Just this morning this was posted by a newspaper publisher friend whom I personally like – though we may disagree on a wide range of issues:
“It is our solemn responsibility to show that government can have both a head and a heart; that it can be both progressive and solvent; and that it can serve the people without becoming their master.”
I appreciate the sentiment expressed. As much as I appreciate the sentiment and wish it was true or could be true – I do not believe it to be true and I do not believe that there are a set of circumstances under which it could become true.
The foundational cause for why this is not true and can never be true – human nature.
We have given those in government great power – and year over year for many decades the power we have given to government has grown and grown. Here is the caveat on what I am about to say: not everyone in government is a bad person or corrupt or a psychopath. However not everyone, or even most, or even more than a few need to be for the entire enterprise to go bad and here is why: it is not human nature to wake up in the morning and think, “What can I do today to make my life as difficult as possible so that the life of everyone else will become easier?”
Those with great power inevitably make decisions that will make their life and job easier. That is human nature – by and large we are not even conscious that this is what we are doing. We are egocentric beings. People who wake up in the morning and think, “What can I do today to make the life if everyone else easier and mine more difficult?” are exceedingly rare and to assume that these rare people are the same people who populate legislatures and councils and bureaucracies is incorrect.
In a free market the check and balance on this behavior is that if you make your customers life more difficult they will take their business elsewhere. Government demands a monopoly and government has no hesitation in using force if you attempt to evade this monopoly – hence you cannot ‘take your business elsewhere.’ Example A: the DMV and the consequences of driving without a drivers license or without your car being registered. No matter how difficult they may make your life and no matter how illogical or arbitrary or unyielding their decisions are – you have little choice but to comply.
This is the essence of the argument for small government and for government with the least amount of power over your life. The essence of the argument for small government is not Auschwitz but it is the DMV. The essence of the argument is tens of thousands of government entities passing millions of laws and tens of millions of regulations – of which no person can possibly keep track or keep up with. The argument for small government is a 72,000 page Federal tax code. The argument for small government is that this country has 92,000 gun laws when totaled up at all government levels.
The argument for larger government is in attempting to make the compelling case that a tax code which is 72,001 pages rather than 72,000 pages will enhance your life. The argument for larger government is in attempting to make the compelling case that you are safer with 92,001 gun laws than you were with 92,000 gun laws. Go ahead – try and make that compelling argument. I am betting that you cannot.
It is absurd. There is simply no other word which applies. It is not that people in government are all bad people or corrupt or psychopaths – though there is no shortage of that in government – but it is a matter of giving great power to people when the natural tendency of human beings is to make their own lives easier with the power they possess. The government path to making the life of those in government easier is to pass a law, create a regulation, tax, spend, borrow.
As much as we maybe sympathetic with the sentiment expressed in the newspaper publishers post – we had better start dealing with what is true and what can be true rather than the fantasies which appeal to what we wish was true but can never be.