Boots & Sabers

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0713, 16 Mar 21

On checks and balances

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue with my ruminations on remedial Enlightenment thought with a current example of where it should apply. Here’s a part:

The very need for government is rooted in the understanding that humans are naturally flawed and need to cede individual power to a collective in order to secure the individual liberties of all. While that seems counterintuitive, the tragic arc of human experience proves the point. But ceding power to a central authority creates a different threat to individual liberties: concentrated power.


Because humans are flawed, they will naturally seek to concentrate power for their own purposes. Even while such efforts to concentrate power may be justified in the name of some higher good, the evolution of concentrated power is always the same. The more power is concentrated, the more it is used to quash the individual liberties of others for the benefit of the few, or the one. Without concentrated power, even the most tyrannical among us is impotent. With concentrated power, even the well-meaning can slide into tyranny.


Understanding the nature of power in the hands of humans, our Founders structured our government with the express purpose of dividing the collective power of the people into as many parts as possible and using the personal interests and ambitions of each individual to check the others. The goal of dividing power is not that it will enhance the greater good, but that it will restrain the bad. As Federalist 51 explains, “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual, may be a centinel over the public rights.”


To bring this concept into 2021, we turn to the current controversy over the distribution of COVID-19 relief money being distributed to states by the federal government. In the most recent distribution of our great-grandchildren’s money, the state of Wisconsin expects to receive about $3.206 billion for the conveniently elastic purpose of “COVID relief.”



0713, 16 March 2021

1 Comment

  1. dad29

    It is very important to recognize that “tyrant” is not necessarily just ONE human being; it can be something like the Federal Government which is the entire Deep State.

    That’s number one.

    Number two: Aristotle was convinced that no Government could control a large, diverse, population spread over a large land-mass. The Founders recognized the same limitation, which is why the 9th and 10th Amendments exist.

    But beginning with Lincoln, or certainly with Wilson, the Tyrant began to emerge and it’s entirely possible that we cannot stuff it back into its bottle–at least, nor without extremely forceful State Government push-back.

    Robin and Devin are going to have to re-adjust their sights, and I fear Robin ain’t up to it.

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