Um..What Happened To Support For “Limited Government”?

Remember when Republican politicians all ran on platforms endorsing “limited government”? Granted, a lot of them seemed to confuse the size of government with the intrusiveness of government, but to the extent the party actually stood for something, it was the principle that government’s authority over citizens should be limited.

As Barry Goldwater famously put it, “Government doesn’t belong in your boardroom or your bedroom.” (Old Barry is probably spinning in his grave, along with a sizable number of other former GOPers…)

Today’s Republicans are only too happy to invade your bedroom–not to mention your uterus, if you’re a woman. And given Party members’ homophobia, it’s pretty clear that a significant number of folks in today’s GOP would love to return to the time when government could outlaw same-sex marriage and criminalize gay sex. 

But what about that pious declaration that government “doesn’t belong in your boardroom?”

One of the few consistent themes of Republicanism has been the sanctity of the market, and the belief that even the most reasonable regulation of business is a semi-Satanic attack on economic freedom. Republicans have tended to define democracy as consumer choice–let the market decide! Keep government’s nose out of it! (Ignore those armies of lobbyists making sure there are official “thumbs on the scales…”)

Turns out that today’s GOP is just as willing to invite government into the boardroom as it is to insert government into our bedrooms. As the linked Guardian article reports,

A powerful rightwing pressure group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), is pushing states to adopt a new law shielding all US businesses from “political boycotts”.

Although primarily aimed at protecting controversial industries such as fossil fuel companies, big agriculture and gun manufacturers, the proposed legislation is written to prevent boycotts by investors, banks and other companies of any US business.

It comes amid rising consumer pressure on firms over whom they do business with, and follows the decision by major retail stores to stop selling MyPillow products after its chief executive allied himself with Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Alec, which is funded by major corporations, intends to press state legislators to adopt the readymade law, the eliminate political boycotts act, at its closed-door States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington DC at the end of this month.

I’ve previously posted about Alec, and the fact that legislators in Republican-led states (very much including Indiana)  have enacted dozens, if not hundreds, of Alec’s “model” pieces of legislation–adopting the organization’s hard-Right agenda virtually word for word, in laws addressing “immigration, voting suppression, the environment, guns and energy policy.”

The new model legislation requires every “governmental entity”, which covers a wide array of bodies from state government to local police departments and public universities, to include a clause in contracts requiring businesses to pledge they “will not engage in economic boycotts”.

As with all of Alec’s “model laws,” the text of this one has been written by Alec’s lawyers to make it simple; all an obedient legislature has to do is fill in the name of its state. This one is aimed primarily at banks, investment funds and corporations that might refuse to do business with companies that damage the environment or otherwise engage in activities detrimental to democracy or civil society.

The huge investment company BlackRock is among nearly 400 financial firms to have sold off shares in big oil companies over their failure to pursue sufficiently climate-friendly policies.

Some corporations are increasingly concerned that consumer pressure will cause other companies to boycott them over their funding of rightwing politicians and causes, or social positions.

The model legislation follows an Alec meeting in Atlanta in the summer at which participants launched a push against “woke capitalism,” claiming that boycotts may break financial laws.

Hmm…what ever happened to “let the market decide”?

It seems to me that one of the genuine merits of capitalism and market economies is the ability of consumers to choose where to spend their dollars. If I want to confine my investments and purchases and/or those of my company to “woke” companies–or if I prefer to support crazy pillow guys–that’s my right, just as it is my right to hold religious beliefs different from those of Justice Alito and my right to decide who to marry and whether and when to procreate. 

The past few years have certainly illustrated the dishonesty of those “limited government” claims. If we dare to use our liberties to deviate from their preferred behaviors, the GOP will happily invite the government into our bedrooms and our boardrooms.


  1. Some good examples include boycotts of BP for its huge oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. How else will freedom of speech translate to freedom of pocketbooks?

  2. I received the following email from ALEC. I guess they failed to check the election results. For the record: I lost in IN86 to incumbent, Rep Ed DeLaney, one of the finest legislators Indiana has. Here’s the email from ALEC:
    “The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism, thanks you for your willingness to serve your community and constituents. Many of us here know all too well the sacrifices made when serving as a public servant and we deeply appreciate your leadership. For 50 years, legislators in all 50 states have come to ALEC for trusted policy solutions. If you will be serving in our state legislature next year, we look forward to working with you and being a resource to you during your legislative career. If the election results did not turn out as you had hoped, I hope we can stay in touch.

