The political right faces a key challenge when arguing for small government. Some voters are motivated to support politicians who promise that good things will happen after they are elected. So far, so obvious. An equally obvious example of a good thing is the creation of new jobs in a stagnant economy with high unemployment. So the right is faced with demonstrating a counter-intuitive cause and effect between a less active government, with fewer employees, and more jobs overall. Furthermore, how does the right extend the argument further, by aiming to receive (and deserve) credit for the jobs made in the private sector?
The intellectual muddle was recently illustrated by Newt Gingrich’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The former Speaker of the House of Representatives is an undeniable conservative, though sometimes a confused one. Gingrich has tried to exploit discontent with the high levels of unemployment seen under Obama, highlighting his plan for more jobs. But as illustrated by these three 30 second TV slots, which were shown in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, there is confusion about who deserves credit for new private sector jobs. In the first spot, from Gingrich’s official campaign, he is quoted saying that jobs are created by the people, not government. The second spot, from a pro-Gingrich Super PAC, tells us that Gingrich created jobs when he was in government. And the third spot, again from Gingrich’s official campaign, explains that ‘we’ can create lots of jobs. Confused? Of course you are. You just vote for policies; you do not dream them up.