The Myth of Government Benevolence

What is the root cause of the monumental divide we see in America today? To those on the Right, they believe that the proper role of government is to protect Life, Liberty and our Pursuit of Happiness. To those on the Left, they believe that individuals are too dumb to take care of themselves and that government should step in to take care of their every need. Author and blogger Rick Turnquist explains in his Op-Ed that government benevolence is a myth.

The Myth of Government Benevolence

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Obi-wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker outside of Mos Eisley Spaceport

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles…”

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

 

“To the Left, government is mommy and daddy, God, big brother and the Universe all rolled up into one big benevolent teddy bear. Government is your friend and confessor. Government is what you think of when presented with any of life’s challenges. And because this is a childish worldview, the Left tends to think that their fellow citizens are children too, who need to be managed and controlled by the big government teddy bear. When we resist, they throw temper tantrums and insist that we comply. And the best part of all? Because they think (despite zero evidence) that they know what’s best for you, they think THEY should be in charge of government.”

Richard D. Turnquist, “Freedom Isn’t Free” blog post on toadvancefreedom.com

 

The Great Divide

I believe that the root cause of the monumental divide we see in America today is a fundamental disagreement over the proper role of government in our lives. To most of us on the Right, we believe that the proper role of government is to protect Life, Liberty and property. This idea derives from the writings of English philosopher John Locke. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke developed the idea that all persons are equal in that they are born with “inalienable” natural rights – rights that they possess by virtue of being living human beings – and that these rights can neither be given or taken away.

According to Locke the most basic law of human nature is the preservation of the individual and of mankind. Individuals have a right and a duty to preserve their own lives. Locke also wrote that “property” meant more than simply tangible goods such as land or things that can be bought or sold. Property also includes ownership of one’s own self and of one’s own mind and the products of our minds.

When he wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was drawing heavily on the writing of Locke, and he was preparing a document to justify the rebellion of the colonies against their lawful government – the government of British King George III. This document outlines the moral reasons – based on Natural Law – for the colonies’ rebellion against the Crown and goes on to list a series of grievances against the king as a justification for the rebellion.

The Constitution which was adopted by our fledgling nation on September 17, 1787 was based on the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence. The Framers of the Constitution created a government designed and intended to be a constitutional republic, not a “democracy”.

Sidebar: I cringe whenever I hear a politician/elected official refer to our government as a “democracy”. It is NOT a democracy and it was never intended to be a “democracy”. Our national government and the state governments exist to protect the rights of the minority and tamp down the “passions of the people”.

Our national government was designed and intended to be a limited government, with checks and balances built in to protect the inalienable natural rights of all citizens, especially minorities (and I don’t mean racial minorities, I mean political minorities). The government was never intended as a vehicle for the redistribution of wealth, or a means to ensure “equality”, or to elevate one group of people at the expense of another group. Equal rights mean equal rights, it does not mean that one group gets “rights” that don’t apply equally to all.

When I think of “conservatism” in the modern American political sense, I think of people like me who want to “conserve” the ideas of the Founding and the Declaration of Independence.

Sadly, the “progressive” movement which was born in the ashes of the Civil War has steadily and with increasing rapidity eroded the ideas of the American Founding and put a socialist ideology in its place. The modern United States of America and to varying degrees the 50 separate states are far, far away from the limited governments within strictly defined boundaries that were originally intended and put in place. In fact, according to talk show host Mark Levin, our country has “…entered the age of post-constitutional soft tyranny…” where “What was intended to be a relatively innocuous federal government, operating from a defined enumeration of specific grants of power, has become an ever-present and unaccountable force. It is the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor.”1

The counties surrounding Washington, D. C. are some of the wealthiest counties in America. Because our Constitution unwisely omits term limits, lifelong career politicians seem to amass amazing wealth, and permanent government employees seem to do very well also. Government jobs are cushy sinecures that pay well (in many cases above market wages) and have lavish health and retirement benefits. It’s virtually impossible to get fired from a government job. Lobbyists who work for wealthy companies and lobbying firms are part of the Swamp as well. It’s become a self-protecting system of crony statism meant to enrich the participants at the expense of everyone else. For a real-life hive of “scum and villainy”, look no further than our nation’s Capitol.