    You are entering a challenging chapter for our nation. Record high rates of inflation, spurred on by rampant, unrestrained federal government spending, have resulted in the rise of everyday costs – ranging from groceries to gas to even heating bills. The policies originating in Washington are squeezing Americans out of their hard-earned dollars. Washington’s addiction to tax-and-spend proposals and bloated bureaucracy are not contributing to a free and prosperous country.

    Thankfully, more and more Americans are turning to find leadership in the states, with the hope that state legislative leaders – like you – can act where Congress and bureaucratic agencies have not. State legislatures have taken the lead on reducing the size and scope of government. In just the last year alone, Arizona, Mississippi, Georgia, and Iowa all made history by joining the Flat Tax Revolution and returning hard-earned tax dollars back to their constituents. State legislatures have always been considered the “laboratories of democracy.” Now, like never before, people from across the nation are looking to state legislatures to lead the way on critical issues facing everyday Americans like education, taxation, criminal justice and energy policy.

    Luckily, you won’t need to wait until next year for the chance to attend your first ALEC national meeting. This November 29th to December 1st, we will be hosting our annual States & Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC. I encourage you to consider joining your legislative peers as they come together for three days of discussion on some of these most pressing policy challenges critical issues facing the states and nation. We have a robust agenda and are expecting a high level of attendance of new legislators, like yourself. We are also accepting nominations for the New Legislator Academy, held in conjunction with the Summit…”

  3. The GOPers don’t think about the consequences of being a Koch shill before they sign up for the program. They’ve already eliminated legislation that will hurt the Koch industries.

    Still, they implement laws preventing journalists from exposing their tactics and crimes, and now they want to tell other businesses how to conduct their business.

    It’s not about free markets – it’s about winning at any cost. They used to be more subtle but have dropped all pretenses. It’s about winning at any cost. Profits before people and the planet.

    Look at COP27, where they’ve used an authoritarian government to prevent protests. They’ve silenced and abolished the free press and even rigged (rigging) the government in their favor.

    I still predict they’ll lose…they’ve just delayed the inevitable.

  4. ALEC and its similar entities like the fetid network of Public Policy Foundations – all Koch-funded, are the mechanisms for fulfilling Marx’s prophecy about un-regulated capitalism destroying itself from within. Profits before people. Money before positive civic initiatives. Free markets before the destruction of the environment. THAT, in a nutshell, is the Republican agenda.

    The lobbyists funding the obedient legislators are burning money on the destruction of civilization on a grand scale. How quickly those people forget what happened when banking and investment regulations were either removed or ignored in the last Bush years. The housing bubble collapse was a DIRECT result of the agenda stated in today’s blog. Will that ever go away? Probably not.

    Greed and hoarding of wealth are a “normal” human trait that can only be overcome with intellectual agility that recognizes those foibles and knows how to advance civilization to the next level where a greed-driven economic philosophy does not rule.

  5. Yes, over time political parties do tend to morph into something quite different than they were when they originated. That’s why blind party loyalty is unwise, at best. But it’s so simple…requires no thought, no messy self doubt, no tolerance for ambiguity, no need to keep up with current events. Just identify with your tribe and stick with them even if they’re sticking it to you.

  6. During Goldsmith’s reign of “limited government” here in Indianapolis, that meant his public reports on staff and department budgets did not include his often questionable appointees. It took 3 years for Star and News to report his staff and budget cuts in the Mayor’s office did not include his staff who were placed in other departments and paid via that department’s budget. The Mayor’s Office APPEARED to be running with fewer staff members and a savings in their budget. His biggest out-of-state donor was given a contract, employment and control through Department of Metropolitan Development. The man was given control over many of us on staff during the few days monthly he appeared in Indianapolis from his home city of Cincinnati, Ohio, and his “day job” as vice president of a bank. Through which he ran many developers in Ohio who were given big contracts for developments here; one of the biggest rip-offs was the selling of 15 pieces of property on Indiana Avenue for $82,000,00 to a developer in Hamilton, Ohio. We will never know all of the scams here; nor will we ever know all of the damage Donald Trump has done to this government and this nation with their White Nationalist MAGA control; which has yet to end. I recognized much of Trump’s “governing” as the expanded version of Goldsmith’s Mayoral administration.

  7. If campaign finance spending is political speech, then so is a politically motivated boycott. But you can’t expect pointing out the hypocrisy of an anti-boycott law to have any affect on conservative legislators. Cognitive dissonance capable of sterilizing small mammals isn’t a bug with right-wingers. It’s a feature.

