Make Big Government Fail

It’s too big, too intrusive. It’s getting worse. It’s a liberty-stealing machine that FDR built and flipped the switch on in the 1930s. It was expanded further -- dramatically -- by LBJ. Then came Obama, he of executive orders; he who, along with a lockstep Democratic Congress, imposed government-run health care and seized a sixth of the nation’s economy, among other offenses. And don’t forget all those Congresses in between that have piled up laws and regulations. “It” is the federal government, aka Uncle Sam, a brawny SOB just past his 226th birthday.

A lot of Americans don’t agree that freedom isn’t what freedom was supposed to be. They’ve got sports to watch, cool restaurants to check out, iPads to endlessly monkey with, green causes to indulge, and celeb gossip to catch up on. These Americans would swear that they have liberty, but it’s more and more on the bread and circuses order of ancient Rome.  

Reform big government? Good luck. When you peel the skin off the idea, it’s basically an establishment Republican notion. It’s making big government a little less big, more cost-effective, and efficient. Granted, reform Republicans want to shift some government back to the states; they desire more choice in programs like Medicare and Social Security. But they concede the welfare state; they wouldn’t consider ending entitlements. Politics, they claim. Americans wouldn’t stand for so radical a turn.

And they’re right. Human beings are conservative by nature. As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration: “[A]ccordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms [of government] to which they are accustomed.”

Not enough Americans are suffering from the degradation of liberty, we can suppose. Not today, anyway. 

In line with the Declaration, it’s time to weigh this proposition: Big government must be made to fail before true liberty can be restored. There are too many intersecting interests in big government for wholesale change to occur. Too many ambitious people have their fingers in all sorts of government pies. Too many constituencies are hooked on federal -- that’s taxpayer-funded -- largesse. Millions of bureaucrats have careers and incomes at stake. Establishment Republicans are getting their cut, and aren’t fussed about making a revolution. Progressives are dedicated to ever-more centralized government.                      

Charles Murray has a book out. It’s called: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. Murray, who wrote Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, says it’s high time for civil disobedience – of a selective sort -- that doesn’t do away with big government as much as renders portions of it impotent. Americans should disobey bad regulations. The feds don’t have the wherewithal to enforce all the bad regs on the books. Uncle Sam would continue to be big and parasitic, but could no longer muck things up as badly. That’s Murray’s idea in a nutshell (there’s more to it, so please read Murray’s book). Murray’s proposal has a whiff of Atlas Shrugged to it.    

Murray’s call for civil disobedience is good as it goes, but it’s not enough. It would take millions of Americans thumbing their noses at Uncle Sam to make the idea work. (Murray also suggests the establishment of legal defense funds to help the disobedient fend off the feds’ inevitable reprisals -- that’s selective targeting of offenders to make examples.) Murray’s idea needs to be taken in combination with others. Two come to mind; one is fringy. Both center on the states. 

First, states need to be pushed to disentangle from Washington. This contrary to the aim of reducing the federal government. Disentanglement means pressing states to challenge federal encroachments on their sovereignties. Federal mandates need to be fought at every twist and turn. The tougher challenge is getting states to turn down strings-attached federal funding, but that’s critical. 

States must be encouraged to fight Washington in concert; such would pose quite a dilemma for DC. Individuals are easier to go after than states, after all. States coordinating among themselves and persisting in a grand federal pushback would be tough adversaries. The aim here is, rather than reducing Washington’s size, to reduce its reach by squeezing out the feds. States should insist that their congressional delegations fight tooth and nail for the return of lands and resources. 

“States Militant” would be the vanguard in the fight to make Washington fail. The second idea can be termed “States New.” This is the fringier idea but merits some consideration and discussion.

Nothing prohibits new states being carved from existing ones. West Virginia is seceded Virginia counties. In fact, Coloradans in six counties attempted to secede from their state in 2013. The ballot measures lost. The real play was in the Colorado legislature, which would have had to grant the secession. The chances that the legislature would have permitted secession?  Remote -- at this juncture.   

The critical point is that there are blue states with plenty of red counties (not as many blue counties in red states. See the map). Pressing “states reconfiguration” does a few things. 

Over time, it creates a rallying point for citizens disaffected by the ruling elite and dominant politics in blue states. Short term, the play complicates life for Washington’s state allies.   

Would such militancy occur in red states? Certainly. But are blues in red states as disaffected as reds to blue states? Would Texas be worse off absent its Mexican border counties, for instance?  

Longer term, states reconfiguration is practical. What does central and western Pennsylvania have in common with eastern PA and Philadelphia? Not much. What about upstate New York, long subject to the dictates of New York City elites? Might downstate Illinois counties welcome freedom from Chicago-dominated Illinois? How about the red counties in northern California and the Central Valley? What about the eastern portions of Oregon and Washington State? 

More states are a good idea. Reconfigured states with less divergent polities better serve citizens.  Make the rallying cry: “More states, more localism, more freedom.” Might “more states” be an effective counterweight to Washington?    

A final intriguing wrinkle. Cloward-Piven, the left’s strategy to overload the system and bring down Washington, presumably to replace the existing government with a more robust statist construct. Cloward-Piven could be an unlikely -- if uncooperative -- ally in the fight for liberty’s fullest restoration. 

Curious, wouldn’t it be, if the left was pushing furiously to overload the system, while the friends of liberty, individually and via the states, were withdrawing from Washington’s grip? Could Washington withstand so comprehensive an assault?    

