Skip to comments.The Myth of 'Limited Government'
Posted on 01/04/2002 5:34:10 AM PST by tberry
The Myth of 'Limited Government'
by Joseph Sobran
We are taught that the change from monarchy to democracy is progress; that is, a change from servitude to liberty. Yet no monarchy in Western history ever taxed its subjects as heavily as every modern democracy taxes its citizens.
But we are taught that this condition is liberty, because "we" are freely taxing "ourselves." The individual, as a member of a democracy, is presumed to consent to being taxed and otherwise forced to do countless things he hasnt chosen to do (or forbidden to do things he would prefer not to do).
Whence arises the right of a ruler to compel? This is a tough one, but modern rulers have discovered that a plausible answer can be found in the idea of majority rule. If the people rule themselves by collective decision, they cant complain that the government is oppressing them. This notion is summed up in the magic word "democracy."
Its nonsense. "We" are not doing it to "ourselves." Some people are still ruling other people. "Democracy" is merely the pretext for authorizing this process and legitimizing it in the minds of the ruled. Since outright slavery has been discredited, "democracy" is the only remaining rationale for state compulsion that most people will accept.
Now comes Hans-Hermann Hoppe, of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, to explode the whole idea that there can ever be a just state. And he thinks democracy is worse than many other forms of government. He makes his case in his new book Democracy The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order
Hoppe is often described as a libertarian, but it might be more accurate to call him a conservative anarchist. He thinks the state "a territorial monopoly of compulsion" is inherently subversive of social health and order, which can thrive only when men are free.
As soon as you grant the state anything, Hoppe argues, you have given it everything. There can be no such thing as "limited government," because there is no way to control an entity that in principle enjoys a monopoly of power (and can simply expand its own power).
Weve tried. We adopted a Constitution that authorized the Federal Government to exercise only a few specific powers, reserving all other powers to the states and the people. It didnt work. Over time the government claimed the sole authority to interpret the Constitution, then proceeded to broaden its own powers ad infinitum and to strip the states of their original powers while claiming that its self-aggrandizement was the fulfillment of the "living" Constitution. So the Constitution has become an instrument of the very power it was intended to limit!
The growth of the Federal Government might have been slowed if the states had retained the power to withdraw from the confederation. But the Civil War established the fatal principle that no state could withdraw, for any reason. So the states and the people lost their ultimate defense against Federal tyranny. (And if they hadnt, there would still have been the problem of the tyranny of individual states.) But today Americans have learned to view the victory of the Union over the states, which meant an enormous increase in the centralization of power, as a triumph of "democracy."
Hoppe goes so far as to say that democracy is positively "immoral," because "it allows for A and B to band together to rip off C." He argues that monarchy is actually preferable, because a king has a personal interest in leaving his kingdom in good condition for his heirs; whereas democratic rulers, holding power only briefly, have an incentive to rob the public while they can, caring little for what comes afterward. (The name "Clinton" may ring a bell here.)
And historically, kings showed no desire to invade family life; but modern democracies want to "protect" children from their parents. By comparison with the rule of our alleged equals, most kings displayed remarkably little ambition for power. And compared with modern war, the wars of kings were mere scuffles.
Democracy has proved only that the best way to gain power over people is to assure the people that they are ruling themselves. Once they believe that, they make wonderfully submissive slaves.
January 4, 2001
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free." -- Johann Goethe
Over time the government claimed the sole authority to interpret the Constitution, then proceeded to broaden its own powers ad infinitum and to strip the states of their original powers - while claiming that its self-aggrandizement was the fulfillment of the "living" Constitution. So the Constitution has become an instrument of the very power it was intended to limit!
I can see where this will take the USA. You don't want to go there if at all possible.
IMO, it still started going downhill with "Career Politicians".
Get the normal everyday people back into politics, running for office, (I know, a remote possibility), and you take away much of the BS.
"No one shall vote in an election who has not paid income tax or property tax within the four preceding years"
Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887: 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men'.
MACV SOCOM, PhuBai/Hue '65-'66
The problem with lawyer jokes is lawyers don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they are jokes.
When a society bases its political power on a majority vote, it is inevitable that those wishing to have power will seek to satisfy the needs of those who will provide it (vote) by transferring wealth. This leads to ever increasing public spending fueled by the self-interest of producers. With each increment in the common realm, more people are brought into the class of those receiving benefits . . . these people will take their benefits into account, desire to maintain or increase their level of benefits, vote for those who will support them, and thus, the level of spending will ever increase. The needs of the voters will eventually exceed the treasurys ability, so fiscally unsound policies will be undertaken.
