DeMint: We need a "big God" to have a small government

A memorable passage from today’s Values Voter Summit. Like O’Donnell’s rhetoric against the “ruling class,” it’s smart retail politics and important at a moment when social conservatives are getting very nervous about the GOP’s flirtation with moderation on cultural issues. DeMint’s task here: Convince “values voters” that the tea-party message about smaller government and fiscal responsibility is somehow inextricably bound up with religion. Not something that’ll win you points with a Chamberlain-esque RINO atheist candy ass, but there’s maybe three of me versus umpteen million Christian conservatives out there in the voting pool. If you’re looking to win one of us over, which group is it wiser to target?

DeMint then devoted the rest of his speech to refuting the idea that the conservative movement should focus on fiscal issues rather than social ones. “I hear regularly as I travel around this country, someone will tell me, ‘I’m a fiscal conservative conservative, but not a social conservative.’ I want to straighten him a little bit this morning, because the fact is, you cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you do not understand the value of a culture that’s based on values,” he said to loud applause.

To make his case, he said that without strong Judeo-Christian values, the American public becomes dependent on the government. “When you have a big government, you’re going to have a little God,” said DeMint. “You’re going to have fewer values and morals, and you’re going to have a culture that has to be controlled by the government. But when you have a big God, you’re going to have a responsible and capable people with character to control themselves and lead their own lives. And you can’t have a little God that promotes freedom and allows people to keep more of their own money, and a government that’s not bankrupt. A government that’s not bankrupt. We’re talking about fiscal issues.”

We don’t need to have a full-on believer/infidel food fight here about whether devoutly Christian countries necessarily have more effective governments (ahem, Mexico), but I’m curious to know what the Objectivists among us think of DeMint’s argument. Last I checked, Saint Ayn was both an atheist and a pretty darned ardent believer in small government. (In fact, I’d bet that hardcore self-described libertarians are less likely to be religious on average than self-described conservatives or Republicans.) To be fair to DeMint, he doesn’t actually say that those are incompatible: What he says is that “values” are a key check on government expansion but not that government will necessarily expand without that check. He’s implying it, though, based on the assumption that people need some sort of top-down authority — God or government — to be in control. I think Rand would disagree, but am open to correction. Any Objectivists care to weigh in?

By the way: There was one speaker at today’s Summit whose speech was notably short on “values” talk. Hmmmmm.