The government can’t save you (and it never really could)

posted at 3:31 pm on May 18, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

It is, perhaps, a somewhat self-immolating trait for anyone who spends a majority of their time thinking, talking and writing about government policy to throw up their hands and despair of the entire affair. And yet, if we are to be honest with ourselves and each other, it’s likely long past time to adopt a far more pessimistic attitude regarding what we should expect from the Masters of the Universe ensconced in their District of Columbia digs. Even as some of our greater thinkers ponder the meaning of various anniversaries we are reaching, such as that of the Great Society, and others mark Brown vs Board of Education, a frank assessment of the many problems which have plagued the nation for generations now with no sign of abatement should show us that we’re expecting a small horse to pull a cart the size of a mountain. It is an unfortunate truth that the government is capable of accomplishing only a very limited set of tasks which, not surprisingly, are listed in a brief section of the Constitution.

As with most issues, solving a problem requires understanding whether you are treating a symptom or a root cause. The federal government is only passably efficacious at the former – and even then, just in scattered instances – and wholly unequipped to deal with the latter. You may choose any of a number of societal ills to debate this point… a crumbling school system, real and perceived racial tension, violence outside your doors, declining productivity and employment or a national health crisis. Each of these have been trumpeted as a cause du jour by public officials and and office seeking hopefuls. Blue ribbon panels are established, experts are flown in from around the globe to testify before chambers empty of all but CSPAN camera operators, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are flushed into panacea programs which rarely move the needle past the point where the public attention span has been exceeded.

But in the end, these things all lie beyond the control of the government. They are all very real problems, but none of them came about because we failed to pass this regulation or reached too far in enacting that one. These are societal ills which grow up from between our toes and choke us off like tall weeds bringing the harvest to ruin. In short, the government can not solve these woes because, through our function as the selectors of those who represent us, we are the government. And we are also the source of the problem.

Society could heal itself through direct means, but the motivation to do so and the awareness of the potential long term benefits to be gained through short term sacrifice seem to be missing. In large numbers we have failed on a fundamental level, starting with the family and the general faith in an underlying comprehension of basic right and wrong. How many homes raise children today without a father? (Lee Culpepper shares some interesting thoughts on this in #BringBackOurFathers.) And how many of these children flee the nest and head out into the world having had no example of responsibility and no imparted sense of the difference between good and evil?

The basic concept of work as a positive, admirable activity to be lauded, and one which sows the seeds of its own rewards is lacking. Some may see this as the harping of a last generation, capitalist hanger on, but such an assumption blames the cart for the path taken by the horse. Capitalism is not some evil construct of the bourgeoisie to force work upon the masses. It was the result of a society which worked its way toward growing prosperity and success. But we have, in large numbers, lost track of that ideal and too often see work as a nuisance required for survival or an impediment to recreation.

Crime should not be an inherent trait in civilized man, yet we find it on every street in every town. Man, it seems, can breed into himself a weakness of spirit if the environment is sufficiently corrupt. We all know from an early age that stealing is wrong… not wrong because there is a rule forbidding it, but because it simply is the wrong thing to do. But if enough others around us are doing it with impunity and without facing serious consequence, the natural tendency to shrink from it is diminished.

Criminal behavior, sloth, hatred, a tendency toward unhealthy or destructive lifestyles and choices… these are all traits which apparently flourish in a society where such things are tolerated, if not rewarded. And no action by the government we construct can do more than put temporary bandages over such wounds. Assuming there is still time and the will to do so, the only answers to these problems will be found not by way of more or better government, but by looking to ourselves and reviewing how we guide our families and interact with and support the families around us. It would involve rebuilding how we participate in and internally police our communities and supporting some sense of faith, be it in God by name or a simple acknowledgement of shared moral propriety and a group intolerance for the lack of same. The government can not change these things because we are the government. When we heal ourselves, the government will heal without effort, and it will happily find itself with far less work to do.

This depressing essay should close with a reminder from a scholarly man:

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities.

And with that, go forth and enjoy the day.


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Thus, the failure of the USSR.

ericdijon on May 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

I want gov’t to stay the fk outta’ my life…

OmahaConservative on May 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Ah, a snippet of wisdom from Mr. Jefferson!

