In a day-in-age where OSHA labors to protect us from ourselves, and the United Nations is exploring ways to make us “happy,” and the Supreme Court rules that same-sex “marriage” is legal, a woefully neglected foundational question that must be asked is, “What is the proper role of government?”
Historical examples reveal many governmental failures, and the resulting tragedies.
The reason government tends to fail is that it tends to grow. And through growth of government comes corruption, higher taxes, manipulation of the money supply, rules and regulations, economic instability, distortion of justice, poverty for the masses, power for the elites, and ultimately, abolition of individual freedom. The failed government may consider itself successful in reaching its objectives—but its people suffer.
It has been aptly stated: “That government is best which governs least.” The growth of a government does not bode well for its citizens. Expansion of governmental powers always precedes—and causes—destruction of unalienable rights and poverty for the enslaved masses. Governments left to themselves, like children, invariably begin overstepping established boundaries.
Yet too little government—or complete anarchy—creates just as significant failures as governments which have grown too large. There is a proper balance between too much and too little government. What is the proper role of government, and when is it just the right size?
The Proper Role
In order to determine the proper role of government, one must start at the source of life and freedom—our Creator—and examine His standard for civil authority.
In Romans 13 as well as throughout the Old Testament, God established that the main function of government is to protects its citizens:
- From domestic criminals by executing justice on those who have violated the rights of another individual; and
- From foreign enemies by raising an army in case of belligerent attack.
Put simply, government is there to protect the rights of its citizens. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is, however, still too vague of a job description, for what are “rights”? Many liberals call education, health care, and housing basic human “rights,” while conservatives fight for other rights such as life, private property, and self-defense. Who is to have the final say on defining “rights”?
Once more we turn to the Lawgiver and Supreme Judge of the World to definitively answer the question.
In establishing the standard of justice and the duties of civil government, He gave every individual human being rights. He reveals some of our unalienable—that is, God-given—rights in the 10 Commandments.
“Thou shalt not steal” names the right to private property. “Thou shalt not murder” gives every individual the right to life. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” gives us the right to marry.
Frédéric Bastiat said succinctly, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
“If men were angels,” said James Madison, “no government would be necessary.” If mankind was 100% righteous, there would be no need for government at all. Period. We’d all govern ourselves. But since we aren’t angels . . . Executing justice by punishing wrong-doers is the chief duty of government, and only by strict, impartial enforcement of established laws protecting human rights is crime discouraged.
The Declaration of Independence eloquently proclaimed that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It further proclaimed “that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
In one of the most important founding documents of our nation, the appropriate duty of civil government is clearly enunciated. Following the eight long years of the War for Independence, the Founders wrote the Constitution, which embodied the role of good government.
They created a Constitutional Federal Republic in which the federal government was granted limited and specified powers—namely, to protect the unalienable rights of Americans for generations to come.
The limited government designed by the Founding Fathers was not meant to be a government that grew in scope and power. Incorporating Biblical principles and protection of God-given rights into both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they established a rule of law based on the divine pattern for good, legitimate government.
Their experiment in freedom, limited government, and checks and balances produced a greater amount of freedom and prosperity for a greater number of people than any system ever devised by man. God knew what He was doing when He gave us our rights, and He knew what He was doing when He instituted civil government to protect them.
It is the expansion of the federal government beyond the powers granted it by the Constitution that our modern problems lie.
An Over-Sized Government
Our federal government has transitioned into a corrupt sugar-daddy system of, by, and for the politicians (and their cronies). They purchase votes by promising other people’s money. That used to be called “stealing” in the good old days; now it’s “public charity” and we Christians are told to support it because Christ told us to care for the poor. Yet He never told us to get government to look out for the needy, and He certainly never indicated that government programs to “end” poverty are a good idea. He said, “You will always have the poor with you.”
Thomas J. Anderson (1910-2002), a conservative author and speaker, depicted a striking illustration of the reality of federal welfare programs. In 1965 he said,
“Even if there were a real need for government projects [specifically welfare & grants], calling on the federal government to do it is like giving yourself a blood transfusion from your right arm to your left arm with a leaky tube. In the case of federal aid the leaky tube represents the swarm of bureaucrats who live off your blood. The federal government has no money, except what it takes from you. The federal government does not create anything. It is a poisonous parasite, fatal when absorbed in large doses. The real reason for federal aid is that the administrations seduce the people by giving them ‘other people’s money.’ … That’s the PLAN: one all-powerful, centralized government in Washington. The Planners say that in our complex society we no longer have the necessary money at the local level. If we don’t it’s because these leeches have stolen from us. Sending money to Washington so the Planners can send it back to us is a continuous transfusion in which the bureaucrats keep one-third for their own use. If we are to save and restore our constitutional Republic, we must assume, at the local level, those rights, privileges, taxing powers, and responsibilities guaranteed by the greatest freedom document ever devised by man, the Constitution of the United States.”
Both foreign and domestic aid are both beyond the scope of good government, and are even more clearly beyond the scope of the Constitution.
