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

Cultural Appropriation

An article in the Daily Beast shares the information that students on college
campuses are against classes in yoga. They are in fact against something called
cultural appropriation. Since we stole yoga from Asia while we were exploiting
them during an era when Colonialism was the order of the day we must now give
yoga back to Asia, at least that seems to be the message of the Daily Beast article. This appears to be
part of the whole political correctness movement that is rocking campuses and
is attributed to extremists on the left this time. Apparently the PC police are
actually student vigilantes who demonstrate on campuses all over America to
oust any speech/thought they think is culturally backward or insensitive.
While it is a great thing to know your mind and be
strong, tolerance is also a valuable attribute and one that should be most at
home on a college campus. Whether intolerance is practiced by the left or the
right should not matter. College is a time to share ideas and debate ideas, not
to squelch ideas. From our position in the 21st century colonialism
earns our disapprobation. We are possessed of the power of hindsight. We have
become “enlightened”. That means that we would be wrong to view other nations
as our colonies today but we are equally wrong to hold our ancestors to the
standards of the present. People were colonized and we eventually saw that this
was wrong as people objected and either won back their independence or were
given independence.
If we try to backtrack and give back everything we
“appropriated” from another culture we will lose much of our own cultural
richness which is one of the few positive effects of having been global
bullies. Now that the world’s cultures are mixed, can we unmix them? Can’t we
just keep reminding everyone that we remember the origin of our culturally
appropriated (stolen) treasure and continue to express our appreciation for
what we have learned. Maybe I just don’t want to have to give up yoga, but I
don’t really see the point. Perhaps other nations don’t mind our appropriations
as much as we think they do. After all “imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery.”
I have not been immersed in any campus for quite
some time and this trend has obviously been developing for a while. It appears
to arise out of course work which examines America and European past practices,
tracing historical insensitivities that trivialized other cultures enough that
we felt justified in exercising dominion over these cultures. I’m sure that
students and faculty have explored the resulting homogenizing influence these
incursions have had on a once far more diverse world. I see no way to backtrack
and give cultural belongings back unless we go back to being far more isolated
from each other than we are. If we were to return to a “dark age” would things
appropriated from another culture automatically die out? I would rather not
find out the answer to this question.
It seems that the political spectrum or continuum
may be more like a Mobius strip than an actual continuum. If we look at the
traditional spectrum drawn on a line it looks like this.
If we replace the word Communism on the left with
the word Authoritarian and the word Fascism on the right with the word
Authoritarian and then fold one end over to meet the other it allows us to
easily see that going too far towards either the left or the right sort of puts
us in the same totalitarian dilemma, although with different factions calling
the shots. The Communist Party may have been formed from “the people” but it
soon assumed a position above the people and bossed everyone around. Even
within the pecking order of the party there was a hierarchy. Fascism seems to
give power to business owners and corporations, but the same hierarchies apply
and in either case there are ever stricter punishment for those at the bottom of
the heap.
There are as many new political spectrums being
designed as there are people who wish to portray what is going on in politics
and these continuums can be skewed toward a political ideology quite easily,
although the skew is quite easy to see in such a simple graphic. I did find one
that is drawn in circular form, although not as a Mobius strip.
Here are a couple of other example that are also
interesting.
I believe that the point I am trying to make here is
that liberalism on campus may have gone off the deep end or it may have rounded
that corner on the Mobius strip where it actually meets the extreme right wing
and offers the same dangers to our democracy that the Tea Party has come to
represent. I see all this extremism and I, once a lefty, now find myself
somewhere nearer the middle and I find myself hoping that people at both
extremes come back from the edge and abandon the positions they hold that
threaten our freedom from both directions. Meanwhile I will keep going to my
yoga class until we give it back to the nation where it originated.
Would a simple thank you for your contribution to
our physical well-being and our emotional stability be enough? As long as I
stay off campus it might.
By Nancy Brisson