The Only Way to Get Smaller Government

by Harry Browne

September 27, 1998          

In a recent National Review article ["Post-Federal Case," September 1, 1998], John McGinnis offered the following insight to explain why big government apparently will be with us forever:

We are in a prisoner's dilemma: we would all be better off with a smaller government, but it would be irrational for any group to surrender the money or regulatory advantages it gets from the state without a guarantee that all other groups will, too.

That's one reason the Republican Congress has failed to cut government or even slow its growth. (Another possible reason is that Republican politicians are too busy passing new laws to have the time to repeal any.) Attempts to make incremental cuts never succeed because the politicians feel enormous pressure from those who would be harmed by the cuts, while most people wouldn't gain enough from any single cut to justify providing active support.

How do we overcome this? How do we get each American to agree to eliminate the programs from which he benefits and to demand a substantial reduction in the overall size of government?

There is only one way: by providing in return a reward that's bigger than what each individual is giving up a reward that will make a prompt, direct, dramatic improvement in his life. He must receive a huge payoff now not in the sweet bye and bye. And the gain must far outweigh whatever benefits he will no longer get from the government.

This means we won't reduce government by even a dollar until we propose to reduce it by hundreds of billions of dollars all at once. All the unconstitutional programs, agencies, and spending must be marked for elimination within one year.

And for the privileges they might lose, the American people must be rewarded with the immediate and total repeal of all taxes on income personal income, corporate income, estate, gift, and Social Security taxes with no replacement tax. (The revenues already derived from tariffs and excise taxes are sufficient to finance the Constitutional functions of government.)

This is the basis for The Great Libertarian Offer, asking every American:

Would you give up your favorite federal programs if it meant you never had to pay income tax again?

(And neither will your children have to pay income tax. Nor your grandchildren.)

Is this proposal too extreme for most Americans?

No. An idea seems extreme only when very few people can see a direct benefit from it. But The Great Libertarian Offer offers an obvious, immediate boost in the standard of living of the great majority of Americans.

If you aren't convinced that Americans want smaller government or that they're willing to forego government goodies just ask the next five people you see:

Would you give up your favorite federal programs if it meant you never had to pay income tax again?