Skip to comments.Government - Please Give Us More!
Posted on 06/28/2002 7:31:20 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
California and its governor are in the news again, this time about Oracle's no-bid deal with the state that could cost taxpayers over $40 million more than expected. It looks bad for Governor Davis, who took $25,000 from the computer company to help his re-election.
Oracle's CEO, you will recall, volunteered to design a national ID card system for us. With the populace thus wired, we'd be safe from all threats because the system would be run by our government. You know who I mean: the people who make air travel safer by frisking Al Gore and random grandmothers, while prohibiting pilots from exercising their Second Amendment rights; the politicians who routinely demand tributes from lobbyists in exchange for deals like Oracle's; the very government that couldn't protect us on a $2.1 trillion budget and still can't today, by their own admission; the officious state with an agency that continues to issue visas to A-list terrorists, that conducts war without declaring it, that has killed a lot of people since 9-11 except the ones who masterminded it, that rewards itself for failure by giving us stronger doses of what caused it.
Every time we go to the polls government asks if we want more of the same, and when we punch Democrat or Republican we answer "Yes." We take pride in our baby, Big Government. We always need more laws passed to make things right. Even now, with soaring government incompetence, 80 percent of the people are eager to swap freedom for more government security measures, according to a recent USA Today Gallup Poll.
In his book, Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs says crisis and the proper "ideological climate" ratchet the growth of government. The right climate is guaranteed by our government-controlled education system. When a crisis strikes, the people expect the government to "do something." The something it does is grab power. It smothers us with new or enlarged bureaucracies, redefines the Constitution, issues statutory constraints on economic activities, conscripts, raises taxes, seizes property, nationalizes industries, debases our currency, intimidates dissenters, and rounds up suspect individuals without due process. It keeps doing this until the crisis passes, then it surrenders the power it seized but only part of it. Government never retrenches to the precrisis state.
Government at all levels had been decreasing in power up until the 1850s. Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel tells us the "United States, already one of the most prosperous and influential countries on the face of the earth, had practically the smallest, weakest State apparatus." Then Lincoln and his assault on the South changed all that.
Hummel sees the Civil War as both the realization and repudiation of the American Revolution. Black chattel slavery, the last major blight on liberty, was eliminated as an unintended consequence of the war. But gone also was the union of sovereign states, our check against tyrannical central authority. The whole country was now fair game for an aggrandizing government. "In the years [following the Civil War], coercive authority would wax and wane with year-to-year circumstances, but the long-term trend would be unmistakable. Henceforth there would be no more major victories of Liberty over Power," Hummel observes.
During and following the war, the federal government corrupted business entrepreneurship through subsidies, tariffs, land grants, and special privileges to cronies. Government's push for a transcontinental railroad illustrates this clearly. By giving the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads free land and cash loans for each mile of track they completed, the feds created incentives for shady undertakings. "The two lines spent little time choosing routes; they just laid track and cashed in," Burton Folsom notes. To get more cash, they often built circuitous roads. They even laid track in winter on ice and snow that had to be rebuilt in spring, giving them double the subsidies.
Lincoln's pal, William Tecumseh Sherman, led the charge in clearing away the Plains Indians so they wouldn't interfere with government's Manifest Destiny. In Sherman's words: "We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads." He told Ulysses S. Grant in 1866 that the Sioux must "feel the superior power of the Government." He ordered his troops to kill them all men, women, and children. He referred to his policy as the "final solution to the Indian problem," a lesson applied 70 years later by Hitler.
The UP and CP received 44 million acres of free land and over $61 million in cash loans. When they completed the transcontinental railroad in 1869, both were almost bankrupt. Because they were more of a racket than an enterprise, with poor construction and wasteful routes, the roads had high fixed costs that customers had to bear.
By contrast, James J. Hill built the Great Northern railroad without any government aid and ran it at a profit. He built slowly and helped develop the areas where he was laying track. For instance, he imported 7,000 cattle and gave them free of charge to settlers near his line. He used durable materials and chose his routes carefully, seeking short distances, low grades, and minimum curvatures. Hill "paid the Indians and other landowners free-market prices for rights-of-way across their property."
In 1893, the UP and CP went bankrupt, while Hill cut his costs another 13 percent from 1894 - 1895.
In short, government aid, which included genocide, attracted predators; predators bred inefficiency; inefficiency created consumer wrath; consumer wrath led to government regulation. But government regulation applied to all railroads, Hill's included.
