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Imagine playing a game—baseball, cards, “Monopoly” or whatever—in which there was only one rule: anything goes.
You could discard the “instruction book” from the start and make things up as you go. If it “works,” do it. If it “feels good,” why not? If opposing players have a disagreement—well, you can just figure that out later.
What kind of a game would this be? Chaotic, frustrating, unpredictable, impossible. Sooner or later, the whole thing would degenerate into a mad free-for-all. Somebody would have to knock heads together and bring order to the mess.
Simple games would be intolerable played this way, but for many deadly serious things humans engage in, from driving on the highways to waging war, the consequences of throwing away the instruction book can be almost too frightful to imagine.
The business of government is one of those deadly serious things and like a game run amok, it’s showing signs that the players don’t care much for the rules anymore, if they even know them at all.
The most profound political and philosophical trend of our time is a serious erosion of any consensus about what government is supposed to do and what it’s not supposed to do. The “instruction books” on this matter are America’s founding documents, namely the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution with its Bill of Rights. In the spirit of those great works, most Americans once shared a common view of the proper role of government—the protection of life and property. The government was to keep the peace, ensure justice and national defense, but otherwise leave us alone.
Hardly a corner of life is left untouched by the hand of government these days, even though the main purpose of a Constitution is to keep government confined and out of our way. When Joe Biden recently reinstated an eviction moratorium for renters, he brazenly violated not only the property rights of those who own rental property, he spit on the Constitution at the same time. He even said as much, suggesting his action was probably illegal but he was going to do it anyway and see how long he could get away with it.
Callous disdain for the rules of the government game is virtually standard procedure now, especially for the party of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, internment of Japanese Americans, socialism, cancel culture, reckless spending, brainless regulation, and voting made so easy that even dead people can do it. The purpose of government, they apparently believe, is not to protect your rights; it’s to consolidate their power.
Thomas Jefferson could give this crowd a refresher on the purpose of government but they won’t listen. They figure they’ve already trashed him so they won’t have to. But he expressed the purpose of government as well as anybody ever has:
. . . Still one thing more fellow citizens—a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
Today, there is no consensus of the proper role of government or, if there is one, it is light-years from Jefferson’s. Far too many people think that government exists to do anything for anybody any time they ask for it, from day care for their children to handouts for artists. Even with massive deficits and a monstrous national debt, look how hard it is to cut out almost anybody’s handouts.
Millions of Americans today believe (largely because they’ve been taught it) that if the cause is “good,” it’s a duty of government. They look upon the State as a fountain of happiness and material things. Politicians tell them we should turn our lives, livelihoods, liberties, children and future over to their benevolence. And meantime, the rotten government schools teach their kids that this is OK because the Constitution is old-fashioned bunk anyway. If you think the schools are teaching kids to hate their history, just wait until your kids experience the future the indoctrinators have in mind for them.
Don’t let them break the rules
We have tossed away the rules that once framed and limited the government in Washington and until we reclaim them, we will drift from one intractable crisis to the next until finally, it’s lights out for life and liberty.
A century from now, people will look back on this turbulent but pivotal moment in history and ask, “What did our American ancestors in the early 21st Century do when faced with dire threats to their Constitution and their liberties?”
One answer might be, “They fought back, and that’s why we’re free today.”
Another possible answer is, “They complained but otherwise, they went along for the ride. They did nothing while their own children were poisoned in schools and universities with their own money. They voted for the politicians who delivered national bankruptcy. And that’s why we’re slaves today.”
Which do you think it will be, and what are you doing about it?
Lawrence writes a weekly op-ed for El American. He is President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Atlanta, Georgia; and is the author of “Real heroes: inspiring true stories of courage, character, and conviction“ and the best-seller “Was Jesus a Socialist?“ //
Lawrence escribe un artículo de opinión semanal para El American. Es presidente emérito de la Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) en Atlanta, Georgia; y es el autor de “Héroes reales: inspirando historias reales de coraje, carácter y convicción” y el best-seller “¿Fue Jesús un socialista?”