Conservatives have always held that limited government is the best government. When government grows beyond its necessary limits, it becomes a bloated, bureaucratic giant. Then, the bigger it gets the more incompetent and inefficient it becomes. Worst of all, it becomes autocratic, corrupt, and despotic.
What does this mean for the average American or the average Kansan?
Almost everyone in this country has heard about the scourge of Ebola. About three weeks ago we all heard the assurances from government bureaucrats that it was almost impossible, given our systems and agencies, for Ebola to come to our shores. Then, when the cases did appear, the Centers for Disease Control assured us that “protocols” were in place to protect us. We now know that was a lie. We’re being told that more money would have solved the problem. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health recently complained, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”
How can this be? The truth is, it can’t. If there’s enough money in the coffers to pay for studies on why chimpanzees throw things, the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail, or the impact of televisions and gas generators on small Vietnamese villages, surely there’s enough money to develop vaccines and protocols in the fight against Ebola. We even have an “Ebola Czar.” Her name is Nicole Lurie. Her profile describes her as having “responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies.” She’s been almost invisible, but she’s been busy enough in the back rooms to shepherd a $443 million no-bid contract for an unnecessary smallpox drug to Siga, a company whose “controlling shareholder” was Ron Perelman, a major Democratic Party donor. While the wheeling and dealing was going on, Chimerix, a competing drug company, was left holding the bag by N.I.H. What made it all so tragic was that Chimerix was actually working on anti-viral treatments for Ebola.
That’s what almost always happens when government gets too big.
What does this have to do with Kansas? I’ve been looking at the size of Kansas government for years. It’s really bloated. The best way to gauge how bad it’s been is comparing the number of public sector employees per capita in Kansas with the rest of the states. Based on a 2012 census of the states taken by Governing Magazine, Kansas has the eighth highest number of public sector employees per 10,000 of population (273) in the non-education segment. When elementary, secondary, and higher education employees are added to the mix, Kansas has the dubious distinction of have the second highest per 10,000 (667). If it weren’t for Wyoming, we’d be wearing the brass ring.
Sam Brownback has been accused of doing everything under the sun to destroy jobs in Kansas. It’s a clever, deceptive half-truth. Private sector employment is on the rise. It’s government jobs that are being cut. And, they should be. This problem has festered far too long. In a 2011 interview with Watchdog.org, Malcom Harris a professor of finance at Friends University in Wichita was asked about our public sector employment problem. His response was quite telling: “It’s an indicator of a bigger problem. It tells me we’ve got a lot of resources going into government.” When asked why that was important, he replied, “Government spending squeezes resources that might be available for increasing productivity. It makes us less competitive.”
Like William Tecumseh Sherman marching through Georgia, Sam Brownback has the bureaucrats howling. It’s about time. The pendulum in Kansas is finally swinging in the right direction and we need to keep it swinging that way.