The Government We Deserve

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey has found that just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed. 75% of voters are angry at the policies of the federal government.

Some advocates of limited government may see this as good news. They may believe that voter anger will translate into support for principled advocates of limited government. Indeed, interest in limited government may increase. Unfortunately, most of the anger will translate into support for unprincipled populists. The result is likely to be a further expansion of government fueled by populist fervor; our nation will be thrown further out of alignment with the timeless principles that promote economic prosperity and liberty.

In any case, the voters who were surveyed are wrong. Congress and the President reflect pretty closely the collective will of the governed. The political world they see reflects our collective inward condition as a nation. When I write “they”—I refer to all of us when our thinking is dominated by our ego. Let us review the ways that Congress, the president, and the American public (collectively) are in alignment.

They are ignorant about the principles that generate economic prosperity and freedom. Importantly, they are content to be ignorant. Consider this question asked on the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Civic Literacy Quiz:

Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because:

A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends

B. markets rely upon coercion, whereas government relies upon voluntary compliance with the law

C. more tax revenue can be generated from free enterprise

D. property rights and contracts are best enforced by the market system

E. government planners are too cautious in spending taxpayers’ money

The correct answer is A, but only 16.25% of the public answered correctly. Not surprisingly, only 10.71% of elected officials choose the correct answer.  The complete quiz can be found here.

They are arrogant. They believe in the powers of their own mind to understand and then to control the world. Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called them naïve when he wrote: “To the naïve mind that conceives of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions, order and adaptation to the unknown can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions.” Hayek was a gentleman. They are more than naïve; it is a blind arrogance that fails to recognize that each individual is part of a complex web of uncontrollable relationships with other human beings, the market-economy, and the natural world.

They are frightened. How could one not be frightened if you see yourself as separate from the web of life? How can one not be frightened if you expend your energy to try to control this web of life rather than to live in alignment with it?

They are selfish. Full of their own self-importance and frightened, they believe that everybody and everything is there to serve their needs. When they give, it is only to get; and they expect to get much more than they ever gave. The world is seen as win-lose and static; and given that view, they can’t help but struggle over every proverbial bone they see. Some may have polite veneers, but beneath that politeness there is a viciousness—a viciousness spawned from the belief that they are deserving of every last penny they can coerce away from somebody else. They would rather bankrupt the nation than surrender anything that they have already gained by coercion.

Am I being harsh? If you live in a municipality or state with public employee unions, you know I am not being harsh. Unions have extracted salaries and pension plans that are not sustainable. Yet, they will not surrender or compromise on any aspect of their outrageous contracts.

They are mindless. An individual who is mindful recognizes the power of his or her mind to make another choice. Mindless individuals pretend to be victims of circumstances. They strive to convince themselves and others that their own choices are irrelevant.  Endless propaganda comes out of their mouths for their non-solutions to non-problems.

They are expedient. Ignorance, arrogance, fear, and selfishness are a combustible combination. When we allow our minds to turn to these destructive attributes, we bury higher values and principles under deep layers of rationalization.

The rising anger in the American public has barely begun. Much economic hardship is ahead, voters will grow more angry, and populists will exploit that hardship and anger. Thinking that we will solve our problems merely by changing politicians is like trying to sooth a cut on your face by bandaging the reflection you see in the mirror. The problem is our collective choice to be arrogant, ignorant, and mindless; the solution is to realize that we made a faulty choice. With that realization, we can choose to educate ourselves on what promotes liberty and prosperity. As we choose higher values and principles, principled politicians will arise to take the place of the arrogant and unprincipled gang that only seems to be outside of us and different from us. As within, so without.


16 Responses to The Government We Deserve

  1. I agree, somewhat.
    What do you think of this though?

  2. Emerald,

    The video is not my cup-of-tea. I didn’t appreciate the swearing and I didn’t appreciate the bear dramatics. Don’t know where the video was shot but there is no need to threaten black bears. They will not attack a human.


    Thanks for the link to the thoughtful essay.

  3. Chris C. says:

    The vast majority of people do not want to spend the time necessary to become well-informed enough to participate in selecting responsible office-holders and then monitoring them. (Or, maybe not that large a proportion; could be they are only half-vast.)

    Without large-scale, informed, honest (not rent-seeking) political engagement, we will continue to get screwed by the con-men/women who are elected to positions of power over our lives and our wealth.

    Good luck with that.

  4. E.L. Beck says:

    I agree that civic engagement may seem too idealistic, but our social contract has been severely damaged and if we don’t start engaging, things are going to get a heckuva lot worse.

    Perhaps we’ll have to suffer a second downturn and more people fall off the unemployment rolls before the severity of the situation starts to take hold, but herding mob psychology towards a greater good is like herding cats. That’s why the gospel of civic engagement needs to be preached. Granted, the ideal would have been to see our civics courses in high school taught at a much more meaningful level, but if we have to educate citizens on the fly, so be it. But I will never, ever, capitulate to the idea of determinism. We’re human. We choose.

    We don’t have much of a choice unless we are satisfied with the idea of the federal government finding an excuse to take even more control of our daily lives.

  5. K. T. McNally says:

    You comment about public employee unions is incorrect. Where is the research to back it up? It seems to be based more on personal prejudice than fact.

    Fact: I am a public employee and belong to a union. My union, both in the current downturn and in past budget crises, HAS agreed to negotiated concessions in wages and benefits, including wage freezes, deferral of scheduled wage increases, furloughs, cost shared for health insurance, and changes in the pension system.

  6. m says:

    about healthcare. as long as there are lawyers and government issued guidelines for everything, there is no option for most doctors except to toe the line. you talked about cholesterol lowering drugs, well, the latest guidelines recommend these drugs for even lower cholesterol levels. any doctor that doesn’t follow these guidelines is leaving himself open to litigation.

  7. Mike L. says:

    This might fall under arrogance but I think many of these politicians feel that they need to make decisions for us ‘unwashed masses’ because we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. Take the mandated insurance requirement in the new healthcare legislation. How will this promote good decision making among the populace such as diet, exercise or purchasing an insurance policy rather than the newest iPhone? How will the upcoming financial regulation stop a person from racking up tens of thousands of credit card debt? Once politicians realize that it’s harder for their constituents purchase homes, will they pressure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lower their loan threshold (again)?
    Confucius said “May you live in interesting times.” I’m glad we have this guardian class of politicians to inform us we are living in interesting times.

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