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“Food for Thought” is an original column appearing every other Tuesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Norman Imberman. Norman is a retired podiatrist who loves playing piano, writing music, lawn bowling, bridge, reading, classical music, going to movies, plays, concerts and traveling. He is not a member of any social network, nor does he plan on becoming one. Archived columns can be found here. FFT-only RSS feed available here.
(Editor’s note: Originally written in September 2010.)
Along with conservatives, I too believe in small government, as opposed to liberals, who believe in big government, or at least their behavior demonstrates a belief in big government. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “That government is best which governs least.”
The first settlers were painfully aware of the need for small government because their experience of being ruled by big government in the nations from which they came, resulted in tyranny, slavery, poverty and great hardship. They came to the New World to escape that tyranny. The Founding Fathers were born 100 years after the landing of the first settlers and were well educated in the history of global tyranny, from the ancient Egyptians through the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations to the monarchies of Europe until the day when they were put to the test of devising a social order that could create peace and harmony. From their study of history, including the history of the first settlers 100 years earlier, they understood the necessity of creating a government that was small.
However, a problem existed at the outset, which still exists today. What is the dividing line between big government and small government? What are the definitions of big and small government? Can they be defined? Since the only activity that a government can exhibit is the forcible taking or regulation of the property of its citizens for the alleged benefit of society, under what circumstances should government act so that its activity can be considered “small?” I challenge conservatives to answer this question with consistency. Conservatives, who claim to be freedom lovers, must generically define freedom (and slavery) in a consistent and non-contradictory manner before they can embark upon any political action with freedom as their goal. Perhaps freedom is not their goal.
Let’s look at the facts. During the inception years of the existence of our Constitutional Republic we did have “small government,” which lasted for many years. But now we have “big government.” How did such a thing happen? Nobody went to sleep on any given Sunday under the rule of small government and awakened on Monday to find himself under the arm of big government. It crept up on us. The creeping restrictions on our freedoms was perpetrated by liberals and conservatives alike, sometimes with the approval of their constituents and sometimes without, each faction believing that they knew what was best for the individual citizen. Conservatives are not innocent of contributing to this predicament of creeping restrictions. Returning to Constitutional limits on government will not hack it. Setting aside all of the other flaws of the Constitution, the Commerce Clause alone, allows for a multitude of regulatory laws to enslave Americans, so when some conservatives claim to be constitutional conservatives, they too contribute to the involuntary servitude.
If the conservatives eventually grab hold of the reigns of our government they must make sure that they don’t make the same mistakes of the past, or it will be business as usual with the resulting conservative-style slavery, rather than liberal-style. They must create an atmosphere whereby the real creators of jobs, the private sector, is able to freely function. To accomplish this, all of their efforts must focus on repealing laws and closing government agencies, not passing new laws and creating new government programs and agencies, not reforming laws in order to improve them. That is the only way to decrease spending, get the economy on the road to real prosperity and cast off the chains of debt. They must understand that freedom does not mean that they can pass their own restrictive legislation for the “good” of society. It is not “creeping socialism” that is upon us, as some believe. All along it has been “creeping slavery” which must be recognized and eliminated. It is not “conservative values” that we must rescue from the opposition, but “freedom values.” They are not the same. Freedom is an absence — an absence of coercion, an absence of involuntary servitude, an absence of others having control over our lives and property. Resist the temptation to legislate morality, and abolish all victimless crimes.
To quote R.C. Hoiles, the past owner of the Orange County Register, “any time a man has to pay for something he does not want because of the initiating of force by the government, he is, to that degree, a slave.” He also said, “the man who sanctions (compulsory) public education has no basis for opposing compulsory health insurance.” The principle is the same for both.
The previous quote, although a necessary thought in the conservative consciousness, is not sufficient. The quote should have said, “the conservative who sanctions public education; the anti-trust laws; the Federal Reserve System; government ownership of anything including land, roads, utilities, means of transportation and waterways; government regulation of businesses and commerce; government subsidies; government welfare programs; or foreign aid; has no basis for opposing compulsory health insurance.” (Emphasis added.) The principle behind opposing compulsory health insurance is the exact same principle behind opposing all of the other government interference enumerated above.
The restated quote above correctly identifies the contradictions held by most conservatives when they do sanction all or most of the above government programs or activities. Conservatives must no longer rationalize why the government programs and activities they sanction or condone are good for the country, for in the long run those programs and activities are the seeds for the harvest of big government. Al Capone did not wake up one day as a major criminal. He managed to perpetrate small crimes with impunity, and then got away with moderate crimes until he became a major criminal. In the same manner, small government interference with the private sector leads to moderate interference until government becomes the major criminal, as it has been for decades under Republican and Democratic administrations and presently exists today.
If the conservatives grasp the reigns of power they must follow the advice given within these few paragraphs so that they can create a society that is bathed in the waters of freedom, resulting in a prosperous, secure and lasting society. Failing to follow these guidelines will only lead to ruin.
Yes indeed, the seed of big government tyranny is small government tyranny. So conservatives, especially Tea Party conservatives and Constitutionalists, beware. Make it smaller than small. Make it a minute government or better yet, make it a stateless society or else the errors of the past will be repeated. In the final analysis, the seed of big government is government (the State).