Political lines have been shifting for a while now. It started with the election of G.W. Bush and greatly accelerated under Obama. The old Right / Left divide has been fading, and replacing it as the key political marker of our age is the question of how much government you want in your life.
On one side of this divide are those people, largely made up of the old Right Wing, who are in favor of what we call limited government. We want to see government, especially the Federal Government, shrunk down to the size specified in the US Constitution. We want exactly as much Federal Government as is necessary to define and defend our borders, conduct diplomacy and war abroad, and ensure that the individual states all play nicely with each other.
On the other side are those who think the Federal Government can, and should, be involved in almost every facet of our lives. They want the government to provide for us from cradle to grave, dictating wages, providing health care, policing offensive speech and doing all sorts of other things to keep us safe and comfortable. Many of the people on this side of our political chasm are currently filling my Facebook feed with Bernie Sanders memes.
For the sake of argument I’m going to do two things now; first I’m going to grant the benefit of the doubt and assume that the Big Government proponents are in fact motivated by compassion. I’m going to grant that what drives them is a sincere desire that no one should be poor, underpaid, homeless or the victim of an untreated illness. The second thing I’m going to do is ignore all of the philosophical and legal impediments to their worldview contained in the Constitution.
Instead I’m going to make a very simple, very practical appeal to you in an attempt to sway you to the small government side of things. And that appeal is contained in a single sentence:
Donald Trump could win.
Why, you may ask, should that sway you towards favoring a smaller Federal Government? It’s quite simple, really. Any government that provides things like universal health care can withhold things like universal health care. An IRS that is big and powerful enough to fund such a lavish government can get up to all kinds of mischief if it’s used unethically. A judiciary that feels comfortable regulating fundamental rights won’t know where to stop.
What’s that got to do with Trump? It’s no secret that many on the Left (and not a few on the Right) think he’s a dangerous psychopath. And yet he could be our next President. And if Trump doesn’t win this time someone worse could win next time. The fact is that unless you plan to do away with elections altogether (a discussion for a whole separate post) then sooner or later someone you hate and fear is going to be in charge of the Federal Government.
What are you going to do if it’s not Christian bakers being sued out of existence for civil rights violations, but rather businesses with “no guns allowed” signs on their doors? What if the IRS was to decide that the NY Times’ generally liberal editorial slant constitutes an in-kind political contribution and goes after them for it? What if the government decided that pro-choice rhetoric was a call to commit murder and therefore not protected by the First Amendment?
Outrageous examples? You might think so, but they’re all analogous to things the government is already doing. They all follow precedents that you’ve agreed to in principle because the actions were taken against your political opponents.
But you have to accept that sooner or later any power you give the government is going to be wielded by your worst enemy. And if that enemy is as lacking in principles and ethics as you keep saying he is then that power is going to be used against you… mercilessly.
The answer to the problem, the safety catch, is to allow the government exactly enough authority to carry out its core duties and not one iota more. And if it tries to expand that authority you have to ask yourself “would I be ok with Donald Trump having this power?” If the answer is “no” you have to hold the line and not let them have it.
The Founders knew this in 1788 and we limited government types know it now. Please think it over.