Our Framers must have been aware of Tyler's theory, because they limited the Federal government to a very narrow focus with only a few listed responsibilities. Everything else went to the states. This act negated centralized power.
British statesman Edmund Burke, over two centuries ago, warned of the dangers to any society that promotes the idea that some of its citizens are the natural prey of others. No society has ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce. The growth of a large parasitic class (including bureaucracies) marked the decline and fall of the Roman and Spanish empires. Over the centuries, the Byzantine and Ottoman empires developed so suffocating and corrupting bureaucracies as to destroy incrementally their own empires. Spain used the incredible wealth of the new world to support growing numbers of Spaniards in idleness. Disappearance of empires due to catastrophes have been extremely rare in history. Rather, they slowly but steadily corrode and crumble from within. A growing amount of wealth is pumped by the State from the economy and transferred to a growing number of small but influential (interest) groups.
A Durable Free Society: Utopian Dream or Realistic Goal (excerpts from) - A Shenfield - The state is not society. Society and the state are two different entities, even though their members may be the same and even though they may intermesh with each other intimately. The state is the entity charged with the task of protecting society, but the society over-flows the bounds of the state into fields where the state has no right to go. A society cannot be free if it is synonymous with the state. For if it were, all human activity would not only be governed by law. It would also be prescribed and licensed by law, which is the meaning of totalitarianism.
The only form of equality which may be sought by the state is equality before the law. With equality before the law, the goddess of justice is rightly depicted as blind as she holds the scales evenly; blind because she is no respecter of persons. To her all, rich or poor, strong or weak, high or low, come for equal protection. Per contra, the state pursuit of equality of income or wealth is poison to justice and freedom. So too is equality of opportunity if that means, as unfortunately it has increasingly come to mean, that life's races must be fixed so that all start equal.
Though even the modest taxation of the limited state may have some incidental income - redistributive effect, the deliberate pursuit of redistribution of incomes or wealth by the state is absolutely impermissible. It is par excellence the mark of the robber state, all the worse when it presents itself as the expression of compassion or human brotherhood. The state may not command, direct, control or regulate the economic activity of the people, except where it can be convincingly shown that such a measure is an essential means of preventing the people from encroaching upon each other's liberty or rightful property. - A. Shenfield
I'm not worried about myself - I'm worried about my children and grandchildren. That's why I support candidates (mostly liberatarian, but some Republicans) that call for radical change. If they're not talking about cutting the size of government by a third or a half at least, removing whole classes of taxes, and eliminating huge swaths of bureaucracy, they their election will be pointless.
I had hope for the "Contract with America". That was apparently the last gasp of true limited government fervor among mainstream Republicans, and what did it do? Nothing of consequence. Now we have Bush, who has performed admirably in foreign policy, but is "same old, same old" on the domestic front.
Let's put things in proportion. The attacks of Sept 11 killed around 4000. That is pretty horrific. But Stalin killed over 10,000,000 and Mao killed more than that. That's the power of a totalitarian society. No matter how well we do against foreign enemies, if we get effectively enslaved by our own government, it will most likely last for many generations, and result in far more deaths than any terrorist actions every could.
Not all of us. Some Americans still believe that the powers of the federal monolith are limited, it's convincing the sheeple that's holding us up. Divest the federal government of all it's unconstitutional entitlement programs, and remove the federal chokehold from our state institutions and things would be as the founders intended - state sovereignity with national protections.
Whenever a copy of the federal budget gets printed up, the thing takes several volumes (is my understanding). How many people are employed by the federal government? How many people would be thrown out of "work" if any serious attempt was made to cut the size of the government? How many people are there who have a financial interest in constantly expanding the size of government?
A national discussion needs to take place wherein we come to agreement as to just what it is that the federal government should do and what it should not do, but I can't see it ever happening. A theoretical discussion about the proper function of government can take place before it's established, but once you get to a point where the money clouds everbody's judgment, it's all over. Personally, I can't imagine anyone deciding to go into politics in the hopes of turning things around, because the government is so big that the ability of one person to make any kind of meaningful change is practically nil. The only reason I can see for anyone to go into politics these days is to feed at the trough and to take advantage of the "bennies".
I just don't see much hope for ever being able to seriously redefine the proper bounds of government until economic factors (or whatever) cause it all to fall apart. I guess you can just put me down as a pessimist in this thing.