There's a huge distance from the statist sytem we have now to a public which really understands the need for strict limits on government power. I've studied libertarianism for over 20 years, so, to me, the principles are clear, but when I talk to others I realize they fully expect government to intervene in the economy -- they think that elections are about deciding what kinds of interventions we want. Hardly anyone I talk with can imagine a truly free market and a strictly limited government. When the idea is brought up to someone who's never really considered the possibility, they stop and stare off for a few seconds, then they say something like --- well, how would be able to_______ ---- you can fill in the blank.
It's really going to take a lot of re-education for people to envision a free market, and to accept that a free market doesn't mean that poor people are left to die in the streets, or that rivers will be filled with filth, or that our drinking water will kill us. The State has done a good job spreading propaganda and stopping any limited government movement in its tracks. The State has done such a good job that the Right is careful to not defend free markets too enthusiastically or explicitly, always assuring those concerned about the evils of "unfettered capitalism" that the welfare/warfare state and entitlements are safe, and that the Right loves the environment to, and, yes, regulations are needed, blah, blah, blah.
The supposed defenders of limited government and a free market don't understand the concepts themselves well enough to explain them and start the education process. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who can talk the language and explain the ideas, and he could do a much better job. It's a philosophical explanation and politicians are like everyone else -- they hate philosophy and practice pragmatism. So, Republicans find pragamtic ways to curb statism where they can -- they've reduced their efforts to trying to minimize the harm of interventions. Republicans don't know how to ariticulate a vision of an alternative to the welfare/warfare state. Republicans will say they are for "small" government, but this relates only to efficiency, not to limits on power. A "small" government can be as interventionist as a Big Government. Republicans say Democrats want government to tell us how to spend our money, but they, the Republicans, believe we know best how to spend our money. What does this mean, though? What type of tax system is best for a free market and limited government? Is the Federal Reserve legitimate in a free market with a limited government? What is the relationship between national defense and a free market with a limited government?
What about public education? Republicans are satisfied with tweaking the public education system, trying to instill conservative principles, whatever that means, but should the government provide eduation? Should the government be involved in healthcare? Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, but do they want to replace it with free market healthcare, keeping government out of healthcare all together? No, they don't. Until Republicans learn what limited government and a free market mean, they will not represent opposition to Democrats, and they won't be able to articulate an alternate vision of the future. Being less-statist than Democrats will not bring about the systemic changes we need. The Republican Party has a chance in 2012 to do something spectacular and present an inspirational vision for America, but if they continue this timid, pretend opposition which is nothing but cost efficient statism, Republicans will fail to take the opportunity to create real change, and we'll have to start a third party and hope there's enough time to do something before a major financial collapse.