Change -- even change leading to the most virtuous outcome -- is most always messy. Ask the patriots who made a revolution against the British crown about that.                                         

It’s too big, too intrusive. It’s getting worse. It’s a liberty-stealing machine that FDR built and flipped the switch on in the 1930s. It was expanded further -- dramatically -- by LBJ. Then came Obama, he of executive orders; he who, along with a lockstep Democratic Congress, imposed government-run health care and seized a sixth of the nation’s economy, among other offenses. And don’t forget all those Congresses in between that have piled up laws and regulations. “It” is the federal government, aka Uncle Sam, a brawny SOB just past his 226th birthday.

A lot of Americans don’t agree that freedom isn’t what freedom was supposed to be. They’ve got sports to watch, cool restaurants to check out, iPads to endlessly monkey with, green causes to indulge, and celeb gossip to catch up on. These Americans would swear that they have liberty, but it’s more and more on the bread and circuses order of ancient Rome.  

Reform big government? Good luck. When you peel the skin off the idea, it’s basically an establishment Republican notion. It’s making big government a little less big, more cost-effective, and efficient. Granted, reform Republicans want to shift some government back to the states; they desire more choice in programs like Medicare and Social Security. But they concede the welfare state; they wouldn’t consider ending entitlements. Politics, they claim. Americans wouldn’t stand for so radical a turn.

And they’re right. Human beings are conservative by nature. As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration: “[A]ccordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms [of government] to which they are accustomed.”

Not enough Americans are suffering from the degradation of liberty, we can suppose. Not today, anyway. 

In line with the Declaration, it’s time to weigh this proposition: Big government must be made to fail before true liberty can be restored. There are too many intersecting interests in big government for wholesale change to occur. Too many ambitious people have their fingers in all sorts of government pies. Too many constituencies are hooked on federal -- that’s taxpayer-funded -- largesse. Millions of bureaucrats have careers and incomes at stake. Establishment Republicans are getting their cut, and aren’t fussed about making a revolution. Progressives are dedicated to ever-more centralized government.                      

Charles Murray has a book out. It’s called: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. Murray, who wrote Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, says it’s high time for civil disobedience – of a selective sort -- that doesn’t do away with big government as much as renders portions of it impotent. Americans should disobey bad regulations. The feds don’t have the wherewithal to enforce all the bad regs on the books. Uncle Sam would continue to be big and parasitic, but could no longer muck things up as badly. That’s Murray’s idea in a nutshell (there’s more to it, so please read Murray’s book). Murray’s proposal has a whiff of Atlas Shrugged to it.    

Murray’s call for civil disobedience is good as it goes, but it’s not enough. It would take millions of Americans thumbing their noses at Uncle Sam to make the idea work. (Murray also suggests the establishment of legal defense funds to help the disobedient fend off the feds’ inevitable reprisals -- that’s selective targeting of offenders to make examples.) Murray’s idea needs to be taken in combination with others. Two come to mind; one is fringy. Both center on the states. 

First, states need to be pushed to disentangle from Washington. This contrary to the aim of reducing the federal government. Disentanglement means pressing states to challenge federal encroachments on their sovereignties. Federal mandates need to be fought at every twist and turn. The tougher challenge is getting states to turn down strings-attached federal funding, but that’s critical. 

States must be encouraged to fight Washington in concert; such would pose quite a dilemma for DC. Individuals are easier to go after than states, after all. States coordinating among themselves and persisting in a grand federal pushback would be tough adversaries. The aim here is, rather than reducing Washington’s size, to reduce its reach by squeezing out the feds. States should insist that their congressional delegations fight tooth and nail for the return of lands and resources. 

“States Militant” would be the vanguard in the fight to make Washington fail. The second idea can be termed “States New.” This is the fringier idea but merits some consideration and discussion.

Nothing prohibits new states being carved from existing ones. West Virginia is seceded Virginia counties. In fact, Coloradans in six counties attempted to secede from their state in 2013. The ballot measures lost. The real play was in the Colorado legislature, which would have had to grant the secession. The chances that the legislature would have permitted secession?  Remote -- at this juncture.   

The critical point is that there are blue states with plenty of red counties (not as many blue counties in red states. See the map). Pressing “states reconfiguration” does a few things. 

Over time, it creates a rallying point for citizens disaffected by the ruling elite and dominant politics in blue states. Short term, the play complicates life for Washington’s state allies.   

Would such militancy occur in red states? Certainly. But are blues in red states as disaffected as reds to blue states? Would Texas be worse off absent its Mexican border counties, for instance?  

Longer term, states reconfiguration is practical. What does central and western Pennsylvania have in common with eastern PA and Philadelphia? Not much. What about upstate New York, long subject to the dictates of New York City elites? Might downstate Illinois counties welcome freedom from Chicago-dominated Illinois? How about the red counties in northern California and the Central Valley? What about the eastern portions of Oregon and Washington State? 

More states are a good idea. Reconfigured states with less divergent polities better serve citizens.  Make the rallying cry: “More states, more localism, more freedom.” Might “more states” be an effective counterweight to Washington?    

A final intriguing wrinkle. Cloward-Piven, the left’s strategy to overload the system and bring down Washington, presumably to replace the existing government with a more robust statist construct. Cloward-Piven could be an unlikely -- if uncooperative -- ally in the fight for liberty’s fullest restoration. 

Curious, wouldn’t it be, if the left was pushing furiously to overload the system, while the friends of liberty, individually and via the states, were withdrawing from Washington’s grip? Could Washington withstand so comprehensive an assault?    

Change -- even change leading to the most virtuous outcome -- is most always messy. Ask the patriots who made a revolution against the British crown about that.