Can Government be Limited?
Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?
By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—-Original Message—–From: John
Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 11:04 AM
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Subject: Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?
To continue our dialogs, please watch… 28 minutes. This was made in 2009.
Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?
Okay, I’m ready for the onslaught of email.
Is Government Evil? Can Government be Limited?
By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Summary: Tom Woods and Doug Casey give a very convincing presentation that illustrates the abusive, expanding, invasive, and self-serving nature of government. In effect they declare government to be an inherently evil institution – one which should not be utilized by humanity. They believe that government by its very nature cannot be limited. They support their thesis by numerous examples of abuse, mediocrity, and mindless execution of law. In general, their concerns about government are valid and in the vein of those voiced by the Anti-Federalists over 200 years ago.
But, their presentation did not include any defense of the useful and proper execution of government. A list of abuses is not a proof that government is inherently abusive. If even one example of righteous government can be imagined, then “Limited Government” is not an oxymoron. The real questions are, “Does government provide any advantage above the organizations that free men naturally form to execute a needed function?” And, “Is it necessary or wise to use the institution of government, given that it uses force to ensure compliance with a list of desirable laws?”
It is my thesis that there are absolute laws that correspond to the ways of optimizing the human experience. The majority of violations of absolute law are not imminently fatal to the Republic. Rather, the sequence of violation, feedback, and change is the necessary process of the individual and group life that produces change and growth. Forceful imposition of an excellent moral standard on every human by the State is not necessary to attain a quality life experience for the citizens of the Republic. Parents and community are adequate teachers to inculcate a moral base in the populace. Public education should reflect the values of the parents, not the social engineering agenda of the State.
We all learn and grow from the process of making mistakes, confession, and repentance to become mature as souls. The journey to moral maturity is part of the trial and experience complex that gives substance to the purpose of life. The character developed by the soul in life is the reward we receive and the treasure we lay up in heaven for eternity. Life is a struggle with determining, obeying, and reaping the rewards and consequences of the unseen Laws of God.
Some laws are so important, toxic, and/or delayed in producing feedback, that if broken, a State which allows its citizens to experiment with their violation would risk its own survival. Enforcement of the spiritual laws that have deadly societal consequence should be codified and enforced by government at its highest level. With this foundation in place, all other human commerce is then free to safely organize in a manner seen best by the compromise reached between those who benefit and suffer. It should be the prerogative of each level of government in its choice of law and its enforcement. A wise government will realize the hazards of excessive regulation.
Limiting government to enforce compliance with only the most extreme violations of the laws of survival is the irreducible scope of Limited Government. And, it is the responsibility of good men to divine the extreme limits of moral hazard rightly, properly codify them, and enforce them appropriately. Wise men at the helm of society must resist the temptation to prevent the few laws that are necessary from becoming the seed that spreads to regulate all human endeavor.
A central issue that clearly justifies regulation to protect and maintain the survival of the State necessarily has a penumbra of situations that directly relate to it. The Libertarian fears that allowing government to exist at any layer will justify an ever-expanding creep on the size and scope of government. This concern is realistic, as evidenced by how the Legislature, Courts, Bureaucracy and Executives which have used the Commerce Clause of Article III of the Constitution as justification to regulate nearly every aspect of human life. Other examples of this creep include governmental mandates that regulate the flush volume of toilets and the type of light bulbs that may be used and manufactured.
Limited government will endure only while wise and righteous men consciously and rightly chose to limit government’s scope. The society where limited government endures must have the moral structure in place that nurtures the next generation in wisdom and serves as the reservoir of wise men who can recognize and pass the torch of governmental restraint. The institution of Godly education must be embedded within society to warn, inform, and enroll the generations. Our society has lost the charge of limited government and emasculated Godly wisdom from its curricula.
Libertarianism is a political arm of a Godless religion which includes a wide spectrum of philosophies including that of Frederick Nietzsche, Humanism, and Existentialism. The concept of an absolute evil that validates the need for even the most minimal government is anathema to the central tenets of this religion complex.
