“We consider it sheer arrogance to believe that people in Government know better for the people than they know for themselves.” Dwight Eisenhower
Throughout his military and political career Eisenhower was reticent to express his political beliefs, even after he left politics. One of his rare comments was the above quote on the growth of government in American society. This arrogance of government has grown enormously, together with its size, since his retirement. This has been facilitated greatly with the shift in American society away from its reverence for liberty.
America’s founding principles are based on the philosophy of John Locke, arguably the greatest political scientist of The Enlightenment. As an advocate of man’s natural rights, he wrote “All people are free, equal, and have natural rights of life, liberty, and property that rulers cannot take away. All original power resides in the people, and they consent to enter into a social contract among themselves to form a government to protect their rights.” Therein we can find the very purpose for which a free society forms government to begin with. It was this foundational principle upon which the US Constitution was constructed; it’s not what governs the people, but what governs those who govern the people. The very concept of a limited government is in order to preserve and protect liberty.
What is most disturbing about our current state of affairs is a government that overtly professes its disdain for such a concept. We have Trump’s attempt to thwart the electoral process in the 2020 election. Subsequently we have a President issuing “mandates” like a king issuing edicts, and supporting proposals to pack the court in order to assure the outcomes his political party demands. We even have a Congress professing the idea that we don’t even need the Supreme Court because it represents a check on the wishes of the legislature and the electorate.
What is actually at play here is a societal corruption of these fundamental principles by those professing to be experts in all matters political, social, economic, philosophical and educational; you name the topic and you will find an expert espousing “progress” away from those principles, which they deem to be tools of oppression and manifestations of racism. The defining of the essentials of liberty with an opposite meaning is best expressed by Orwell who once observed that “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”
The “principle” under which those that identify as “Progressives” propose such things is “social justice”; this is not a definitive concept but a vague and therefore malleable catch-all for whatever the cliché of the day is trending. Should someone disagree with whatever a BLM advocate may say, they are racists, and if that someone stands firm on the basis of free speech, well that shows what’s wrong with free speech. Is this as Orwell observed stupidity, or is there malice at work? What we have is a disdain of liberty because it does not yield equality; except in regards to the law liberty can’t do so because no two people can ever be equal as each individual is different from all others, which is the basis for the very concept of liberty to begin with, the sovereignty of the individual. Of course there is the ultimate alternative to liberty known as slavery.
This phenomenon of the disdain for liberty is nothing new in America. Alexis de Tocqueville observed nearly two centuries ago that “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” It is a malignancy within the culture of American society that has led to the cancerous growth of government. With every crisis that arises, whether real or imaginary, the American people are led more and more to believe that government is a solution, despite the fact that it enables more and more corruption of liberty. It really matters little whether tyranny arises through hereditary rule, electoral process or revolution, it is liberty that is lost as the state grows ever larger. The US government has grown so large that it currently absorbs nearly 48% of our GDP; even such authoritarian states like China are less at about 33%. The Federal government employs about 2.9M people, excluding the military, while China employs about half that, again excluding the military. Further, this bloated Leviathan now has a debt larger than our GDP.
As we come out of the COVID crisis, we are now burdened with yet another; constantly needing a crisis to justify expanded power, the Ukrainian-Russian War, like the Cold War, serves statists another opportunity. President Biden, experiencing embarrassing low popularity, espouses to be a war leader to deflect attention from his incompetence. We would do well to listen to one of our country’s greatest military leaders, General Douglas McArthur, about such folly: “Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. Indeed, it is a part of the general patterns of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.”
However, there are signs of a shift in our political dynamics, some good but also some that don’t reflect well on our national psyche. According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 35 percent of Americans trust the Federal Government. This aligns closely to Biden’s approval rating, which is not all that different from Trump’s prior to the 2020 election. Also of note was the Pew Poll from last year that showed that the two major political parties each had about 30% registration of the electorate, while the independents have grown to 40%. This could be serendipity of statistics, but regardless it is apparent, and perhaps inevitable, that Americans increasingly view government negatively.
Now that’s not to say that Americans have become more concerned with the loss of liberty; it could, and likely also shows an increasing polarization of the two main parties, with many Americans troubled by that. However, as the great and sadly late Walter Williams observed “Now is not the time to pine for the days of agreeable politics. In recent decades, the US has gone through radical political and cultural transformations that are making the country progressively ungovernable. Any kind of national election from here on out will be viewed as illegitimate by the losing side due to the perceived high stakes of these affairs. No longer do America’s partisan coalitions treat each other as respectable competitors, but rather as existential threats that must be vanquished at the ballot box. As America’s social fabric continues withering and polarization intensifies, it’s only a matter of time before this kind of tension turns violent.” A very prescient observation considering what happened during the riots of 2020 and January 6th.
Ronald Reagan once observed that no government ever voluntarily reduces its size and power; however, there is a way to make that happen and without physical force, but for the American people to liberate their minds away from the parasitical nature of what is contrarily called “progressivism”. This is not wishful thinking as the power of ideas has always been understood, especially by tyrants like Joseph Stalin who famously said “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why would we let them have ideas?”