Government meddling in other industries produced similar results. The guilt of some spread to all, and most people failed to distinguish between wealth-creators and crooks. The myth was established: Big Business was corrupt. The demand for government regulation of the economy peaked in the era we've been brainwashed into calling "Progressive."
We pay a price by not studying history more critically. Our founders caged government because they knew how dangerous it could be. The horrors of today and the century just ended have proved them right, but not enough of us are getting their message.
. GOP Lawmaker accuses Oracle of payoffs, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,55602,00.html
. The dangers of physical safety, Alan Keyes, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27987
. Higgs, Robert, Crisis and Leviathan: critical episodes in the growth of American government, Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 78.
. Hummel, Jeffrey Rogers, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A history of the American Civil War, Open Court, 1996, p. 350.
. Ibid, p. 359
. Folsom, Burton, The Myth of the Robber Barons: A new look at the rise of big business in America, Young America's Foundation, Herdon, VA, 1996, p. 18.
. The Feds versus the Indians, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control=99&sortorder=authorlast
. Folsom, p. 29
. Ibid, p. 22
George F. Smith is a freelance writer. His other articles may be found in the Writer Index.
Oh, yep, that's sure to make every American much more safe . . .
. . . and the Social Security Cards, that were originally designed with the wording "Not to be used for I.D.", have become everyone's method of IDing Everyone. . .
. . . just as safe as the Driver's License are here in Tennessee (You know, the State whose 'Safe' Licenses were found in Osama's Caves) that can be had with a copied phone bill and a pulse . . .
. . . in Tennessee (again) where when the 'State' decided to get rid of several thousand returned Driver's Licenses (new names - new addresses - et al). These old Cards were trucked over to the Thermal Plant, in Nashville, to be burned were , instead, left scattered across the floor in an open bay - open for anyone to walk in off of the street and nab as many as could be carried away. . .
** *** ** *** ** *** - -- - _ _ _ wait.. .. .. Help ..... .... ... .. my sarcasm button is stuck 'ON' and I can't get it shut off !! !!
These sorts of articles always make it sound like all we have to do is make government smaller, and all will be well. That is sadly not true. There is more work to do than that.
As was noted at its founding, the government envisioned by our Constitution assumes a just and moral people; it is suitable for no other. It is ludicrous to imagine that our current population can be persuaded that we need less regulation of business -- to pick only one issue -- when the name "Arthur Andersen" calls up images not of studious detail men in green eyeshades keeping everybody honest, but of shysters-on-the-take, shredding documents and obstructing justice as a premium service of the Major Accounts program.
The issue of "who will watch the watchers" is always with us, but never moreso than when the society itself is crumbling morally. Yes, it is true that we can't trust the government to watch the watchers either; after all, it was Bill Clinton's SEC that bent the rules to allow Enron to create the phony overseas partnerships in the first place.
The truth is, we can't trust any of our institutions anymore. The moral rot that has set into our society is everywhere. There are good and honest people, but there are just enough shysters in the mix, in every trade and business and government agency, and now even in our major religions, that we are approaching the day when even the simplest transactions will require detailed scrutiny... because cheaters are everywhere now.
It is not possible to have a free market economy when you have to assume that everyone you are dealing with might be a crook. The transaction costs are too high. Which is not to say that any amount of regulation or oversight will solve the problem, because the "watchers" themselves now shred documents and tell lies, and those watching them bend rules for campaign contributions.
The problem is moral breakdown. Until that gets fixed, calls for less government will fall on deaf ears. Even though people know that government is as corrupt as the crooks they are supposedly regulating, people turn to it anyway, because there is nowhere else to go. It's a downward spiral with no pretty end. But we already knew that about moral breakdown. We've known it at least since Rome fell. Has knowing it stopped the rot? Obviously not. Today we learn that another of our corporate giants, the Xerox Corporation, has been Xeroxing its sales numbers. And the Democratic Party's Man-Who-Would-Be-President has the effrontery to tell us that he wasn't around when any of this started.
It's crooks to right of us, crooks to the left of us, and crooks watching the crooks. Investments in supposedly blue-chip companies are crap shoots. His Holiness the Bishop is looking the other way while pedophiles populate his priesthood. And Al Gore tells us that this is all Bush's fault, because decades of slouching toward Gomorrah are bearing fruit on his watch.
This is scary. These are the conditions in which someone like Hitler rises to power. People do not know whom to trust, and through demagoguery an even worse crook can manage to position himself as the One Honest Man who will clean it all up. Just give him the power, and he will make everything better.
No he won't. But history tells us that people will fall for it anyway.