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Monday, October 03, 2011

How Limited Government Lost Its Limits

This nation was founded predominantly on a premise of limited government. But how it has become a leviathan of seemingly limitless power and without bounds is argued daily.

First of all, today's debates often confuse limited government with small government. These are two different premises given that limited government was sought after by the framers of the constitution while the latter was never mentioned.

Small government could not have been mentioned because the framers knew that they could not envision the size of the country nor the complexities that would arise in the future. Just consider the geographic dimensions of the new nation and the agrarian economy when it was formed. As the country grew, the legally mandated demands of the federal government (e.g., defense, tariffs) had to grow. Similarly, as the complexities of trade evolved as the economy moved from agrarian to industrial, (then eventually into the information and service age), so did the need for a bigger government.

No one can argue with the need today for a much greater and complex military as compared to 250 years ago. Ergo, where specifically called for in the constitution, the federal government is right to grow.

So while conservative pundits repeat the mantra of a "smaller government" one hopes that what they are really saying is that they want a more "limited" government, or a more efficient government.

But what was meant by the founders as to "limited government"? They simply wanted the government to have limits, constraints if you will, on how it could impinge on the rights of the individual. For after all, the whole idea of this nation is predicated on the consent of the governed.

And unlimited government, or an unrestrained government, was the founders biggest fears because such a government would easily trample and eventually obliterate the rights of the individual – those of whose consent was need, ipso facto then a government that evolved into one that need not have the consent of those governed. Just like the monarchy the founders were fighting to get away from, like the so many other despotic and statist governments that enslave their citizens.

So in today's America, how is it that the government is not as limited as it once was? Or more importantly, how is it that it is nowhere near being the government it was supposed to be? Because after all, the nation was founded primarily on the belief that some rights had to be given up – but not many.

Did the government uncheck its limits by force? Yes, but who elected the people that created the rule by force? Well, we did – but we have known this for quite some time.

The more inescapable reason is that we did it to each other, and that we did it to ourselves.

Just consider the microcosm of the greater nation right here on Marco Island.

Start with the now-exceeding $400 million sewer project. A program that has indebted the island for a long time to come, there is no means to pay for it despite the puerile raise-the-rates one-dimensional musings of the city council, and a massive ordeal that was never put to a vote.

Did anyone fight against it – other than a handful of patriots? No.

Then as the asbestos was flying and the toxic gas plumes were engulfing neighborhoods and poisonous effluent was flowing into the waterways sans the required EPA NPDES permit (a permit to discharge effluent), did anyone fight against these health and environmental abuses – other than a handful of the same patriots? No.

Then as one person financed the recall of the city councilors that gladly and willingly polluted the island, did anyone fight against the special good 'ol boy judge that was called back from retirement and sat on the decision long enough to render the recall worthless – other than a handful of the same patriots? No.

Then as the septic tanks were being crushed – paid for by their very owners of course – did anyone object to the fact that when the government orders the destruction of private property without compensation it violates the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the eminent domain clause) – other than two of the same patriots? No.

So here we go again. Now a lawsuit has been filed against one of those very same patriots for speaking out, for documenting what has happened. If the lawsuit is successful it will do nothing more than to carve away a right to expose government actions and thereby taking away yet another restraint as a government of limits.

These are the means, the ways, by the "consented to be governed" have willingly and knowingly given up their rights. It wasn't through an Obama-styled socialist takeover of some particular aspect of the economy, or through draconian and arguably illegal overreach by the EPA to control the very air we breathe (except the toxic plumes we all breathed on Marco Island – that was OK because God-forbid they embarrassed the complicit Florida Department of Environmental Protection), or by the 30,000 plus pages of the tax code, or by the myriad other restraints imposed on us.

The majority, as they complain that government has become too big – they mean it has become too limitless – readily give away their rights thereby fueling the engulfing flames of a government that has been allowed to lose its limits.

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