Federal welfare programs are merely one example among hundreds that could be used to demonstrate the disaster and corruption resulting from governmental interference in local and/or private affairs. Federal intrusion has made a mess of healthcare, agriculture, drugs, education, and many more areas. When the feds get involved in anything not delegated to them by the Constitution—inevitably armed with higher taxes and more constrictive regulations and red tape—prices go up, quality comes down, citizens are dissatisfied, and government has gathered even more power unto itself.
If our federal government stayed within its Constitutional boundaries, the issue of excessive and burdensome taxes would practically vanish. The federal leviathan would be dramatically reduced in size and cost. The budget would be balanced in no time and they could actually afford to lower taxes!
Below are many modern fallacious beliefs about the role of our federal government, emanating from both sides of the political aisle.
Government Should. . .
Ensure every child receives an “education.”
Manage citizens’ retirement funds and insure they are cared for.
See to it that every person has health insurance, regardless of the needs and priorities of the individual.
Fight terrorism abroad.
Help foreign despotic regimes by giving them billions of American tax dollars and fighting their wars for them with the blood of American boys and girls.
Fund state and local departments through grants.
Clamp down on greedy corporations.
Bail out banks and businesses that are “too big” to fail.
Protect us from ourselves.
Provide welfare for the poor.
Set price controls and determine minimum wage.
Surrender sovereignty to as many supranational and world governing-bodies as possible.
Engage in endless no-win wars.
Legislate “marriage” standards for Americans.
Define when human life begins.
Grant tax-breaks to those it deems worthy.
Manage the monetary system.
Make its citizens “happy.”
Protect the environment.
And much, much more.
America has a colossal government which has far out-stepped the bounds of good government, causing myriad problems in every area in which it gets involved.
On April 8, 2010, John Bachtell, who later became—and is today—Chairman of the Communist Party USA, provided a partial view of the Communist view of the role of government in an article for People’s World entitled “What is the role of government?” (No, I didn’t forget to properly capitalize the letters in the title—that was the forgetting of People’s World.)
“The role of government and its ability to make a difference in people’s daily lives is not a question the progressive or democratic movement can take lightly . . . For 30 years the extreme right wing and Republicans have been doing every thing in their power to dismantle the part of government that addresses people’s needs [If only!] . . . Government is an arena of the class struggle. Whenever government actually serves the interests of people it is the result of bitterly fought battles . . . [The public] appreciates social services and any protections from corporate exploitation, racial or gender discrimination. But people’s faith in government has eroded in the face of the constant anti-government ultra-right ideological barrage.”
What Chairman Bachtell means by government “actually serving the interests of people,” of course, is government serving the interest of communist elites. Even while they promise grand socialist programs to benefit the “working class,” supposedly to make our lives easier, they acquire power for themselves and punish those of us who labor for our bread.
The empty Communist promise of “equality” translates into “equal poverty for all” through governmental redistribution of wealth—definitely beyond the power of Biblical or Constitutional government.
Lastly, Mr. Bachtell, most of us “ultra-righters” are not, as you claim, “anti-government.” We are for a just government. A Biblical government. A Constitutional government. A government that serves the people by protecting their rights.
A nation who is so lazy, apathetic, and indolent that they want their government to provide for them deserve exactly what they’ll get: tyranny. Ludwig von Mises said, “Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”
What it Takes to Limit Government
If our Founders created a limited federal government under the Constitution that left the vast majority of responsibilities up to the states and the people, what has happened?
The tragic answer is that generations of Americans have not been holding elected officials responsible for their actions. They haven’t been appropriately replacing politicians who step outside their Constitutional boundaries. And government left to itself inevitably grows.
The Constitution is not the problem—it’s not causing today’s over-sized federal monstrosity. The problem is that the government isn’t obeying the Constitution—because We the People have shown we don’t care whether they do or not (it didn’t take politicians long to figure out that we’ll keep electing them regardless).
“If you have a government of good laws and bad men, you will have a bad government. For bad men will not be bound by good laws,” said Robert LeFevre. Ultimately, it is We the People who are responsible for the federal mess, because we haven’t held them accountable.
Today’s situation is perilous because over the centuries the American people have been lulled into complacency through freedom and prosperity, and have largely taken their eyes off civil affairs. Left to itself, the American federal government exploded into the modern massive behemoth of Washington, D.C.
The Swamp has not been drained—and won’t until obedience to the U.S Constitution is restored and hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats are sent home to look for real jobs. Downsize, eliminate, minimize. “That government is best which governs least.”
Only a vigilant citizenry can preserve their freedoms—by actively enforcing government to obey the law and stay within proper limitations. Only a watchful, active citizenry can enjoy protection, security, and prosperity—when it “binds them down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution,” as Thomas Jefferson said.
We the People are responsible for the actions of our government. It’s high time we spread the principles of limited government—so amazingly simple—so that we’ll be able to enjoy the blessings of good government for years to come.