Why is it so hard to shrink government? Whether Republicans or Democrats hold power, it just keeps growing. As we saw in yesterday’s guest blog, simple math tells us that something has gone horribly wrong. We don’t have a government so much as we have a Leviathan–a monster waiting to gobble us all up. So why not shrink government? Why not recognize that the math does not work?
When our country was founded, service to government was considered a noble contribution. Often, people sacrificed their livelihoods for such period of time as it took to do legislative business. The reward was meager compensation with perhaps a feeling that one had contributed to the well-being of all. Now, politics has become a profession–a life-long pursuit of power.
There were no doubt those in the early years of our country who craved power. There were no doubt those whose aims were less than noble. The system as a whole, however, held those inclinations in check. Government was understood as a protector of individual rights, not a provider of plenty.
If I believed in conspiracies, I would reckon that some sinister cabal of string-pullers planned to bring us to the point where shrinking government would prove near-impossible. I would conclude that they wanted the world to collapse so they could usher in a socialist dream of one world government, led by the enlightened few.
But I don’t.
Waylon Jennings once said of his years-long addiction to cocaine and pills, “I could claim I got hooked because of having to work long hours and the stress of the road, but stupidity is the best explanation.” True dat, Waylon. We have been duped, not by a clever collection of elites, but a pathetic mob of misfits–and ourselves.
Shrinking government now means that public employees will have to find new work. It means that we will have to manage our own health care, pay for our own childrens’ education, and plan our own retirements. It means that I will have to figure out what the market really wants in higher education and find a way to provide it without state support.
I don’t dislike any of these folks, least of all me. But I for one am willing to do whatever it takes to get government out of the places it has no business. I am willing to privatize education and pay market prices for Big Bird and Amtrak tickets. There is nothing particularly noble about this attitude. I just recognize that this system was wrong in the first place and that it is about to collapse.
We face a stark choice. We can all suck at the government nipple until it runs dry or we can wean ourselves off it. Doing so will take not months, but decades–decades of reviving the ideals of self-responsibility and freedom. When we as individuals are tempted with the prospect of government largess or insist that everyone else’s industry should be privatized, but not ours, we have to learn to say no. We have to learn to say no over and over and over until the power-grabbers have nothing to hold over us. We have to revive the spirit that moved the Founders to serve humbly and reluctantly. Then one day, when we can look at our Capitol as a monument to the individual citizen rather than a palace of the high and mighty, we will claim our birthright as free men and women.