Home Contact Register Subscribe to the Beacon Login

Friday, February 16, 2018


Every generation must learn eternal truths for itself or lose perspective of its heritage. God, after all, has no grand kids.

The first and foremost concern of the American founders was not education, climate change, or health care. It was fear of the concentration of power in the hands of government.

The history of governments from the beginning of time until the founding of the American Republic was one of kings, tyrants, and despots. How and why did our founders choose to establish a small, decentralized federal government? What did they know that we don’t? Or, are we just egocentric enough to believe we are smarter and more informed than they?

Nearly everyone has heard Lord Acton’s remark “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Thomas Paine understood this. He clearly stated that any government, at best, is a necessary evil. Thomas Jefferson quipped, “When people fear their government there is tyranny. When government fears the people there is liberty.” James Madison’s Federalist Paper 10 delineates concerns over a very strong federal government. His concern led to the eventual adoption of the Bill of Rights to reinforce protection from tyranny.

Continuing with this perspective, forty years after the US Constitution was ratified Alexis de Tocqueville offered his reflections on America in a very important work in liberal political theory (liberal understood in the classic, not modern, sense). A little over twenty years following this important work Americans fought a bloody civil war over irreconcilable differences regarding the oppressive power of a central federal government.

Since then we have changed. Once upon a time we had no income tax, our senators were chosen by state legislatures, bureaucracy was minimal, federal agencies were few and budgets were small. Today we face an ongoing test over an expansionist, intrusive federal government with its tendency to create a culture of deeper and more profound dependency.

Twentieth century Americans continued to examine the expansion of political power and how to limit it. H. L. Mencken was a reactionary opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt clashing with his radical expansionist government. Mencken declared his preference for “a government that barely escapes being no government at all.” Even before the New Deal he wrote of the common man’s view of government. “In those exploiters [government officials and bureaucrats]...he has no confidence at all. He sees them as purely predatory and useless;...They constitute a power that stands over him constantly, ever alert for new chances to squeeze him.” This from “More of the Same,” an essay written in 1925.

The two year budget deal passed last week added $1 trillion to the annual deficit. That deficit is added to the $20 trillion (plus) debt we have already raised. Only a big government can amass such a debt. Nevertheless, the feds are collecting every month more than ever before. Factor in the effect of the recent tax cut and the federal income will explode. So, if the federal government is spending money faster than it takes it in, what should we conclude? Here is a hint: The government is getting larger. Cutting regulations is great. But cutting the bureaucracy that administers the federal government would be even better. There is an old adage that reminds us that we do live by the Golden Rule -- he who has the gold makes the rules.

Governments have never been efficient allocators of resources and yet we’re experiencing more government than ever before. Most senators and congressmen have no hands-on experience in agriculture, business, the military, health care, or education. Yet, relying on special interests, they pro-actively remove decision-making from the hands of citizens and delegate it to un-elected bureaucrats who generate regulations with the force of law. Again relying on special interests, congress funds their decisions exorbitantly distributing tax dollars, most of which they don’t have, as they harvest our liberties. This congress has authorized spending more money than President Bush spent on Hurricane Katrina, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This congress has authorized more debt than every congress combined since our founding.

As an act of political bigotry through their law-making, our elected officials have pushed Americans into behavioral change as a means of solidifying their power. The drumbeat of manmade climate change mandates the type of light bulb we use, the cars we drive and subsidizing “alternative energy” at taxpayer expense when coal and oil are plentiful. The list grows.

Constraining power is the great challenge of any political system. Collectively, we may have forgotten our roots. Idiomatically speaking, we’ve come a long way baby but the question is, “In which direction?” It is as if there was no effort whatsoever to constrain federal power.

Individually and corporately we would benefit by re-grounding ourselves in the principles upon which our nation was founded. No original thinking is required. Mining the nuggets of our heritage might be a formidable task, but the rewards are timeless.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Click here to email your elected representatives.


No Comments Yet

Post a Comment


Upload Image    

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?