I took my time to read this whole thing.
It's quite good, You might like it gmonkey.
I have just recently finished writing a personal an essay, and one of my friends recommended I send it to you.
Libertarianism, the modern champion of small federal government and strong local government, has become quite a popular ideology among American thinkers of the 21st century. This fact quite perplexes me. Its advocates, fed up with what they see as an overextended and disproportionate amount of power-wielding government bureaucracy, have now taken to the streets in anger. They shout to the heavens the evils of, what they see as, large, oppressive, and corrupt government. Large volumes of text have been written on the subject, and most tend to emphasize the same main points as their companions: tax cuts, greater amounts of power extended towards state and local governments, and the overall reduction or removal of government influence on the population.
Such an idea is not new to politics. These ideas have existed since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, with the introduction of “Laissez-faire economics”. This concept grew out of public anger to the various luxuries that royalty indulged in while they, comparatively, suffered in poverty and destitution. Thus, the people felt that their taxes were useless and stifling creativity within their own businesses. They felt that, if they could get the government off their backs, the “invisible hand of the market” would dictate what the people wanted. This plan backfires, however, when we see how poorly people lived during this epoch, and the reforms that were necessary to allow the people to regain control over their own lives. Poverty abounded, and the people who lived did so as slaves. It is obvious that this epoch was by no means perfect, and neither was the ideology that was so pervasive during it.
Before this epoch, in the Enlightenment, we know that the novel ideas of the time were not economic, but political and social. During this epoch, the ideas of democracy and republican virtues were formed and extolled. At first, they were stifled by the corrupt monarchial system, who wanted the power and wealth all to themselves, similar to the modern bourgeoisie. Although the monarchs fought long and hard, justice finally prevailed, and the idea of natural rights became a reality. The combination of these two ideas, economic and political, ended up forming the structure of “Classical Liberalism”, an ideology that is very similar to the modern ideas professed by Republicans (the Party of the United States) and Libertarians, both of whom share beliefs that are known to be conservative (in modern terms) in nature.
Ultimately, this structure was what laid the foundation for the American Revolution. However, after the Revolution had ended in our favor and the Articles of Confederation were created, we began to see the formation of a huge problem in the making. It was evident that, with how weak and limited the federal government was, it had no power to tax or pass legislature, two tenets that are central to the very idea of a governing body. With the massive amount of debt to consolidate, as well as tensions between states beginning to flare (as much of the South had paid their debts), this form of government was rightly seen as impossible to sustain. Fortunately, due to the campaigning of some of our Founding Fathers (not that there was not opposition present within the group) such as Alexander Hamilton, we created what would end up being the basis for the American government as it is today. Had this not been done, the new country would have likely fought a premature civil war (tensions between the North and South were particularly hot at this time), and would have fragmented into tiny, divided states that the British would have found easy to conquer had it still chosen to invade.
This leads us to the true purpose of this essay. As I read and discover more and more about the opinions held by the American people, I have seen that we continue to trumpet this early system of government as if it was the greatest form of its kind ever conceived by man. My confusion ultimately relates to why people think that a regression of government to a small, limited, and powerless entity is the solution to the problems of today. It is especially confusing when you consider the size of government in so-called “Socialist” countries in regards to our own. Even basic amounts of research will allow a person to discover that such a classification is a misnomer. Countries such as France or Sweden do not have governments that are much bigger than our own at all.
Yes, these nations have higher tax rates, different policies (often more left-wing than our own), and different branches, styles, and pervasiveness of their government. But, ultimately, they do not encroach upon their citizens lives any more than ours does (based on the passage of acts such as the NDAA and the Patriot Act, I feel ours is actually larger and more authoritarian than theirs in scope, but that is a topic for another time). Nazi Germany, a completely authoritarian nation by all accounts, was even more right-wing in its economics than all of modern Europe. And obviously all learned people are aware of how much power that country exercised over its citizens. Thus, we see that the scale of a government is not proportionate with how much control it holds over its citizen’s lifestyles. One can only determine that by observing the nation’s social policies, not its economic ones.
