Political overreach: Stopping big government's destruction of America

It doesn't matter who gets elected. The problem is beyond specific politicians. Photo: © Gerald Grow - longleaf.net

INDIANAPOLIS, August 8, 2013 — No matter what the issue, politicians grab it, dividing the populace and chipping off yet another little piece of our freedom to determine our lives. This is correlated to democracy, and democracy certainly reinforces it; but democracy is only the easiest and stealthiest path to tyranny; it isn’t the only path.

But even democracy – where factions are encouraged to plunder and suppress other factions through government sanctions – isn’t the enabler of socialism and its subsets of fascism (which we now call “crony capitalism”) and communism.


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Only a total democracy, where there are absolutely no limits on the things organized groups can do to the disorganized masses, is structurally perfect to diminish freedoms. Democracy is only the hammer under which minorities and individuals get smashed.

The politicians who direct the hammer aren’t really the problem, either. Evil and corrupt as some may be, they act according to the dictates of the voting majority. They feed their hunger for power by pleasing the voting majorities.

There is a scenario under which most of this wouldn’t matter. Where, no matter how corrupt or evil, a bad politician couldn’t do much harm. A system in which democracy couldn’t destroy minorities, where politicians couldn’t redistribute the earnings or wealth of others, where the only wars would be the absolutely necessary ones, where people could keep their earnings, where political beliefs would not trigger IRS retaliation, where private affairs and business could remain private, and where people could live their own lives free from others’ meddling, is possible.

Possible in a democracy, or a monarchy, or even a dictatorship. The key to keeping government from destroying lives, prosperity, and futures is in keeping that government small. A small government cannot implement all the horrible things that big government can. A small government cannot monitor, collect, imprison, coerce, and intimidate; it doesn’t have the manpower and it doesn’t have the money – and it doesn’t need the money, which leaves more for those who earn it.


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Think of all the government abuse and waste. It doesn’t matter whose administration you examine – they’re all the same, when it comes to their inspiration for growing their power (and thus diminishing ours, as power is a zero-sum game).

Over-reaching cannot happen with a small government.

When a household is starved for cash temporarily, it borrows; but it cannot borrow indefinitely. A sane household adjusts its lifestyle to the income available, and eventually is able again to save a little and plan a future. Rational individuals, faced with a cash shortage, cut expenses – less entertainment; fewer restaurant meals; less-aggressive thermostat settings; clothes shopping at Goodwill.

They hold onto the old car longer. If the problem persists and there’s no rational income increase in future sight, smart people downsize – a cheaper apartment, a smaller house. In other words, they reprioritize and eventually adjust.


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So should a sane government. Except that our government isn’t sane, and the people who most believe in the Credit Fairy continue to reward (and to be rewarded by) politicians who continue, in their turn, to be rewarded by world financial markets.

Can it go on forever? Of course not; the only question is, “When will it collapse, and how big will the collapse be?” And it’s elementary that, the larger the debt, the bigger the collapse. Reducing the debt, sooner rather than later, will make the ultimate austerity less severe. Expanding the debt will ultimately lead to a medieval standard of living.

Will maintaining the debt limit solve all the problems we face? No; but this would force a reprioritization that the decision-makers will be forced to explain to the voters. Will they explain it? So far, only a few have dared mention it: Austrian-school economists and Ron Paul come to mind. (1)

Really, though, the only remedy to tyranny and destitution-by-government is to shrink governments’ ability to do harm or even “good.”

Politicians can’t help themselves: no matter who is elected in the present system, their first job is to feed the beast that sustains them. That means continually finding new ways to generate revenue. Taxes, licenses, regulatory assessments (2) and fines are some tools. They also line their own and their friends’ pockets through government subsidies, set-asides, and promises of the same. The situation is similar on the darker side: threats of additional regulation, threats of audits, threats of punitive legislation – all these are effective in keeping dissenters at bay, or even as a way to turn them into contributors. Remember how the bank bailout was forced on even the unwilling banks?

The bottom line is ultimately this: no small government can do much harm; no huge government can do anything but.

For further information:

1. www.mises.org;www.councilforeconed.org

2. http://www.eaa.org/news/2013/2013-06-13_no-good-options-in-FAA-ATC-demands.asp


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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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