This is a subject that tends to bring about division and hard feelings between those who see government as a positive force and those who consider it a necessary evil, but it’s an important discussion. I’ll try to explain my view and will focus specifically on the federal government, as it is by far the most far-reaching and powerful body we have to deal with today. Naturally, this raises a whole slew of questions, like do we need government? If so, how much, and where? What, if anywhere, is its limit?
These questions, and many others, were posed and discussed in the early years of our country by federalists and anti-federalists in the debate over constitutional ratification; but many believe that times have so changed that the original ideas no longer apply, therefore the government they forged needs to change too. I wholly disagree with both this reasoning and this argument. As I see it, if government is administered appropriately and proportionally, as the Constitution envisioned, the only changes are local. If and when situations arise that the Framers did not anticipate, they can be addressed by the mechanism of amendment built into the Constitution, not by redefining 18th century terms with a 21st century dictionary, or bypassing the whole thing with policy changes or executive orders.
All right, let’s start by asking whether we need government at all? While we’ve abundant experience of government run amok and while anarchy has a point, sadly, I believe that we do require government. Perhaps the day will come that human beings are entirely rational, ethical, and unselfish; but that day is not today. If people did not have envy, greed, covetousness, lust, or fear then I would agree that anarchy – having no government enforcer – would work. If that were the state of human existence then we would live in a cooperative society and anarchy would be quite the natural order. However, humanity is not free of such character flaws and through them, we bring harm to others; violate their natural rights of life, and property, and reputation; so we do need government to protect those rights and litigate damage.
Of course, governmental protection means force: do as authority prescribes, or else. Laws do not enable you to do anything, because you are naturally free to do whatever you choose. Laws only restrict your inborn freedom, either by forbidding something that was once open to you, or requiring something that was once optional. Of course, government power cannot compel obedience to the laws it enacts, only punish their disobedience; thus government finally comes down to forceful coercion.
The founders of our country understood that people are flawed, and that government was needed, so they combined a few systems of to try to meet that need, ultimately giving us our experimental constitutional republic. Our government was designed to be limited, especially at the federal level, giving the greatest power to the states and the people; power which was to stop at the property boundary. The paradox is that, since we are flawed, anything we create is flawed as well; so we are forever forced to amend and correct what we have done. For example, initially the constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights to spell out specific things the government could not stop or regulate; but, of course, being flawed beings we have twisted even that. We read this document written hundreds of years ago according to how we use and understand its words today – not as they were originally. Instead of preserving what the Bill of Rights was intended to say we have used our current definitions of words against it, so the meaning of that document has changed.
One of the constitutional amendments I would offer would specifically state that the Federalist/Non-federalist papers are to be used as the defining documents for any interpretation of the constitution. For example, those papers would completely alter how the “Commerce Clause” has been twisted over time. The founders viewed “Commerce” as the movement of goods but we have redefined it as the exchange of currency. Both are examples of commerce but originally money wasn’t used for everything, people bartered, goods or service for goods or service, so restricting commerce to just the exchange of currency was never the intent. The intent was to keep one state from imposing restrictions against the movement goods of another state. Apparently, they were trying to stop monopolies and ensure free trade.
To expand, not only have we altered the meaning our Constitution we have also altered the frame upon which it stands. Toward this, I would offer to repeal the sixteenth and seventeenth amendments as well, because these two have probably caused the most damage to the wealth and the individual financial growth our country and its citizens. I would like to have the “Rule of Precautionary Principle” – that basically holds, when any law or action has the potential of creating harm to people or the environment, the government has to decide on the side of the people – imposed upon all governmental actions as a constitutional amendment. However, it is more than merely reining in government that is required; what’s needed is the reduction of government as well.
We agree that government is required; now we need to find how much and where it should be located. I believe with Thomas Jefferson that we need as little government as possible, much less than exists today, and what there is of it should be local. Local government, city or county, is best situated to handle the issues of its citizens, while the federal government cannot take the subtle details of local matters into consideration, because it must enact laws that encompass the entire country. Such wide-reaching legislation cannot help but be inapplicable or irrelevant to many localities, or even in conflict with local laws and ordinances. Federal law then must be modified to permit exceptions where locally they do not apply or are in conflict; and once you make an exception, you have found a flaw. The law that was, I assume, passed to solve some problem now creates problems of its own. In our current system, instead of repealing flawed laws, we pass more laws to fix them; and the circle grows bigger because the corrections are also flawed and need correction. Not only is this ridiculously inefficient, typically it brings about unintended consequences that harm the very ones that the laws are intended to protect. The positive advantage of local governments is that they are closer to the problem, and can work quicker and less expensively than can the federal government. Local government also allows the people easy access to its proceedings, so that they may participate in their own regulation, and express their desires or grievances, without great expense or hardship.
One of the many effects of the federal overreach is the dilution of property rights. Most think that they still can do, as they like on what is considered their own property but you cannot because the government reach has traveled well beyond that boundary and has even entered your home. We not only have government at all levels telling us what we can and cannot do with our property, but it also has gone so far as to tell us what property we can buy, and force us to buy goods or services we may neither want nor desire. Why are many required to grow grass, or else? Why are many not allowed to grow certain trees, operate a small business from their homes or even grow their own food? These are all liberties reserved to the people under the original understanding of property rights. Do you realize that, because of taxation, you can never really own your land? With property taxes on the books, you are nothing more than a tenant that can be forcibly removed if you do not pay the realm what it demands. If you truly owned that property, it could not be taken from you; but it can – not as punishment for some crime, but only to feed the growing monster of Government.
Constitutionally, the federal government is restricted to eight specific duties – why then is it so large? Much of the reason has to do with reinterpreting the meaning of the constitution, created with good intentions for the betterment of all or under the “General welfare” clause. Other reasons are the simple lust for power under the guise of safety measures, personal greed in those with access to the public purse, and political need to appear strong and useful. Originally, it was planned that the federal government would be the “face” of our country in our dealings with international issues, responsible for defense against attack and hindrance to interstate trade embargoes, ensure that the states work together, and a few other big- picture tasks; leaving the true governing power to the states and the people. Now, the people are left powerless, the states are fighting hard to hold their ground and the federal government is interfering in everything. My belief is that the real impulse for increased federalism started with Lincoln. His sincere but politically driven obsession that the Union overrode the rights of the states fostered the idea that nationalism is more important, and greater, than any locality or individual to the point where he believed it should be worshipped. A socialistic, monarchical, and collectivist perspective that, one piece at a time and step-by-step, let more and more regulation and power move toward Washington.
So now, a hundred and fifty years later, we are inundated. The people are at the point of violent recourse in many of our cities where civil unrest is at an all-time high, and the populace is more miserable than during the Great Depression. The government is implementing a police state, resembling that of fascism, which needs only the excuse of one serious incident to have Homeland Security impose virtual martial law and disembowel the remainder of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. One thing is for sure: a guarantee is nothing more than words, an empty promise, without the capacity of force. Force is what truly provides the guarantee because when force is set against you, you need to use force to take it back. Sadly, as a people, we have forgotten the lesson learned so long ago, the lesson that force keeps you free. A lesson that, one day in the not too distant future will cost the lives of thousands, maybe millions. My desire is to stop that from happening by pushing to rescind the myriad actions by which the federal government has chipped away our rights, our freedoms, and the very framework of our country. We can start this by removing all laws and regulations that have exceptions to them. If a law is created that does not apply to ALL, public and private, corporate and citizen, then it is not a just law and cannot be enforced.
There is so much more on this topic but this is where this discussion stops.