  8. How can we expect our relatively incompetent state legislatures to do anything differently? ALEC comes along and puts what it deems a “policy” in the hands of guys who won because they put an R next to their name and they have hit the big time. They can introduce it as their own and show their constituents just how busy they are “writing and passing” such important bills. The whole time the only thing they want is to “stick it to the libs.”

  9. So we are stuck with Parties as they have evolved – really sad. But, where is the DEM ALEC??? United we stand….

  10. One of the reasons that the Republican Party holds such powerful sway over its base is their training in austerity economics which they interpret as they get to control more of how their hard-earned money gets spent. That’s largely based on their experience in commodity businesses that survive only by having the lowest-cost product. What they resent are those “other people” who obviously live easy lives doing nothing but begging for the government to take care of them by giving them tax revenue.

    They find hearing these ideas repeated very entertaining as evidenced by their choice of entertainment media channels.

    Of course, another term for that concept is “limited government” based on the assumption of government that’s too big. When asked about how they know when government is or is not too big they recite only general platitudes.

    All of that fits completely into the concept of a conspiracy theory that feeds their “blame Democrats” comfort zone.

    It’s entertainment for that cohort laced with propaganda/advertising, a very toxic combination.

  11. ALEC another less educated choice. go figure, in my discussions with literally hundreds of blue collars,in truckstop lots,construction sites,cafes,street talk. few if any ever heard of alec. its doesnt even make radar. we have our own losses because we dont communicate beyond those who like here,are educated. where did we talk with those others who vote? in my little prairie world of the northern desert, even the educated here never heard of alec, and its slithering grift. its run by the rich,and no one gives a shit if it exists. i love being in a ditch in education with a long time following alec and how our own country has failed to educate what is killing us,literally. i would put alec ahead of the fossil fuels syndrome. the ignorance is plaqued by the educated who talk and never spend a word on the less educated on what it takes to understand how this system has evolved.(if little)if the main stream news doesnt make a commercial dime from it,it isnt news? maybe those so called news orgs shoul be taken to the wood pile and given a public beating for a change. alec is no ones friend,its wall streets second avenue. id love to see the senseless crap on t.v replaced by one news sourch for prime time that will stand and tell it like it is. social media be damn,get out and grab a ear and educate them face to face.. or lets stand devided and write about it between ourselves.

  12. Of course the simple response is for New York, California, and Illinois to pass similar legislation that prohibits state entities from doing business with any company that does business with a state entity in a state that _____ [fill in the blank] (e.g., prohibits abortion). One of these days, Democrats will learn that most games can be played by two opponents.

  13. Having worked for IPL for 15 years, I got some insight into real world market forces vs politics. IPL (now AES) is one of the bigger coal users in Indiana. AES, as a corporation, has goals of moving away from coal toward cleaner greener solutions. Most of that is driven by the fact that investors are punishing them for not having sustainable long term plans. Large international banks won’t lend money to sustain or upgrade dirty technology.

    Power plants are a long term investment. Everyone should get to tour the Harding Street Station power plant (3600 S Harding St, Indianapolis). At the north end of the Art Deco main power house, sit 1930’s era boilers abandoned in place in the 80’s, and and then when the building was expanded to the south (no more Art Deco tile), generators and boiler from the 40’s abandoned in place in the 90’s. Farther south were two generators installed in the 50s and the coal boilers recently converted to burn natural gas. Finally there is the 20 story steel frame building with corrugated metal siding at the south end of the campus built in the 80’s that housed the newest boilers and generator, a monster, several hundred tons of steel and copper, the size of school bus that spins at 3600 RPM, that again was converted from coal to gas. This kind of investment means a business need to make sure they can get at least 50 years of productive life, and AES has been pivoting at an accelerated rate of speed, even fast than what they announced 5-10 years ago.

    As I looked through the candidates at election time, the Republican running for State treasurer looked like a pretty good candidate right up until he said would oppose the state dealing with any company that engages in ESG. ESG is Environmental and Social Goals. On the business side of things ESG is the Republican bogey man, equivalent to CRT. So this guy was basically saying he would force state pension funds to shift away millions of dollars of investments from any investment company that uses ESG. Republicans are moving into the board room, and at the same time, are most likely hurt Indiana retirees, hurt the environment, and hurt any social progress, but they’ll get to “own the libs”.

  14. jack smith, explaining what ALEC is and does is boring. There are no crying babies or wailing mothers to grab people’s attention. Media spins on the “Newsertainment” cycle now days.