If one were to make a case that we need a less authoritarian government- one that cares for and tries to help the people while not trying to rid themselves of their liberties, then yes, I would concur. However, the ideas espoused by the advocates of small government do not just advocate for the protection of political and civil freedoms- they wish for a decrease in (or even removal of) government activity altogether. When one reads text discussing the history of old, such as the examples of historical context that I have analyzed in the above paragraphs, we see that a non-centralized, small government was never proven to work at all in the governing of such vast stretches of land. Invariably, we find that little disputes among the multitude of governments soon magnify into large-scale hostilities, resulting in chaos, bloodshed, and poverty. Out of the ashes rises a stronger, more cohesive government, which eventually ends up becoming corrupt and working against the people, instead of for them.
If not that, then a larger, more centralized entity ends up vying for power with the more disunified entity. The unified entity will always win, as the disunified entity will have conflicts with itself, collapse, and submit to the victor. That is one of the reasons why big business and the wealthy have so much power in the current system- because our government is too fractured among various parties and fringe groups to fight back. The influence of Laissez-faire economics is also taking its toll, with most people hating taxes even if it is designed to help them. This also manifests itself in how we deal with business, with the government adopting this low and flat tax rate (or, as some Libertarians campaign for, no taxes at all) as its mantra and publicizing it, even when it knows that such a thing is neither feasible nor morally acceptable.
You can see the pattern that emerges here. Inevitably, a disunified state will result in, for whatever reason, the rise of a stronger, more unified entity. This entity may be good at first, promoting itself to be the savior of humanity. But it will eventually fall prey to the same old problems- greed, lust for power, and corruption. Its citizens will campaign for freedoms and smaller powers to be granted to the state, and revolution will incur. This cycle, left unchecked, will never result in utopia, and mankind will fritter away his given years until the solar system implodes itself.
As it can be inferred, I do not advocate for an unregulated growth of government power, so that we end up becoming totalitarian and destroying the very liberties that we have fought so hard to gain. Neither do I advocate for the equally erroneous opposing method of a government having too little power, which will pave the way for the aforementioned entity to form itself. Indeed, it would be a betrayal of our own history to suggest that the government must become all-powerful and all pervasive, but it would be equally contemptible to suggest that the government become too weak and feeble to govern- the whole point of having one in place. A regression to previous ideologies, Libertarian or Totalitarian, is not the answer. We should resolve to push past these obstacles towards a greater, loftier goal, without allowing corruption to take control of our government.
I know that you will be asking, “But how can we have such a large government that collects higher taxes, has more social programs, and enacts more economic regulation without allowing it to run amok?” The answer is quite simple. We already have the outline- it lies in the documents that currently keep the government in check. I am referring, of course, to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nonetheless, holding true to these documents is not enough in and of itself. We must go even further along the path of democracy, as we have seen that the government can easily circumvent such documents if the population does know or care enough to change anything (I again point to such laws as the NDAA and the Patriot Act). Thus, as you may have already foreseen, we must endeavor to create a population that can keep the government working in their own interests- the interests of the common man.
We must all campaign towards forming a government that is concerned with creating a more equal and cooperative society. That is, I believe, the whole point of a proper government- to fight for reform with a utilitarian mindset. However, so that we may accomplish this lofty goal, we must all take a role in politics. All people, of both unskilled and skilled labor, high and low mental capacity, without regard for race, gender, sexual preference, income, or any of the trivial distinctions that man has placed upon himself, must take part in its oversight. We must do this so that we may destroy present and future corruption in the system, and create a cycle of true democratic governance- where the governed governs the government, and the government governs the governed.
This cycle of benevolence would ultimately benefit the population as a whole. I will not go into the economics of it, nor how I would go about it (that is for another time), but such a system is what we must ultimately adopt if we wish to create a truly free nation, and eventually, a truly free species. Right-wing policies such as tax cuts or removal of government regulations will not work this time- the system has become too cancerous and self-destructive in nature, and it is already poisoning society in and of itself. Ultimately, we have three options that we may pursue in the future.
We can continue along our current path and have the wealthy and big business usurp our government in favor of their interests. Next, we can campaign for smaller government and give the members of said upper class easy access to their goals of financial dominance. Finally, we may reject both these positions, and forge a path towards a more equal and cooperative society. Man may wish to be free, but he cannot do so with hard work. Reverting to tradition, his natural instinct, is not the answer, nor is the solution to allow the disease of unchecked corruption to infect the rest of the body. Instead, he must take the drug of progress, and push on towards a solution."