State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

Government-Friend or Foe?

“…government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

This statement, one of the most famous of Abraham Lincoln, says to the people essentially that this government is not just your friend, it is you. Does Lincoln’s view hold true today, or have we moved to a different point in history? Is government us, or our friend, or an enemy? These are fundamental questions that must be answered, and the answer that each individual comes up with will inevitably affect his or her view of our situation and politics profoundly. We will look at this question from a few different times and viewpoints and attempt a greater understanding.

First, to establish a baseline and proper communication, let’s compare
government to the opposite–anarchy. In this case, I believe, there is near universal agreement that government is our friend. That some entity must be set up to protect the life, liberty, and property of individuals from those who would kill, steal, and destroy is nearly universal in acceptance. But, is there a limit to what government can or should do? Have we crossed that limit?

To answer these questions, we must go back to the founding of our Nation. The Federalist papers give us great insight into the minds of those who argued for the United States to be a nation, as well as how they sold the idea to the people. Madison states in Federalist #51:

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

“It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”

From the very beginning there was a great concern about a “tyranny of the majority”. Some of the remedies included separation of powers, checks and balances, and limiting the power of the Federal Government. From Madison, this time in Federalist #45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.”

A quick look at the Federal (maybe better said National) Government today shows it has grown far beyond the boundaries described by the Constitution and Founders. It has departments under the control of the Executive branch which fund and manage education, environment, health care, and many more. The tax code has moved from funding the needed and assigned duties of the Federal Government to being used as an incentive and punishment code, as well as an instrument for redistributing wealth. Does this constitute a tyranny against certain classes or is this government of the people? Edward Bernays summed up the change in his book Propaganda.

“In the days when kings were kings, Louis XIV made his modest remark, “L’Etat c’est moi.” He was nearly right.

“But times have changed. The steam engine, the multiple press, and the public school, that trio of the industrial revolution, have taken the power away from kings and given it to the people. The people actually gained power which the king lost. For economic power tends to draw after it political power; and the history of the industrial revolution shows how that power passed from the king and the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. Universal suffrage and universal schooling reinforced this tendency, and at last even the bourgeoisie stood in fear of the common people. For the masses promised to become king.

“Today, however, a reaction has set in. The minority has discovered a powerful help in influencing majorities. It has been found possible so to MOLD THE MIND OF THE MASSES THAT THEY WILL THROW THEIR NEWLY GAINED STRENGTH IN THE DESIRED DIRECTION. In the present structure of society, this practice is inevitable.” (Page 47, emphasis mine)

Bernays makes the case that government is no longer of the people, but of the propaganda of the elitists. Could this be true? Carrol Quigley, the great macro-historian, in Tragedy & Hope explains what is necessary for government “of the people”:

“The growth of the army of specialists, foretold by General de Gaulle in 1934 and foreseen by others, destroys one of the three basic foundations of political democracy. These bases are (1) that men are relatively equal in factual power; (2) that men have relatively equal access to the information needed to make a government’s decisions; and (3) that men have a psychological readiness to accept majority rule in return for those civil rights which allow any minority to work to build itself up to become a majority.

“Just as weapons development has destroyed the first of these bases, so secrecy, security considerations, and the growing complexity of the issues have served to undermine the second of these. The third, which was always the weakest of the three, is still in the stage of relative vitality and relative acceptability that it had in the nineteenth century, but is in much greater danger from the threat of outside forces, notably the changes in the other two bases, plus the greater danger today from external war or from domestic economic breakdown.” (Page 865)

Thinking for a moment on Quigley’s observation from the 1960’s, we can see how this has played out. The second amedment still allows common people the right to firearms, but nothing near equal to the government. The common man has no knowledge about national security, and with the Patriot Act, the government has great amounts of knowledge about its citizens that the citizens are not entitled to. Information comes in the way of propaganda (often very subtile) to push the agendas of the elitists. Finally, domestic economic breakdown is here. Bailouts of Wall Street (the elites) paid for by the middle class taxpayer and high unemployment creating a call for increased redistribution of wealth and a greater welfare state, once again to be paid for by the middle and upper middle class, threaten to destroy the last string of Quigley’s third foundation.

Finally, to answer our main question, does Lincoln’s view hold true? I believe it does not. What we have now is government of the Elites by propaganda, an exploited middle and upper middle class by regulation, taxation, and redistribution of wealth, and an entrenched group wanting the government to take more for them. We have arrived at the point feared by Madison. The powers of the Federal Government are now unlimited and the rights of the minority are insecure. Things being as they are, it is no wonder that we have such animated arguments in politics today. I must ask, to solve the problems, wouldn’t it be best to just go back to the Constitutional ideas that brought us such great progress for so long?

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