Adjoran on May 18, 2014 at 3:47 PM

See what just happened in India, and why the socialist media around the world mostly don’t report on it.

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 3:48 PM

To government we relegate those negative liberties which, if exercised be each of us, would be destructive of society. Government is to be regulated and to use those powers we grant it sparingly as it is a necessary evil for the administration of laws so as to keep a semblance of order in society.

To ourselves we reserve the positive liberties so that we may reason and discuss with our fellow man the means and methods of spreading enlightenment amongst our people and to build a prosperous society for all. Self-government is the most stringent form of government and it cannot be enforced from without but only from within.

External government is the processing system to deal with those who cannot self-govern their nature amongst their fellow man and, thusly, endanger him and society as a whole. As it is a repository of the power of our negative liberties lent to it, our task and purpose is to ensure that government does not overwhelm us and attempt to usurp our roles as the promulgators of that which is good amongst man. No government ever devised can do that and as government is just a Punisher no government that can be devised can do that. To assume otherwise is to invite tyranny, to empower the few over the many and to seek the destruction of society by relegating the practice of positive liberties and punishing those who practice them with Punisher of external government that then teaches us not to be good to our fellow man.

We have spent trillions trying to make government do ‘good’ and to ‘help’ our fellow man. And yet poverty cannot be abolished as no government can fill up the desolate soul with goodness and no government can create anything without first having to steal the products of positive liberty to do so. Unable to reform society to the benefit of all, unable to teach how to be good to each other, and unable to create anything save fear of its power, government is always and ever a construct eager to slip the leash and become the tyrant over us. Government is built upon the ruins of the bowers of heaven, and it is there solely because we are in Nature and are forever flawed and can never be perfected from without and as that can only be achieved from within.

Any external government that attempts to usurp the positive liberties of man as individual then proceeds from being a necessary evil to a complete and true evil.

That is the path we are on.

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Only Jesus.

kcewa on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Go Switzerland!!!

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 3:50 PM

That is the path we are on.

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Sounds like the Church is now needed here…

ericdijon on May 18, 2014 at 3:55 PM

Kill the federal behemoth and people will learn that their own communities are their own responsibility.

NotCoach on May 18, 2014 at 3:56 PM

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Excellent post.

Murphy9 on May 18, 2014 at 3:56 PM

The Danish turkey who earns $21, working at McDonalds, and propagates delusions in the US…

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 3:58 PM

See what just happened in India, and why the socialist media around the world mostly don’t report on it.

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 3:48 PM

See their manifesto.

I’m not sure it’s really that much of a change. Anti-corruption and running the socialist state more efficiently, yes.

But reducing the size of the state? I’m not sure about that.

kcewa on May 18, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Any external government that attempts to usurp the positive liberties of man as individual then proceeds from being a necessary evil to a complete and true evil.

That is the path we are on.

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

From both parties

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

…perhaps!…it is because the government no longer pays any attention ^ ^ ^ to this!

KOOLAID2 on May 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM

kcewa on May 18, 2014 at 3:58 PM

When all the appropriate rats of the world are nervous, or silent, there’s something to the smell.

Just one comment…but there are many. Why do you leftists ignore all this?

The world´s most populous democracy–our ally–has just seen a watershed election as important as Reagan´s victory in 1980. Naturally, Obama has denied Narendra Modia a visa, but now he´s going to have to deal with him even as he has to with Bibi Netanyahu. If the GOP erases a few dozen more Democrats from Congress in November, Zippy´s last two years are going to be lonesome. And he just might get himself impeached for a thousand valid reasons. At least he´ll get dissed to the point of exploding. His middle finger might even get permanently hyperextended.

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM

This depressing essay should close with a reminder from a scholarly man

There’s nothing about this essay that is depressing, Jazz. You mentioned treating the symptoms and identifying root causes…and this is a good root cause analysis of where we are failing.

We don’t do nearly as much of this type of analysis as we could or should, IMO. I enjoyed this very much.

Now, if we could only go to the next step, break down the RCA, and come up with a policy of corrective action that we can rally behind!

lineholder on May 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Obviously the commenter should have said “Modi”, and is too optimistic about the DIABLOs, but it is way telling why the socialists of the world are so unhappy about Modi’s win, in the most populous democracy on Earth.

