The Case for Limited Government

Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut

It is amazing how contagious a sense of lethargy and ennui can be. Once the last Presidential debate ended, I suddenly had a feeling that further discussion of political issues would not be necessary, because nothing more would be done before the election. Thanks, Washington, for dispersing the feeling that dealing with the problems of this country is a part-time job.

It took me a minute or two to realize the thoughts that had ambled across my brain, in no hurry to get to any destination, because nothing would come of them for awhile. Then I shook my foolish mental self, and said,

“Au contraire! This is not the time to lay back and let things slide. This is the time to press your case. Tell the candidates, Presidential, Congressional, state and local, how you feel, so that when they get back to work, they know the reason for the vote.”

So here I am, ready to tackle the big issues, even if the politicians are not. Shall we get started?

As I have stated before, President Obama is a federal government kind of a guy. Governor Romney is a states’ rights kind of a fellow. I am an advocate for extremely limited government, for a number of reasons.

  1. Mission creep. No matter how tightly the original mission is stated, someone will find a way to expand it. And, of course, it never dies.
  2. Sense of responsibility for self. People just tend to take better care of their stuff and themselves, when they have some skin in the game.
  3. Care and compassion for others building a sense of community. It’s too easy to authorize a paycheck withdrawal and feel that you’ve bettered the world. It’s hard to deal with the flesh and blood others who need assistance. But it is the hands-on approach that binds us together as human beings.
  4. Waste. There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. At each step in multiple transfers of money, from employer to employee to government agency to intended recipient, some amount gets sloughed off. It’s the second, no the third, law of thermodynamics.
  5. Control over one’s own life. This is the obverse of number 2, above. Responsibility and authority go hand in hand. When either is taken away, the other suffers. Take away someone’s ability to control his own life, and his sense of responsibility for his actions evaporates.
  6. Differing values. Two of the concepts touted this days are diversity and tolerance. But how can they exist when one faction gets to decide how all others are allowed to behave? Laws ought to cover the big stuff that the entire culture agrees on, and people should be able to determine their everyday behavior on their own. See 2 and 5, above.
  7. Lack of ability to assimilate all the facts. No group of people, no matter how smart, can take all of the factors of any decisions into account. It is not physically or temporally possible. There are too many variables, that are constantly changing. This is why the market, as bad as it is as correlating cause and effect, is the best thing we’ve got going.
  8. The law of unintended consequences. What results from number 7 and the insistence on passing a law to change human behavior anyhow.
  9. Power grabs. Not everyone is a saint. It’s hard enough to resist goodies when the government wants to give them to you, even though you know there will be a price to pay for them. When you are put in charge of the cookie jar, and you get to decide how big your cookie will be; when your decision on how big your friends’ cookies will be determines how long you will be able to stay in charge of the cookie jar…as Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist everything but temptation.”
  10. Short of slavery, you can’t force people to work harder than they want to. It’s hard to maintain any gumption when you know that the more you do, the more will be taken from you. And the less you do, the more you get. The compulsion to coast is almost irresistible. As is the desire to hoard what you are able to accumulate.
  11. The jealousy factor. When everyone knows how a pie is going to be split up, they are all concerned about who gets how much of the pie. They spend more time measuring everyone’s piece than they do enjoying what they’ve gotten.
  12. Assisting others in the pursuit of a paycheck lessens your sense of their humanity. It’s the question of doing something for internal versus external rewards. It’s been proven time and again that if you reward people for doing something, they begin to hold the reward in higher regard and the thing becomes just a duty. If they must come up with an internal feeling of satisfaction, they rate the thing they are doing more highly.
  13. People who have no purpose other than to take are being denied a major piece of humanity: the desire to be valued.

You’ll notice that my arguments for limiting the size of government have to do with tested elements of human nature. Not a one was an argument against supplying safety nets for those in need. Especially see number 3. Reducing caring for others to the simplicity of sending off money tends to reduce their standing in our eyes as well.

Try as we might to make it otherwise, categorizing people into subsets based on how much they are in need makes the whole system one of “us versus them”. Instead of all of us working together on solutions, we discover that there are those who provide, and those who take. The takers never feel that they have gotten enough, and the providers tire of being the source of providence.

Limiting the ability to depend on others to those who truly need the assistance, keeps down the jealousy on both sides. Providers don’t mind doing more than their “fair” share; they recognize the advantages they’ve got, whether those include business acumen, smarts, the ability to make people laugh, or just plain dumb luck; but they don’t want to be responsible for everything and everyone. And those who take won’t get a free ride—they’ll have to contribute as well, to the best of their ability.

The ultimate goal ought to be to lift everyone up, allow everyone to contribute. The great hunger to be indispensable is a basic human need. And those providers need a day off.

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3 Comments

Filed under Critical Thinking, Education, Elections, Politics

3 responses to “The Case for Limited Government

  1. Excellent … and glad you didn’t stop… : )

  2. This morning, I was in the area of ‘the shade tree’. It has long been THE hang out. It is a truly trashy place even though able bodied grown men spend their entire days under that glorious ancient oak. Over the years, there have been efforts to clean up the spot by folks who have to look at it, but the beautification attempts are exercises in futility. After the attempts, the area looks worse than it did before. Until the men who actually use the place take some personal responsibility and pride to get the area tidy and keep it that way, there’s no government on earth that will change it.
    You are probably asking:”What does the oak tree have to do with Limited Government?” No matter how well meaning the government is, it can’t legislate a willingness to do anything. And the more you try to force people, the less you’ll actually get done.

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