limited government

GOP Promises ‘Limited Government’ Via Big Government

“It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” The previous quote, perhaps apocryphal, relates to a battle over Ben Tre in Vietnam. It comes to mind as ‘limited government’ conservatives promise their flock small government via expanded government.

The latest example of conservatives and their situational beliefs comes to us care of the Kids Online Safety Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation meant to protect, well, the kids. According to Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, the legislation “requires social media platforms to put the well-being of children first by providing an environment that is safe by default.”

Blackburn asserts with evident pride that 2/3rds of the U.S. Senate supports the bill, which raises an obvious question: Aren’t conservatives naturally skeptical of government? If so, why should those outside government feel safe when government majorities aim to protect what they deem our “well-being”? Is Ronald Reagan’s quip about the most terrifying words in the English language no longer applicable so long as those purporting to help us are Republicans?

After which, what an odd concept, this “Kids Online Safety” legislation. The latter suggests the use of computers (whether laptops or handhelds in the form of smartphones) in concert with the internet. According to critics of both, including many conservative critics like Jonathan Haidt, kids increasingly interact with the internet in solitary fashion. They supposedly choose the latter over socializing with others. Haidt claims internet usage has made kids “anxious.”

Ok, but if true about an allegedly “anxious generation,” how very interesting. Think about it. In the old, pre-internet days, it was parents who were the anxious ones; specifically anxious about what their kids were doing well outside the home, and that most certainly had nothing to do with computers or smartphones.

Seriously, what parents of Generation X would have given for their kids to be at home more often, all the while transfixed by computers! Again, the fear for parents of old was what the kids were getting into and seeing well away from the much-easier-to-police confines of home.

Taking this further, and applied to computers and smartphones, parents who frequently control the purse strings can regulate online activity quite unlike past potential paths to mischief far from prying, parental eyes. And speaking of, thanks to the internet and smartphones parents now know where their kids are at all times. What’s not to like about this progress borne of technology, and much more important, why are “limited government” conservatives trying to intervene in this progress with more government? Why indeed?

Some will respond that since the internet is so limitless, allegedly well-meaning government must step in to protect precious kids from bad content. Which on its own is interesting. It presumes that kids seeing what they shouldn’t see began with the internet. No, that’s not serious. PlayboyPenthouse, and myriad other forms of prurient content were abundantly available outside the home long before kids chose curling up with their smartphones inside the home as their preferred way of spending their free time.

It’s just a long way of pointing out not just the senselessness of the Kids Online Safety Act, but also to comment on how odd it is that conservatives would support such senseless legislation. Big government doesn’t suddenly acquire laudatory qualities when it’s Republicans passing laws to promote child safety. According to conservatives, something as important as the latter should be left to parents. Republicans would be wise to abide their past rhetoric.

Republished from RealClear Markets


  • John Tamny

    John Tamny is a popular speaker and author in the U.S. and around the world. His speech topics include "Government Barriers to Economic Growth," "Why Washington and Wall Street are Better Off Living Apart," and more.

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