It’s also ironic that the latrine-rats and Guinea worms of the world, all socialists/communists, want democracy and democratic votes…but only if they win.

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Schadenfreude on May 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM

Yeah, I agree about the rats being nervous. And it would be nice if Obama leaned toward Modi and India – and away from Pakistan.

Not expecting that, though.

As far as economics and democracy are concerned I think Modi sees India’s future in the ideas of Lee Kuan Yew and Deng Xiaoping. Not Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith. It will be interesting.

kcewa on May 18, 2014 at 4:15 PM

The primary problem of government is that the powers to regulate and control behavior and extract money from the citizenry draw the corrupt like moths to flame. Controlling those who control the government is therefore the primary task of the citizenry. Unfortunately, most of the citizenry is totally disinterested in performing this task, and a significant minority are very interested in what corrupt politicians are willing to pay them for their support with tax dollars, i.e., other peoples’ money.

The secondary problem of government is that it is structurally incapable of efficiency. Without the regulatory forces of the marketplace, the incentives for efficiency are absent. In fact, incentives exist for inefficiency, as failure to achieve goals are typically exploited to justify requests for additional resources which serve more to grow the size and power of the bureaucracy and bureaucrats than to accomplish their tasks. Actually accomplishing tasks undercuts the primary rationale of requests for more resources! On those rare occasions where the citizenry is involved enough to demand accomplishment, the bureaucrats have incentive to find new tasks, which require more resources extracted from taxpayers, etc., ad nauseum.

The Founding Fathers recognized this and attempted to craft a structurally limited government with incentives for the politicians who run it to get governments’ assigned tasks accomplished or be voted out of office.

Unfortunately, unless the citizenry, or more accurately the electorate, are sufficiently informed and responsible, corrupt politicians in league with corrupt government bureaucrats will continually increase the size of government and the resources they can divert to personal agendas. This process continues until the parasites (politicians and bureaucrats) bloat to a size that kills the host (the taxpayers).

And that is where we find ourselves now, at the mercy of an ignorant and irresponsible electorate and a bloated and corrupt government.

*****

PS- Anyone got a definition for “circlue”?

novaculus on May 18, 2014 at 4:26 PM

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities.

The greatest of truths, or it at least ranks up there, for all time. Listen up, prog monsters.

lineholder on May 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

What he said …

Chuck Ef on May 18, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Quite a few trillion dollars of debt too late to figure out government can’t fix things.

trigon on May 18, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Thus, the failure of the USSR.

ericdijon on May 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Yes; a sad day for the left in America.

slickwillie2001 on May 18, 2014 at 4:47 PM

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Bravo.

Bmore on May 18, 2014 at 4:59 PM

What She said …

Chuck Ef on May 18, 2014 at 4:39 PM

fify…

OmahaConservative on May 18, 2014 at 5:02 PM

novaculus on May 18, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Bravo.

Bmore on May 18, 2014 at 5:03 PM

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Bravo.

Bmore on May 18, 2014 at 4:59 PM

I 2nd that.
ajacksonian has some excellent posts.

bazil9 on May 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM

bazil9 on May 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Bellissimo

Bmore on May 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

lineholder on May 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Thanks. Much appreciated.

Jazz Shaw on May 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Jazz Shaw on May 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Your welcome. More please!!!

lineholder on May 18, 2014 at 5:54 PM

There was an article in the Lexington Herald paper the other day about the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Ed. The editorial claimed that we have lost ground in School Segregation in the last few Decades and placed the blame for that squarely on two shoulders.

White Flight. They blamed white parents for moving away from sucky schools and moving to places where their kids can actually go to a decent school, thereby in some vague obscure way preventing minorities from having the same option or succeeding in school. Just how this prevents any minority family from doing the same thing they didn’t say, but hey buddy, they sure blamed white people it.

Federal Government. The Fed is simply not spending enough money on failing schools that have minorities. We need to dump even more money into failed schools in an attempt to make them work.

Johnnyreb on May 18, 2014 at 6:06 PM

We all know from an early age that stealing is wrong… not wrong because there is a rule forbidding it, but because it simply is the wrong thing to do. But if enough others around us are doing it with impunity and without facing serious consequence, the natural tendency to shrink from it is diminished.

