Limited Government – A Terrible Idea

Limited Government: The “nanny state” and Political Correctness

Republicans love to talk about limited government. It is always at the top of their wish list. But limited government is code for many different things. To some who feel that the government has become too invasive in our private lives, the old “nanny state” meme blames bleeding heart liberals for trying to wrap people in a protective bunting of rules and regulation. Perhaps it began with seat belts or car seats or work safety oversight (OSHA) but, according to some, it turned into one of those rubber band balls that stay small for a while and then grow more rapidly in size and complexity. Doesn’t really matter how it began, there were Americans who felt that these rules made them feel like they were living in a “petty” dictatorship, Authoritarianism Lite. This all seems a bit hyperbolic now given the real authoritarianism which is a constant risk in the administration of 45.

Lumped in with these safety laws were the increasing admonitions to use language that is “politically correct” or inoffensive to all of the diverse groups that make up America. Independent-minded Americans have lost it. They do not want to “knuckle under” to the free speech police. They don’t care if it serves the interests of civility and kindness and the humane treatment of others. They already agreed to call Indians “Native Americans”, but now they were supposed to say “indigenous people”. It was a bridge too far for some. These linguistic battles have not served to unite us, that’s for certain.

Now we are in a battle, fomented by GOP propaganda, of “real Americans” versus other ethnic groups, which could easily end with various “tribes” retreating to separate corners, leaving Americans with a prolonged culture war. Our electoral college gave us a President who flaunts his right to be politically incorrect, but it is taking the word civil out of civilization.

Federalism, Constitutional Purity and States Rights

However these things are not what other, often more powerful, Republicans are saying when they talk about limited government. And there are two sides to how limited government would look if Republicans actually got their wish. Idealistically Republicans say that this is about restoring Constitutional “purity”. They believe we have wandered too far from the intentions of our forefathers. The Constitution gives the federal government the right to write laws, pass laws, and pass judgment on the constitutionality of those laws. But purists (fundamentalists) say that the Constitution gives the federal government the right to rule the nation only in a few areas, mainly military concerns and foreign relations, and that all rights not designated to the federal government belong to the states.

They know the Federalists (state’s rights) faction lost their original argument to make America a loose affiliation of strong states under a weak national government back in the 18th century. Although our forefathers did decide to go with a stronger federal government today’s Republicans are reviving the old Federalist arguments, and they would like to ditch the conclusion our forefathers reached and become strict Federalists. Of course this means throwing out about two centuries of law and tradition and basically starting from scratch. It also means that states would begin to look more like independent nations. You might need a visa one day to travel to another state. It seems like a pretty extreme way to avoid public health care (and a few other things Republicans don’t like).

The first order of business of modern Federalists was to get Republicans in control of the United States government so they could dismantle it. They were aided in this by having some very rich industrialists on their side who stood to benefit from all the deregulation which would accompany this reorganization. These industrialists either formed a web of think tanks and Conservative groups or found ways to connect groups that already existed and were like-minded. Right wing groups met at yearly gatherings and eventually formulated an ideology and a plan of action to implement that ideology. Their machinations have been amazingly successful. The Republicans now own all three branches of our government.

Trump has been surprisingly helpful in this endeavor to tame the sprawl of the federal government. He has done this inadvertently because he wants to save America all by himself. He needs to be a hero. Even if he is perceived by many as incompetent or as a villain, if he just concentrates on his own followers he is the hero he aspires to be. He must have to delegate tasks within his businesses, but he does not want to delegate tasks in government. He doesn’t trust civil servants. Out of tradition and law they pursue objectives set by previous presidents. He likes to lead through placing his henchmen, who have pledged their loyalty to him and him alone, in offices that have the names of real American agencies but which no longer function as the original entities did. These agencies and offices are now are part of the Trump spiderweb and do Trump’s business. As a result he does not need to fill positions in these agencies or offices. Staff numbers are going down. It is becoming impossible to rely on civil servants completing routine tasks to keep government as we have known it functioning. Fewer government employees equals limited government. Et voila. Winning.

More About State’s Rights

State’s Rights was a battle cry of Democrats when the Democrats consisted of the people who are now Republicans, and is still the oft-repeated refrain of the Republicans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Americans who cry the loudest about restoring the rights of states seem concentrated in the Southern and the Western states. People claim to love the rights of the poor usurped states whenever they want something that is opposed to what the majority of the nation wants.

