Research Seminar: Kelly Goodman

Research Seminar: Kelly Goodman

“Let’s Freeze Government Too”: The Business Campaign for Tax Limitation


Virtual Event

Time: 12:00 p.m.

In the 1970s, business leaders supported efforts to limit taxation at the state and local levels as part of their strategy to reduce social welfare expenditures by government. Partly such an emphasis was strategic: Voters found tax limiting more appealing than tax cutting because limits would restrict the growth of the bureaucracy rather than cut specific taxes or important services. Equally important, tax limitation forced interest groups to compete for their share of a fixed budget by tying the size of government to the size of the economy.

Business initiatives intersected with a social movement for tax limitation. This grass roots story reveals more about the end of the New Deal order than property tax cuts such as California’s Proposition 13, which voters elsewhere in the country rarely supported. Career managers and company executives affiliated with libertarian parties and conservative caucuses organized connected local, state, and national efforts to shrink government, fine-tuning an organizational repertoire that succeeded when economic crisis created political opportunity at the end of the 1970s.

By operating at the state and local level, business contributed substantially to the passage of tax limitation measures, and with that, restricted the resources available for egalitarian public education after 1980. Tax limitation campaigns built much of the infrastructure for the right’s to rise to national power, including the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Pacific Legal Foundation, and also furnished leaders for the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute. These institutions promoted privatization of public education and other public services, in the states and the nation at large, and more generally contributed the right’s growing influence by the late 1970s.

Ben Waterhouse of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will provide introductory comments.

Attendees are encouraged to read Goodman's paper, "Let’s Freeze Government Too”: The Business Campaign for Tax Limitation," which may be obtained by contacting Carol Lockman at

Registration for this event is via Eventbrite.