What Drives Government Action?

It is understandable that folks are baffled and dismayed by the news that confronts us each day. The Babylon Bee can barely keep a step ahead of the nitwittery we see playing out in real time.

For example, California politicians decided to take money from taxpayers in order to buy medical insurance for illegal aliens. The federal government tossed bundles of COVID relief cash every which way, with over a billion dollars of it raining down on incarcerated convicts, including Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. And we witnessed government spend billions to fight the prospect of climate change, only to create the reality of crushing inflation. 

Why are these things happening? Who benefits? Which politicians ran on a platform of doing any of this? And, if we claim to be a government by consent, who is it that consented?

For that matter, who among us asked government to restrict everything from what flavors of vape we can buy to what kind of cars we can drive? Who lobbied Congress to double the number of IRS agents or require banks to report every piddling transaction to the state? In short, in whose interest is it to restrict our liberty?

If we can rule out representative government as the driver of these unrequested unappreciated actions -- and we can -- what explains them?

Aristotle and his law of identity suggest an answer. The Greek philosopher noted that everything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as something in particular and has characteristics that are a part of what it is. If we can correctly identify the immutable characteristics of government, the dots should connect.

America was designed by liberty-oriented philosophers, dedicated to the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As revolutionaries, they clearly understood the necessity to limit government since, historically, governments have always presented the greatest threat to those values.

The Constitution they created sought to do just that. Article I Section 8 enumerates those powers held by the federal government and the Tenth Amendment establishes that all others are reserved to the states or the people.

But sadly, the Constitution cannot enforce itself. And, those with the responsibility of doing so are incentivized otherwise. The reason is that the motives and goals of those who designed America are at odds with those who operate America.

The designers were philosophers. The operators are politicians. The designers sought to limit government power. The operators seek to increase their power. The designers established the rules. The operators appoint those who interpret the rules. The vision of the designers was liberty. The vision of the operators are omnipotence.

If one accepts the premise that government exists to serve the people, confusion will result. But, if one identifies the nature of government as the transfer of wealth, power, and control from the individual to the state, each puzzle piece will fall neatly into place. 

Governments of every stripe share the ideology of the cancer cell: growth for the sake of growth. In his 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine recognized government as “a necessary evil.” That necessary evil has transmogrified into the monster we have today.

America was inspired to revolution in part by a paltry document tax and the notion of taxation without representation. Since then, our taxes have increased a thousandfold, while the representation seems to require a magnifying glass to detect.

From a Stamp Tax rebellion to a country where 535 euphemistically-called “representatives” not only spend more than a third of our national production (GDP), but have charged more $20 trillion (1 trillion seconds is more than 31,000 years) on the federal credit card. Final score: Operators 1, Designers 0.

It is not just money. The establishment and growth of the welfare state, the injection of the state into healthcare and education, as well as the wildly expanding regulatory state all attest to government’s nature.

Only when the nature of government is understood do the lockdowns make perfect sense. Whether or not there was ever a rational basis to advocate such a policy was never the issue. It was about grabbing the opportunity to run tyrannical proclamations up the flagpole to see who would salute. The reality that lockdowns and masking served no positive purpose and, in fact, did monumental damage, does not mean they won’t be ordered again at the next opportunity. It is what authoritarians do. It is the nature of government.

The lesson of all this is that the we, the people, are best served when government is small. Our problems do not exist because we pay too little tax or are allowed too many liberties. Quite the contrary.

We can’t turn back the hands of time. But we can decide and commit to the direction in which we must go. We can support policies that cut taxes and deregulate. We can practice jury nullification when the law is unfair or exploitive, resist arbitrary authoritarianism, and teach our children to preserve liberty at every opportunity.

Image: US Gov.

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