Southerners were beaten in the Civil War but, in a sense they felt a terrible anger about it and their spirits refused to accept it. They loved their general, General Lee, they loved their Southern plantation culture; they loved their wealth and their lifestyle. They knew that the end of slavery would be the end of the plantation system. There were plenty of examples in the nearby islands in the Caribbean. That pride was so strong that it has been kept alive to this day and even romanticized by many Americans.

Justice was done but it has always been an uneasy and contentious justice and we have still made no real peace with it for many, many reasons most of which fall under the heading of racism. But when Southerners lost the Civil War and lost “their property” they went crazy and lost all humanity in a lust for vengeance and punishment. Whenever freed slaves tried to use the freedoms they had recently won, especially to vote or hold public office or own land, they were terrorized, viciously attacked and often slaughtered. Freedom has been won piece by tiny piece with spilled blood and dashed hopes.

Posse Comitatus

The Southerners balked under Federal attempts to control Reconstruction in the South. They argued that state and local government should have control over what was happening in the South. The federal government, experiencing some scandal and turmoil of its own, capitulated and gave local sheriffs power to rule their own domains. The rest of the nation then turned their backs on the mayhem that ensued.

Once that battle for power was won it has used precedent to justify some fairly rebellious behaviors. Most recently it reared its ugly head in the Cliven Bundy matter. Westerners resent that so much land has been designated as federal land, although there has not been any big rush to develop most of the land the government protects, or hoards (depending on your point of view). When the government decided to clamp down on Mr. Bundy, a rancher who grazed his cattle for free on government land that others paid a fee to graze their cattle on, Mr. Bundy refused to accept the power of the federal government and appealed to the superior power of the local sheriff that hails back to those very post-Reconstruction days that we have been talking about.

During Cliven Bundy’s confounding stand Rachel Maddow went over the historical basis for this claim written in the Posse Comitatus Law. The militia movement, which has similar roots, and which has been growing in America along with the stubborn power of the NRA, revealed itself when people showed up with long guns, lying prone on US highways pointing those rifles through concrete road barriers at federal officers. It was a shocking stand-off and the federal government backed down to avoid escalating the matter with killings. That’s some of the ideological background on limited government. Behind the bizarre ideological rationale is an ersatz economic argument for limited government

The Ayn Rand Justification/Rationalization for Limited Government

With the advent of the Tea Party we began to hear new arguments for limited government. These arguments were based in money, economics, finance. America was changing. The factories which gave people good salaries without a college education had flown the coop, gone on a World Tour. People were not feeling quite so flush. Then they lost their houses in what was a scandal of bad risks by banks and the stock market, a bid for short-term profit over long-term fiscal health. The victims got spanked but the big dogs, for the most part, got off with a hand slap. They are already at their scams again.

People decided that they were unhappy with the way their taxes were being used. They had a little help from Republicans who supposedly backed the Tea Party folks, Republicans like Paul Ryan who read a seminal book by Ayn Rand in college or high school and decided that spreading Rand’s gospel suited the dilemma of those in the Tea Party and, incidentally, the goals of the Republican Party re limited government. A marriage made in one man’s mind.

I don’t like or respect Paul Ryan but even I must admit that his message caught on like a wildfire and is, even now, changing America beyond recognition. What he said that appealed to so many, was this – social government programs do not help people who are down and out, they actually hurt them. These programs keep people down and turn them into permanent dependents. We need to stop funding social programs (which would, in theory, cut taxes) – no welfare, no food stamps, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no Social Security, no federal control over or funding of education.

Socialism

I always say that you can’t have socialism in a democracy because we the people pay our taxes and we say how the money will be used and that makes social programs democratic, not socialist. But the new truth is that we the people don’t contribute enough taxes to pay for the enormous military that “patriots” clamor for and for the social programs that serve as safety nets for we the people in times of trouble or need.

Without the 1% Americans are basically poor. If these miserly folks no longer want to pay taxes that will be used for people who don’t work (or can’t work) then we the people are screwed. Why we have given all these wealthy people all our money is now a moot point. The deed is done and they will use any reasoning necessary to claim that they are entitled to it. They do not mind turning America into a third world country because they plan to live above it all. All of America has now become colonized by these rich few. The right has managed to push the left to the far left and when they express fears of socialism now it is because socialism may be our only way out of  all this planned inequality.

