Before I begin this post, I don't understand why Breitbart's Big Government is called Big Government. They're supposed to hate Big Government, and they talk about it in every post, but since the title of the blog is also the thing they hate, it sounds like they spend every post talking about what a terrible site they run. Which they should.


Anyway.

Some dude at Big Government is writing about how the GOP needs to embrace the legalization of online gambling, because opposing it is (you guessed it) BIG GOVERNMENT.

For one, those who oppose online poker rights keep Republicans off-message. After all, it is hard to make an argument that we need the government to protect us from ourselves, then subsequently argue that Americans ought to be trusted with credit cards, mortgages, guns, cigarettes, snack food, soft drinks, and other freedoms that are under attack from the left.

[...]

Additionally, the 2006 anti-gaming law — the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act — championed by big government “conservatives” has been a complete failure.

So, you see, using the power of the federal government to ban gambling is Big Government. But...wait. Apparently, government allowing gambling is also Big Government! Sez Timothy in comments:

A law against online gambling has nothing to do with the size of government. Seriously. Absolutely nothing. A bureaucracy created with the goal of "taxing online poker sites, mandating safeguards against underage participation, mandating protections for those with excessive gaming habits, and providing consumer protections for the millions of Americans who play Internet poker every day", now THAT increases the size of the government. But simple laws ("Don't murder a dude," "Don't come into our country without a visa," "Don't gamble online you moron") are the right and proper role of government.

Then ccwasabi says:

And i don't think the republicans should listen to them - the republican party should be conservative and stick to conservative principles i.e. using big government to determine the morality of gambling etc.

They start getting Randian, and then fundamentalist, and shit just goes haywire, because there's no way for anything to happen with respect to the government allowing or prohibiting online poker without some form of government involvement. There's the option of a laissez faire attitude towards it, just letting it continue on, but there's no way that a competitive enterprise involving hundreds of millions of dollars passing through unseen hands in multiple countries is going to go unregulated, especially when you start talking about the potential for the American legal system to be involved in settling disputes.

This is the main problem with the "big government" critique - what it essentially means is "the government doing something I don't like". Governments have grants of power. Those grants of power may be limited or may be far reaching, and are usually written in such a way that they'll routinely butt up against unforeseen circumstances like this.

"Big government" is the ultimate No True Scotsman fallacy, and it's why small government conservatives are always going to be whiny and dissatisfied. Government becomes big when it pursues goals you dislike, and is within its "limited mandate" when you share its goals. It means absolutely nothing, because government is always promoting liberty when it's promoting the liberties you like. The big/small government frame just places it in a fabricated economic context - which, incidentally, has the bonus side effect of always making "small government" always seem cheaper and more efficient.

It's the danger but also the downfall of the Tea Party movement. They have a powerful message that encapsulates a wide swath of anger, but the only reason the message is so powerful is because it allows a rather large diaspora of angry people to pretend that everyone's angry for the same reasons they are. It's when push comes to shove and you actually have to start describing what it is that you're angry about that the coalition fractures like some...fragile thing that fractures. I need to work on my metaphors.