Sorry, but no. There is no “natural tendency” to shrink from “wrong”. Moral behavior is learned, and if it did not provide benefits it would not exist.

Clearly the most reliable predictor of human behavior is perceived self-interest, i.e., the individual doing what gratifies or benefits the individual. Moral behavior results from rational self-interest, wherein the individual recognizes the benefits of moral behavior restricting the pursuit of benefit or gratification outweigh the benefits of amoral behavior (the simple-minded pursuit of immediate benefit or gratification without regard to consequences) or immoral behavior (doing something that clearly causes more harm than good because the harm is perceived to accrue mostly to others and the good to oneself). Immoral behavior that is motivated by gratification that results from causing or watching others suffer is perversity, a special class of irrational behavior.

In other words, people come to realize that their lives are better in a world with moral rules that are observed by a majority, in which the pursuit of benefits and gratification are limited by the necessity of not harming others in the process, in return for which others do not harm you in their pursuits of benefits and gratifications.

Ultimately rational self-interest can lead to behavior that appears on it’s face to be positively disadvantageous to the individual while benefiting others. Sacrifices made for the benefit of others perceived to be worthy are perfectly rational and essentially moral. In these cases the individual finds the gratification, or perhaps more accurately, the satisfaction resulting from doing the “right thing” outweighs the costs.

novaculus on May 18, 2014 at 6:14 PM

I want gov’t to stay the fk outta’ my life…

OmahaConservative on May 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Yippers. I’d say that about sums up my feelings.

NavyMustang on May 18, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.” – Robert A. Heinlein

myiq2xu on May 18, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Federal Government. The Fed is simply not spending enough money on failing schools that have minorities. We need to dump even more money into failed schools in an attempt to make them work.

Johnnyreb on May 18, 2014 at 6:06 PM

The solution to every failure of big government is more big government.

myiq2xu on May 18, 2014 at 7:47 PM

The government can’t save you (and it never really could)

Oh yes it can! I just sneaked across the border with my family ten minutes ago and now my first welfare ch4eck is already in the mail.

MaiDee on May 18, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Repent America and turn to Jesus, He is mighty to save….

crosshugger on May 18, 2014 at 8:50 PM

We just need to spend more on experts and subsidies!!!!!

EvilMonk on May 18, 2014 at 9:12 PM

All I can say is, it’s too late.

We are far too far down the road. We have a massive meddling big brother government run by socialist politicians and bureaucrats who think they know best how to run the economy, how best to run everyone’s lives, and how we should think, speak, and behave. There is absolutely no reason to think the GOP will change it much even if they are given the power to do so. Too many of them are activist big government advocates themselves.

The best we can hope for is a slow steady decline in living standards, wealth, and freedom, as opposed to going off a cliff. However, the pace has been accelerating the last five years.

The only things we have going for us is the rest of the world is in worse shape, the world economy is dependent on the dollar, and we run the dollar printing press.

The American people have done it to themselves. Today’s Americans are not the kind of people who built this nation. The majority are whiny overgrown children who want the government to take care of their problems for them. Because, of course, all of their problems are someone else’s fault.

farsighted on May 18, 2014 at 9:18 PM

ajacksonian, kudos to your early post, great analysis, dichotomization, and identification of essential causal elements (with respects to the fundamental problems plaguing America and human existence.

Wing Chun Man on May 18, 2014 at 11:27 PM

No, no. It can! It just needs more of your money, more of your freedoms, an indeterminate amount of time and an infinite number of “do overs”.

Gymistokles on May 19, 2014 at 3:15 AM

This essay started strong then devolved into the same tired arguments old farts have been complaining about in regards to the younger generation since the dawn of man.

Should have ended it with “We can’t come up with a solution because we ourselves are the problem.” That was downright insightful.

James Dahl on May 19, 2014 at 5:35 AM

If government ever “community organizes” the military, its moral compass and love of America, we will be doomed. If it turns the military focus (or converts and consolidates local police) to be suspect of citizens we will be on a path to true tyranny.

Connecticut on May 19, 2014 at 7:20 AM

ajacksonian on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Truth.

Always brings it, we are blessed to have you.

I fear we are too late, I weep for our once great nation. I however will fight to the end. We are in desperate need of Patriots to lead us back to the promise land.

D-fusit on May 19, 2014 at 8:41 AM