“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.” ― Frédéric Bastiat
Governments are the arbiters of force. Everyone living under a government lives underneath the laws of that government and are faced with the choice between obeying the state and risking their very lives and liberty. Western Civilization has been obsessed with finding the proper balance between order bred from the authority of the state and the prosperity born of free peoples and free markets. Governments are manufacturers of order. Order is restrictive, limited, and often suffocating. Free peoples and free markets are disorderly, spontaneous, and can change as rapidly as the needs and desires of the people themselves.
Absolute freedom makes it impossible for a government to govern, because if everyone is absolutely free, a government cannot plan anything. Imagine, if you will, what your town might look like without predictable and longterm zoning plans and laws. Where you live today could become a mining community tomorrow and you could lose the entire value of your home. The mining community may not even be interested in your property, nor find it within their self-interest to pay you for the difference in what has now become, essentially, worthless property. Your local government protects you from this fate by planning and controlling residential and commercial property, through force.
In authoritarian states, the governments control and own just about everything. Citizens of these countries are deprived of all risks and rewards. They exist, as does everything else within their borders, to serve the interests of the state. Everything is planned to the best ability of those individuals running the government. Innovation is rare. Change is slow. Progress is damn near impossible. With no incentive to innovate, knowledge must be stolen or expropriated from freer nations. Want life-saving medication? You’ll get it, as soon as your government figures out a way to secure it for you. You can secure nothing for yourselves.
Americans, in general, appear to desire as much liberty as possible, so long as that liberty doesn’t create any bad press. The American Government wants just enough liberty to keep the economy the strongest and most vibrant in the world, since this is the engine which makes the American Government the most lucrative and powerful government in the world (and thus makes our politicians the wealthiest and most powerful politicians in the world).
Democrats love liberty, however they don’t like social, moral, or economic inequality. They want everyone to be free, but they also want the government to manufacture a fair and somewhat equal reality for citizens to live in. Democrats do not want to take away your ability “to get rich”, but they do want the rich to pay more in taxes so that they (Democrats in government) can provide goods and services to the poor, who experience an economic inequality in the presence of the more productive, the more educated, and the more gifted. Freedom is fine, but we cannot pretend that freedom is an engine of equality and fairness. That’s where the government comes in – to adjust (not radically) the outcomes we all experience.
Republicans love liberty, and yet they are comfortable with the idea that certain values and culture deserve certain privileges from the state. To encourage, what they view as “good decisions”, Republicans support tax codes which reward families, wealth creation, and economic productivity. Democrats and Republicans both like taxes, because taxes are the means to whatever ends they seek to accomplish as a government. They rarely ever indulge questions concerning their right to tax for the purposes of redistributing that money where they believe it will be most effective for the nation.
With the 16th Amendment, the federal government took for themselves the power to lay income taxes in direct opposition to Article I, Section II, of the United States Constitution. Being a Constitutional Amendment, there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional in their action, regrettable as it was.
Neither the Democrat or Republican parties have figured out the most successful balance between government and liberty, but each have adopted particular political narratives defining their virtues in the realm of prioritizing such a balance. The Democrats are against inequality, unfairness, poverty, and are for “the arts”, alternative sexual and moral lifestyles, a womans’ right to choose to abort her fetus, and the right of the state to regulate any behavior that has an economic, environmental, or community impact. Republicans are against inefficient, wasteful, and fraudulent federal and political programs, and are for both big and small business (mostly), a productive workforce, responsible spending (in rhetoric only), and a strong and powerful military.
What Our Political Parties are Missing
Actually, our political parties aren’t missing much. Much of what they do isn’t noble, but they’ve maintained the relative support of the people. So long as the Democrats are redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor, pretty much everything else they do will be acceptable to the people that vote for them. Republicans remain the only real protection for small and mid-size businesses (and individuals), and the only bulwark standing between Republican voters and what they perceive as Socialism – so the many disparate tribes that constitute the Republican Party will always view the GOP as the lesser of two evils.
What the American People are Missing
I understand that our government is a reflection of the American People and I do not believe that our government is tricking us into supporting more government than we actually desire. I simply think that we, as a people, have freely accepted more government than we actually desire in exchange for the comforts of economic order and “social justice”.
I do wish, however, that we desired more freedom, more local and state authority, and less federal central planning. I do not believe that bureaucrats, lobbyists, and politicians in Washington D.C., can create the kind of order, culture, and economy within each of our fifty states (not to mention all the varying counties, cities, and localities) that we truly want. I think that Federalism was a good idea. For those who do not know what Federalism means, it means that the States have independent authorities unregulated by the federal government. I believe that States, too, should give up much of their authority to counties, cities, and localities.
I accept that a certain amount of order is desired by a majority of the American People – and I do not wish, through force, to deprive them of their misguided desire for security. However, anyone who thinks that a Legislature controlled by two individuals from each State, in the Senate (the result of the 17th Amendment) is truly representative of The People – are out of their damn minds.
Democrats and Republicans are equally harmed by the corporate and centralized character of the Federal Government. Too distantly removed from the incredible positions of power in Washington D.C. we all struggle for some level of autonomy. Yet, the power of Washington D.C. to overrule our less-than-esteemed neighbors, our fellow Texans, our fellow Floridians, and our fellow Virginians, appears too great a temptation for us to demand greater independence. Truly, as Virginia turns Blue, Republicans don’t want more authority turned over to Virginia. Indeed, we should work our Republican connections nationally to ensure that our Representatives in Washington overrule our Democrat Governor. No? Or the Democrats – they have to deal with a Republican Legislature in Virginia. They too desire a federal government capable of putting their Republican overlords in their place.
Yet, every two to six years we place our fates in the hands of the tiniest minority in America – The Federal Government. How is that wisdom? Honestly, how has that helped?
Yes, I know my Congressman, my Delegate, and I’ve met my State Senator. But I see my Board of Supervisors once, twice, or three times a month. I want the people setting my laws to be the people most accessible to me, the people most accountable to me. No one in Washington D.C. is truly accountable or accessible to me. They are burdened with far weighter affairs than how their government effects my insignificant life. They are ruling a nation. I’m just some guy from Caroline County.
I don’t want to tell people in San Francisco, Memphis, Houston, or Detroit what kind of government they should live under; and I don’t want their federal representatives ruling over me. Local and State governments should be the most powerful governments in America – if we really want to be free and to have a voice in our Republic. Democrats and Republicans should begin to consider this and so should the people who elect them. Yes, liberty means a certain amount of disorder, but order constantly comes at the cost of our liberty. We have yet to settle upon the proper balance – but there is still time to do so.