Here Comes Nanny Sam
phrolen | February 5, 2009 at 08:32 pmby
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Though the power of the pen can be powerfully moving, at times it can also be powerfully exhausting. For me the past election season proved to be one of the exhausting periods and seeing the writing on the wall I decided that a short sabbatical was in order. With the election season behind us and history made with the swearing in of President Barack Obama it is now back to the business of the public discourse that is so vital to the strength and health of our republic.
Now it is really no great secret that I tend toward the more conservative side of politics. I would brand myself as squarely Libertarian. I truly believe that each individual should be left to their own constitutionally mandated, God given, devices in pursuit of ever elusive happiness. Moreover, not only should we all simply be left to discover our own human experience we should certainly be left to find out what that experience entails without excessive government intervention in the process.
The contemporary debate on big government/ small government has largely hinged upon debate over FDR’s New Deal policies and the doctrines of the Republican revolution of the Ronald Reagan Era. Historically, however, the argument is as old as the republic itself. Alexander Hamilton (The guy on the $10 bill) for instance, was a fierce federalist. So fierce in fact that he went so far as to advocate for the abolition of states all together and simply consider the geography of the republic as “The Nation.” On the other hand Thomas Jefferson (The guy on the $2 bill) and his cohorts like James Madison thought that power should reside squarely in the hands of “The People” and advocated that the best way to keep power in the hands of people was for government to remain small and to address the people from its lowest level; being state and local.
In recent years the debate has largely shifted away from the once venerated philosophies of Reagan, Jefferson, and Madison to a more who is the most or least Hamiltonian approach. Somewhere in contemporary politics it became almost clichéd to invoke Jefferson or Reagan and therefore in the national discourse the principles by which both men adhered became somewhat of a Faux Paux. These principles have simply lost their rhetorical pizzazz in the halls of power in the United States and therefore have lost the ability to sway policy.
Such is all good and well as public discourses go; that is unless you begin to realize the profound transformation that we are witnessing take place today in this country. The Presidency of George W. Bush presided over the largest expansion of the government in generations with the addition of the Department of Homeland Security and the Expansion of the Medicare rolls. And furthermore the current administration, visa vi the recently proposed Economic Stabilization and Recovery Act is seeking to bankroll a whole myriad of federal spending projects that in all actuality may never go away.
Government spending 101 tells us that growth in government spending never decreases and rarely does the size and scope of government itself ever retract. When we all hear our bureaucrats on the television talking about cutting spending you can take it to the bank that they are only talking about cutting the size of the projected growth in spending. Call your local congressman and ask him how many times in the last 100 years the federal budget has actually shrunk. The answer may shock you.
The problem with all of this growth in government spending and size is the ominous dependency that begins to creep into local populations on bloated old Uncle Sam over in Washington. I am not just talking about State Governments either. You hear people all the time in contemporary life talk about a government solution to some random technological problem or government fixing some sociological trend. The omniscient government solution has simply become a part of the public vernacular. The fact is that aside from a very few specific things government has never been a driving force for solving problems in our republic. From a few farmers bucking tyrannical taxation to Edison inventing the light bulb in his garage; From Alexander Graham Bells remarkable little toy to one small “Apple” company and its eccentric founder Mr. Steve Jobs revolutionizing the way business is conducted around the globe, Americans have always been a grass roots oriented citizenry.
The question that keeps me up at night these days is that with the continual expansion of federal power and increasing dependency on our Uncle Sam Nanny can this “We the People” driven approach survive into the next generation? Is it in hibernation or is that individual can-do spirit that empowered previous generations going extinct? Even though the modern exercise of federal power is far more maternal that the rigid paternalism of the past, the exercise of that power is, in my humble opinion, no less authoritarian. Honestly, when is the last time you walked into any government agency or called your local representative and were not treated as a subject? I am not insinuating that we have full on authoritarian tyranny going on here in America. What I am saying however, is that we have an ever increasing behemoth of a government that views you and I both as children. I suggest to you that we are all being bought off with our middle-classdom and being subjected to a prolonged, even eternal state of adolescence. It is nice and comfortable in our daily little middle class lives so we don’t do anything about the problems that really bug us about our society. And if life isn’t nice and comfortable enough for you, you can bet that good old Nanny Sam has a program out there to make it so. To make it so we can all be fat, happy, pacified, taxpayers.
It is my firm belief that on all levels of our government this matriarchal mindset is permeating unchecked and without some sort of sociological counter weight the amorality of nanny statism may very well take far more control of our pursuit of happiness than either you or I are comfortable with. During a recent trip to my home county in north east Texas I was amused by complaints about the belligerence of the newly placed, local Game Warden. Individuals from all walks of life from down home church folk, to outlaw woodsmen had one universal complaint about the new Czar of all things wild and fishy; to summarize, he just did not get their way of life. He would show up in places he had no business being, bust people for crimes he had no business enforcing, and put plainly he really had no grasp about what life in Red River County was, is, and will be long after he is gone.
My point here goes far beyond one lowly, overzealous, state bureaucrat and into the deeper psyche of Nanny Sam. I mentioned before the amorality of big government. Amoral means neither moral nor immoral but robotic, inhuman; a process. With the expansion of government comes the inevitable mindless bureaucracy that must be built to maintenance the pig. And as our hapless and overzealous Texas Game Warden shows us, with that systemic organization comes the amoral, bureaucratic mindset of the mechanical cogs within. What gets left out is you and I; our humanity; our longstanding and cherished cultures and traditions. Like the Borg we to become assimilated subjects, part of the collective with no lone voice. Like some of the life long citizens of Red River County Texas under the reign of Warden Lone Wolf McQuade we wake up one morning and have to tip toe around the communities in which we have resided all of our lives.
Alexander Hamilton, the father Federalist once wrote “In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” He was right and as we see today his Federalist adherents haven’t lost one moment in working to control the wills of men. The fate of the direction of our republic as a nation of sovereign individuals may very well rest in the decisions of our leaders over the coming months. I in fact agree with Hamilton’s quote yet choose to view the statement through a more Jeffersonian lens in the statement “Dependence begets subservience and venality, poisons the germ of virtue, and creates fit tools for the designs of ambition.” For a nation whose revolution was incited over the taxation of mere tea oh what tools we have indeed become.
My sincerest hope is that the current tide of collectivism in these United States recedes and is followed by a renewed sense of individual responsibility and national strength. However, my heart tells me more and more each day that dear old Plato might have been right when in “The Republic” he stated that democracies could stand until its citizens figured out that they could vote into existence all their wishes and desires. One thing about it all though, this American experiment, it has always in some form been hanging on the edge of failure. Let us hope now that our vigor and spirit for the republic has not grown dim, lest we all wake one day under the yoke of our own game warden.
P.H. Rolen is an editorialist writing from Billings, MT. He is an editor for NowPublic.com and has been featured on the WorldNetDaily.com commentary page and The Heartland Institute’s Infotech and Telecom Newsletter
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