Boots & Sabers

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Owen

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0648, 19 Nov 22

Make government small again

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best.

 

Over the decades we have allowed our government at all levels to increasingly encroach on our lives. It is the natural progression of government to grow, and it has often been done with good intentions. When there is a problem in our society, whether it be poverty, pollution, or poultry, our political leaders look to try to solve them. Solving problems, or pretending to solve problems, is how politicians garner support to further their political careers and the only tool at their disposal to solve problems is government.

 

From this impetus we get government programs to “solve” poverty. We get regulations, programs, and subsidies designed to reduce pollution. We get more regulations, programs, and subsidies to ensure that our Thanksgiving turkeys are safe to eat. While each regulation, program, tax, subsidy, prohibition, and mandate might be argued on its relative merits, the cumulative effect is a government that has its beak in everything we do.

 

The last few years revealed the raw power and brute force that we have allowed our government to accumulate. With the wave of a hand, our government locked us out of our jobs, forced unproven medicines into our veins at penalty of being excluded from society, crippled our kids’ education and development for years, and looted the next generation’s wealth. It happened while we were told that it was for our benefit and that the government was looking out for our best interests.

 

Underneath all of that altruism, entities used the same levers of government for ill intent. We saw regulations applied unevenly based on political favoritism. For example, leftist protests were allowed to continue unabated while churches were closed. We witnessed Governor Evers and other governors doling out COVID relief money for personal political impact instead of actual need. We will be tracking for decades the incredible amount of fraud and corruption that is taking place as the federal government prints and spends money with little or no oversight.

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

 

I find myself rereading General Washington’s prophetic farewell address in 1796 and anticipating our future with dread:

 

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

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0648, 19 November 2022

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