To the Left, government should be much, much more than an institution limited by constitutional boundaries. Because they are daunted by life’s challenges, progressives want a government that is big enough and powerful enough to right every wrong, solve every problem, ensure equality of outcome for every person (not equality of opportunity) and make mean people (conservatives) be quiet.

Progressives believe that government by elected officials is too messy and too difficult to get things right. They think because elected officials are often “ordinary people”, they may not have the educational and intellectual heft to govern efficiently and wisely. The progressives believe that government should be run by “smart” people with advanced degrees – those who can govern well because they know more. This gives rise to the “permanent” government – aka The Swamp – that currently is in place. Elected officials – representatives, senators, governors and presidents – come and go, but the bureaucrats remain. And the bureaucracies they staff are unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Because government has grown so powerful, so large, and so ingrained in all aspects of our everyday lives, the issue of who controls that government becomes an ultra-high stakes game. When the president of the United States wields vast, unconstitutional powers, the issue of who is the president becomes very significant. For the Left, because they believe so strongly and so sincerely that they know what’s best for their fellow citizens, the issue of who controls the levers of power takes on literal life and death importance. When they are in power, they extol “democracy” and demand compliance with their insane goals. When they are out of power, they “resist” and do everything they can to move the goalposts and change the rules.

“Benevolent Government”

This brings us to “compassion” and the idea the government is some sort of benevolent entity. The Left believes it is “compassionate” to infringe on the natural rights of some people by taking their property via taxation and giving it to other people.

Through public education controlled by progressives, children are raised to believe that government is a force for good in our lives. Nowhere is this more evident than in the so-called War on Poverty. A brainchild of the socialist-leaning advisors surrounding President Lyndon B. Johnson in the early 1960’s, the War on Poverty was to eliminate “poverty as we know it”.

In the 57 years since 1964, the United States government has spent well over $22,000,000,000,000 to “…not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, prevent it.”2

Has this “war on poverty” been successful? No, it clearly has not. The poverty rate had been falling in the 20 years before the War on Poverty got underway in 1967, falling to 14.7% from 32.1%. In the years since, despite the fact that government transfer payments to low income families has risen exponentially, the poverty rate fluctuates within the 12% to 14% range.

The War on Poverty has created many perverse incentives that have caused many of the problems our society faces today. It encouraged young women to have children without fathers, giving rise to cycles of poverty, crime and despair. It has taught people to look to an outside party – the government – instead of relying on themselves. It has put people in sub-standard housing and created vast ghettos in the inner cities.

It’s safe to say that the War on Poverty has been anything but benevolent toward its intended beneficiaries.

Another example is the behavior of New York Governor Mario Cuomo (D). Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of New York had a policy that required (a government “force” word) long-term care facilities to accept patients who had tested positive for the virus. As a result, thousands of senior citizens – dads and moms, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters – died as a result of becoming infected. Then, to add insult to injury, Cuomo and his staffers LIED about the number of nursing home deaths for political reasons.

That’s not very benevolent. I’m sure that the families of those who died don’t feel very good about their government.

Other examples abound: from the police shutting down lemonade stands run by budding 7 year old entrepreneurs (and what a chilling effect on learning about free markets). Or when government enforces rules for some but turns a blind eye to others – think legal vs illegal immigration. Court fines as a means of raising revenue (because there’s never enough money for government).

Cataloguing all of the abuses of American governments is well beyond the scope of this blog post. And that completely ignores the catalog of atrocities perpetrated against their own citizens by non-democratic governments throughout the 20th century – 262,000,000 people were killed by their own governments in accordance with their sovereign laws.

No, government is not benevolent. It is only as good as the people we elect to run it. And let’s face it: While some elected officials are noble, well-intentioned people, most are not. It seems that the longer a person serves, the further they become from the people they represent. The permanent bureaucracy who really runs the government is invisible and unaccountable. As we’ve learned in Colorado, unelected bureaucrats in health departments have the power to shut down businesses and impose all kind of restrictions on us, without our consent or leave. This is tyranny and must not be borne.

Government is nothing but force with a legal monopoly on the use of force. It is a blunt instrument and is incapable of responding quickly or adapting intelligently. The more power the government has, the less Liberty we have. Our Founders left us a constitutional republic. It’s up to us to reclaim it.

 

 

1 Mark R. Levin, The Liberty Amendments, Threshold Editions, p. 6

2 Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union Address, January 8, 1964

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