The Real Power of Government
There has been mention lately in the comments on these blog pages about what the government should be doing, can do and is constitutionally allowed to do. But underneath those discussions we need to understand what makes government different from other organizations. Private organizations like the Red Cross, the NAACP, MADD, the Salvation Army, Angie’s List and the ACLU can all perform functions the citizens of a regional area need. Most things the government can do can be performed by similar privately ran organizations, so what is it that the government can do that these organizations can’t? Simply put, the government is the only body that we have legally given the power of force over its citizens.
That’s it. By force the government can enforce its laws. If the laws aren’t followed, we have given this single body the power to remove us from society and place us into custody at the threat of death. Yes, if we take the natural progression of resistance to the government, the eventual outcome will be death.
Let’s look at a natural progression. Let’s say you are guilty of one of the laws that the government has been entrusted to enforce. You have decided, for your own personal reason, to not carry automobile insurance. As this is illegal in most states, you are breaking the law. Now you get pulled over and given a ticket for this. You ignore it. Soon a warrant is issues for your arrest. When the warrant is served, you resist arrest. The police will, rightfully so, use force to arrest you with the possibility of death if for some reason it comes to it. And they would be legal in performing this action.
No other organization or agency has this power. If you pledge money to MADD and then don’t give them that money, you will not be made to by force, unless the government gets involved to put enforcement of a contract into action. No one from MADD will visit you with contingent of gun-toting enforcers to make you give over the pledged funds.
It is precisely this power that we have given to the government that requires that we limit what the government can do. Every time we ask the government to enforce a law, we are asking them to use the threat of force, possibly death, to ensure that the law is followed. Every program that requires taxes to fund is asking the government to take the earned wealth, by force, from one individual and giving it to the program.
The writers of the US Constitution understood this. They knew it all too well, having lived under a government previously that used that power to limit the freedom of it’s citizens as it suited the needs of the government. So, in writing the Constitution they put hard limits in it, most notably in the bill of rights, capped with the 9th and 10th amendments. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Yet, all too often, in trying to get the notions we want enacted as laws we ignore this fact. We imagine that there is some wording or clause in the constitution that allows us to use it for our desires, while at the same time imagining that those desires we oppose are not allowed to use those same clauses. The reality is that we have so far pushed the line of what the federal government was designed to do, without properly amending the constitution to allow for these new desires, that most people aren’t even aware that there are some things that the federal government just isn’t allowed to do.
So the situation is now that every perceived ill should be handled by the government. By using their ability to force people to do whatever law is enacted they can force people to solve these perceived ills. But by doing so things that could be handed without that threat of force behind it, instead done through charity and good feelings are now accomplished through force and lack of freedom. More funds are required to be taken, by force, from the citizens instead of offered up by the citizens through charitable means. But worse than that, because we are forced by fund these endeavors we no longer feel the need to provide charity. “We gave already” is the view of many, because they are forced to give from their paychecks in taxation they feel less motivated to give to charitable organizations.
This permeates. We no longer know or care who are neighbors are or what their needs are. There’s a governmental program to take care of them, “I can live my life knowing that I’m doing my part without actually ‘getting dirty’.” Not exactly the type of attitude that helped make this society great. It’s also a trend that I am afraid may be too far entrenched to reverse.
What we must do is consider the true power of government when we discuss whether or not the solution to any issue is to ‘write a law’. Maybe it can be accomplished on our own? That it can be resolved better without taking away just a little bit more freedom from the citizenry. Just maybe we can help each other out by caring and charity and not by the force of the gun.