15 Questions with Grover G. Norquist
Grover G. Norquist '78, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which aims to reduce government spending, is an economist and self-proclaimed “tax guy.” Norquist spoke with FM about the development of his political views, his thoughts on the modern Republican Party, and his take on the United States’ current economic challenges.
1. Fifteen Minutes: What were the inspirations for your early political views?
Grover G. Norquist: I was an anti-communist before I was political in other ways. I read a great deal about the Soviet Union—my public library decided to get rid of all its ‘annoying’ books, which meant all of the right-of-center books, and sold them all off for a nickel or a dime or a quarter. I picked up “I Led Three Lives,” by Herb Philbrick, the guy who was a spy inside the communist party. So I was an anti-communist first, and then over time became active in the Republican Party, and then broadened my interest set into market economics and, in college, I knew I was a free market person.
2. FM: So what led you to adopt the political views you currently hold?
GGN: Common sense and history. You look at those countries and parts of the world that had low taxes and less regulation and freedom of movement. Carthage—I mean all the great countries when they were great were open to immigration, open to new ideas, open to freedom, more open economically. And as countries have too much government and too much government control, they stagnate. If you look around, East Germany is less nice than West Germany, and North Korea is less pleasant than South Korea.
3. FM: Ideally, what should be the role of government?
GGN: Government should enforce rule of law. It should enforce contracts, it should protect people bodily from being attacked by criminals. And when the government does those things, it is facilitating liberty. When it goes beyond those things, it becomes destructive to both human happiness and human liberty.
4. FM: You are known for saying that you want government to be “the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Can you elaborate on this?
GGN: I want to drop the government in half over the next 25 years, and then drop it in half again. The government’s about 33 percent of GDP, 33 percent of the economy. We want to take it down to 16 and a half percent, then take it down to eight percent, all of which would take us to where we were at the turn of the century.
5. FM: Do you think this is something that the United States can realistically achieve?