Conclusions

We are clearly on a path to limited government in all its manifestations. I am guessing that we will not like it one little bit if it comes to pass. That dangerous mob, the vociferous left, created as backlash to an extreme right wing, may someday save us from the chaos of running each state as an independent entity and each local government as a fiefdom. Pick the Dems (the Dims) to save us from having to take a sad detour into “limited government”.  (I’m confused, how can you be dim and a dangerous mob at one and the same time.) “Limited government” is an outdated concept and it belongs in the oubliette of history.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – Medium, twenty48.net

Culling the Herd – Limited Government

 
 
So now we have seen it – we have seen some of the
flaws in our Constitution and they are not ideological, they are structural.
Our forefathers had a healthy dose of paranoia, but their paranoia was used to
build protections into the Constitution to prevent a President from declaring
himself King or herself Queen (an eventually they never imagined, of course).
They did give a lot of thought to balance amongst the branches of our
government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial by creating that
system of checks and balances we all know so well. I don’t think they really
imagined that some Americans would want to wrest control from within one branch
of government, because they felt they had built in sufficient protections. They
did not foresee 2013.

Apparently there are flaws in our system – flaws that
nullify the checks and the balances. We’ve seen obstruction before, but not to
this degree. We’ve seen incivility before, but again it is a matter of degree.
There is apparently no part of the Constitution that protects the American
people from losing control of our government to a small band of radicals, in
this case radical but duly elected reactionaries. It is astonishing to me that
these people have been pursuing strategies that seemed relatively harmless
because they affected such small areas of the country and that they have been
patching together a system that allows these very radicals to be elected over
and over again without challenge. We have no safeguards against these tactics.
They are subverting the election process. Once they are in Congress they do not
need to do anything at all to keep their seats. If they don’t face the
possibility of losing their seat based on how they vote in Congress they have
found a way to bypass the Constitution and we, America, are in trouble.

I have always been proud that our forefathers
thought through and wrote down a way to govern that was basically fair, (even
more astonishing as they were elitist slave owners),  that was based on ideals that seemed
enlightened and laudable, and that was structured to last and to still be
usable hundreds of years later. What these radical Republicans are doing is
threatening to end the usefulness of this document we have made the center of
our governance. They are pointing out the flaws in our beloved Constitution. We
have no way to rid ourselves of these people who are ruining our government in
the name of Federalism. They have been very consistent in their beliefs. They
want small government. They want deregulation. They want America to become the
loose federation of states that they feel it was intended to be. They want all
of the social safety net gone. They do not feel that the federal government should
be in the business of lifting up the least fortunate Americans, even though all
modern societies do this and even though it keeps misery at bay, both for a
society and its people. They do not like any rules or regulations on energy use
and against pulling fossil fuels out of the earth so they want the EPA gone. They
want the Department of Commerce gone and they think the federal government
should close the Department of Education. They see this as their moment in time
to achieve their objectives to limit the size and scope of government. They
hate the Affordable Care Act because it goes in the opposite direction from
limited government. It makes government even bigger.

Most of us accept what Republicans are saying about
the need to make government somewhat smaller, but I don’t think most of us want
a federal government as small as these radical tea partiers do, or as small as
the libertarians do. We will not be living up in the rarified air at the top of
the affluence pyramid. We will be living down here with the sewage running in
the streets and the begging children and the rampant disease. We will be drinking the polluted water. There are 7
billion people on this little planet. If you are trying to kill off a big
percentage of the current population, hoping to do what nature does when an
animal population gets too big, then you are pursuing the perfect strategy for
it. Because to argue for smaller government when population numbers are ballooning
will turn our cities into even bigger killing fields than they already are and,
of course, you will not be affected up there at the top of the triangle.

If we make it through this assault on the government
of our nation, the assault that is coming from within that very government,
then we need to pass some laws which will allow us an escape route if some
minority group decides to stage a coup again. I don’t think the issues here are
as small as the media paints them. I think the issues are huge. I think these
folks, mostly from the southern hinterlands of America are deadly serious. They
own guns. They are hunters. I’m not saying that they are planning to turn their
guns on us, although if it comes down to it they might some day in the future.
I am saying that they think like hunters and they are planning to cull the
herd, to get rid of those Americans who can’t or won’t provide for themselves.
Every society has poor people. Every society has disabled people. Every
society, in 2013, does not want to force unfortunate souls into pits to fight
for their lives. We definitely need a way to ditch elected officials if they
try to stop government. If the majority can prevail over this small, but
determined, minority, we will need to amend our Constitution. Which America
will we be when this is all over?

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com