The Party of Lincoln vs. The Party of Bureaucrats

The Claremont Institute, June 9, 2014.


In the fall of 1964, I was on the speech-writing staff of the Goldwater campaign. In September and October I went on a number of forays to college campuses, where I debated spokesmen for our opponents. My argument always started from here: In 1964 the economy—thanks to the Kennedy tax cuts—was growing at the remarkable annual rate of four percent. But federal revenues were growing at 20 percent: five times as fast.

The real issue in the election, I said, was what was to happen to that cornucopia of revenue. Barry Goldwater would use it to reduce the deficit and to further reduce taxes; Lyndon Johnson would use it to start vast new federal programs. At that point I could not say what programs, but I knew that the real purpose of them would be to create a new class of dependents upon the Democratic Party. The ink was hardly dry on the election returns before Johnson invented the war on poverty—and proved my prediction correct.

One did not need to be cynical to see that the poor were not a reason for the expansion of bureaucracy; the expansion of bureaucracy was a reason for the poor. Every failure to reduce poverty was always represented as another reason to increase expenditures on the poor. The ultimate beneficiary was the Democratic Party. Every federal bureaucrat became in effect a precinct captain, delivering the votes of his constituents. His job was to enlarge the pool of constituents. But every increase in that pool meant a diminution of our property and our freedom.

Claremont Institute