Back in the days when I blogged at Townhall.com I regularly argued with anti-government types who alternately identified themselves as libertarians, anarchists, minarchists and anarcho-libertarians. They weren’t quite sure what they stood for or precisely what they wanted, but they denounced me as a “grateful slave” to government because I was a conservative Republican. Despite all of their angry fist-shaking, their attempts at debating me failed because they could not get around this one inarguable fact: there will be government.
Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” The anarchists will quibble, pointlessly, about whether government is “necessary,” but this is like arguing over whether mountains are necessary or rocks are necessary. Why argue whether something is “necessary” when it is going to exist regardless? Government is a reality. It is going to exist whether we like it or not, and whether anyone deems it “necessary” or not. The reason I know this is because it occurs in every society, across geography and across time, from tribal chieftains to Pharaohs to kings and queens to prime ministers to presidents and congresses….. government has existed in one form or another. This is the nature of the human race. It’s why ships have captains, corporations have boards and CEOs, schools have principles and towns have mayors. Society yearns for order and order requires leadership. And the dirty little secret of the anarchists is that they don’t want to ban order, they want to define it.
The point of this tale is to explain the thinking of America’s great Founders. The anarchists would argue that the Founders weren’t great at all, that they were just self-serving men who wanted to install a government of their own liking, and in doing so they empowered the power-hungry and set us up for the ongoing struggle against big government that has persisted ever since. But I believe the Founders, knowing and living history as they did, were responding to the reality that there will be overarching government, and if they did not shape it, someone else inevitably would. So they seized the moment and shaped a Constitution that, if adhered to, promised to protect liberty by limiting the reach and power of the federal government. In doing so it’s true that they also created the means by which the power-hungry could worm their way in and take control, as we’ve seen others do again and again throughout history. The fact is, though, the power-hungry are always lurking and would come no matter what. Just as human nature prescribes that societies will instinctively sort themselves into leaders and followers, it also prescribes that a fraction of the population will be driven by an insatiable quest for power. The Founders made no claims of having the magic to defeat them. They could only set up a firewall and hope that we would have the wisdom, the fortitude and the perseverance to preserve it. I think they would be disappointed, but not surprised, to see how the firewall is crumbling today, and how the power-hungry have seeped into the cracks like water through a compromised dam.
The two governments that I refer to in this tale, therefore, are the government of the Founders (i.e. The People) versus government of the power-hungry, both of which are waging a fierce battle for control of the means to carry out their mission, i.e. our federal government. The Founder’s government sees itself as defined and limited by the four corners of the Constitution. It’s job is to provide for the nation’s defense, our common welfare and to be America’s trustee when dealing the rest of the world. The government of the power-hungry sees itself as limited only by what it can’t get away with. It sees the federal government as a tool for forcing the American people to bend to the will of the power-hungry and to transfer wealth from one group of Americans to another so as to serve the ultimate interests of the power-hungry. The government of the power-hungry performs the role required by the Constitution only to the extent that it serves the ultimate interests of the power-hungry.
So whether government is “good” or not all depends on which government you’re talking about: the Founder’s government (good) or the government of the power-hungry (evil), though the great rub is that the same host makes it possible for either one to exist. I’ve been accused by some of being “anti-government” and by others of being “a government slave.” LOL. They’re both right, and they’re both wrong. That’s the nature of the times we live in.
Keep an eye on the fight brewing in Florida. Looks like it could come down to a battle of the Florida constitution versus the power-hungry who are testing the citizens’ will to enforce that constitution. It may be the perfect micro-study of the battle described above.