  15. Dan:
    the long term investor has been granted a whine to make better his are
    managed by finacial firms,who want profit. for whatever reason,at any costs except to them.. the fact that corp CEOs never give an inch,and congress allows this to upend our economy for the investors..the concept has been given a green light by those who can develop a party in goverment to play ball. its been passed signed,spindled,punched,filed,surveryed,think tanked to do nothing but allow the investor to give reason to the managers to win at any cost. any outdated system became null, while the investor was gleefully allowed to keep thier investment sacred.
    what the hell is a inevstor for,if the system they invested in fails,they should to. no write offs. intell is a multi billion$ corp, investors,etc,and a credit rating probably the third world banks would lend to, why didnt intell go see diamon and chase for a loan. instead the investor was allowed to skip paying an intrest rate and pet thier nest egg. the goverment caved? gave them what will most likely be a partial grant for help driving our economy in the ground while they found cheap labor and green fields in other countries,totally ingnoring who butters their bread. again,the investor wins. now lets be frank, the construction will take a few year,cool good paying jobs,make em prevailing wage being its goverment money,or did they have a percentage that boots that idea? its great for high techs who work in that field, but does little for the working class as awhole., the investor has bought and paid for one politcal party and part of another. not bad for a 40 year investment of kicking the working class to the curb..and profitting from cheap wages.

  16. ALEC is an organization which provides legislators with proposed legislation which advance its conservative views. Nothing sinister about that. There are about a thousand advocacy groups that do exactly the same thing, from all across the political spectrum. That’s called democracy. Don’t blame ALEC for being successful in what it does.

    As a side note, Democrats outraised Republicans during the 2022 cycle, even in the dark money made possible by Citizens United. Not sure if people on here. I don’t agree with the decision, by the way. (No corporations are not “people.”) But it hasn’t been as bad a decision for Democrats as has been claimed.

  17. Mark Levin has called for us to have balanced budgets regardless of what our country becomes freeer or more socialist. Programs are under attack with the huge national debt and growing budgets and annual deficits.
    Thats why Trump was partially acceptable to fiscal conservatives. Thats still a good thing to be striving for. The national debt requires a sufficient amount of taxes and a limited 1-2% cut in the budget annually in oto balance the budget in 5 years..
    Millions of dollars are being laundered in Ukraine some are saying by a crypto king. Politicians are using kickbacks from this? The corruption is more extreme than we can admit apparently.

  18. John S,

    Money laundering? Really?

    with all of the eyes on Ukraine, I doubt if they’re really up to a whole bunch of shenanigans! By the way, who is this Crypto king? and, Is there criminality in the Ukraine? Absolutely, name one location on this planet where there is not criminality occurring. the amount of criminality going on in the United States is probably at the Pinnacle of society. Why would anyone have to go to the Ukraine and launder money? If anyone wants an abject lesson on money laundering, look up Ronald Reagan and the Iran Contra affair! Guns, Drugs, and off the books war, ‘oh my!’ Always insinuations and innuendo without any sort of factual support. Willful delusion, and willful ignorance, it’s bad when a sizable section of society gaslights themselves! I’m just wondering where this fiscal conservatism was 6 years ago?

  19. Paul Ogden,

    No doubt there are thousands of organizations writing draft legislation. BUT, none come close to the funding, influence and success of ALEC on either side of the political spectrum.

    Might your comments also be similar for the influence of the Federalist Society on our judiciary?

  20. I remember hearing for decades that the Republican party was for limited government. I have never known this party nor witnessed limiting of anything.

    It like economics and pro-family–everyone just assumes the Republican party is better at handling the bills and are sooo pro-family. I have not seen any evidence of any of this ever.

  21. We’re naturally wired for resentment to rise up within us before gratitude does. The evolution of our species, if it still exists, may reverse our emotional inclinations at some point. If and when it does, we’ll hopefully and instinctually learn to engage our curiosity before fear and rage kick in.

  22. Technology, medicine, optics, farming, and general empathy have pretty much stalled human evolution. Nobody is allowed to die from genetic “flaws”.
    People join parties because their familial tribes can’t handle the current niches.

  23. ALEC expresses, and organizes, operationalizes the libertarian view that anything goes, at any cost
    to the larger culture. They believe that they are at liberty to support, or run, vulture capitalism for the
    sake of the already wealthy, and would be happy to fund the development of a swath of poor-houses,
    for a profit, for the rest of us.
    Limited government, in their view, ought to be limited in such a way as to prevent anything from interfering
    with their agenda, period! ALL the claims to some sort of moral high ground, on the part of those on the right,
    have been as smoke and mirrors, and wrong.

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