The typical Conservative rebels against the expansion of government. The battle cry of the fledgling Tea Party should be a rollback of governmental function to enforcing only those few principles that threaten the very life of the nation. Defense of borders, international relations, patents, and a few other
Government should leave the war on drugs to parents and communities, who should educate and train their children in the ways of Godliness and self-discipline.
Commentary on “Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?”
In the video interview, both Tom Woods and Doug Casey were eloquent and did an excellent job in giving numerous examples of the abuses of government. They described the temptations that seduce men into creating a large government and the decay of society resulting from big government. They illustrated well and justified the fears of the Anti-Federalists.
Woods recalled how he had campaigned, educated, and lobbied for years to defend and implement the concept of Constitutional government. But, he gave up with his hope frustrated that it could solve society’s ills. He left because he felt it was an unreachable ideal. His disillusionment led him to embrace the Libertarian philosophy of anarchy/anarcho-capitalism/no-government. But, his lack of acknowledgment of the fact that limited government can exist in a righteous society where men consciously limit the size and scope of government, gives his position the flavor of religious dogma.
It appears that Woods stands literally for “no government.” In effect, he has argued that government is such a toxic institution that its very functions are inherently invasive, abusive, and immoral, and it should never be used as a human institution.
It is the unjustifiable logic of such an extreme position that I wish to first address. The first principle I use is a belief in there being a place for all human institutions. Such a call for “no government” is akin to the extremes of belief found in religion. We could name this belief system, “No Governmentism” or “The Church of Liberty”. This religion holds that the embodiment of evil is government, and its god/savior figure is “absolute freedom for all people.”
In general, Libertarianism is a Godless philosophy, as its primary tenets of freedom rejects the imposition of any standard on man, other than the standard he imposes upon himself. The Libertarian will not use an institution (government) to condemn and societally censure any evil behavior. Rather, the Libertarian expects that individuals, or self-aggregated groups, judge and execute the desired justice or training on the offender.
Every man has an inherent need to fill a place of emptiness in the soul that only God can fill. But, the rejection of the only spirit that can truly satisfy that hunger results in a search for other substitutes, life passions, or ideals that will bring meaning, order, and happiness into life. Libertarianism is by its very nature a spiritual ideal, and it embraces a panoply of virtues. As a counterfeit religion, it is extremely seductive. Its philosophy mirrors closely the litany of Godly character traits, but it falls short in the final lap. It places human thought, needs, judgment, tastes, hungers, and the outcome of social experiments as the final arbiter of social and personal philosophy. It harkens to the Darwinian belief in natural selection that elevates chance, time, and survivability to the level of God-directed creation.
For the Libertarian, human tastes and desires for good outcomes, are the forces that drive the evolution of society to its apex of excellent manifestation. Government is seen as an artificial force that modifies those natural self-serving efforts, and directs men into behaviors by threat and execution of punishment, and thus men choose maladaptive societal patterns to avoid the force or reap the reward, of government. Libertarians believe that society will eventually organize into the highest and best functioning of all social/economic/political systems if the institution of government were to exit and leave men to follow their self-interests. In the Libertarian utopia, the remnant who opposed good behavior would receive their natural rewards and self-correct upon experiencing the outcome of their error.
The scripture of this religion begins with the creation of a good world where men freely gather from the fruit of the earth. But, men are seduced into slavery by the promises of government delivering the good life. Their paradise turns dark as dependency on government replaces initiative and industry. The productive sector, the source of wealth and utility, is taxed into mediocrity by the force of law.
A renewal comes with the hope of democracy and Godly government, but men are repeatedly seduced back into slavery even when given the keys to prosperity and self-regulated freedom. The stories are told of how men degenerate into slavery after each taste of freedom. Prophets tell of a new age when freedom will reign again, but they are persecuted by ridicule and marginalization. The faithful continue to hope for a new and golden age where freedom abounds. They look forward to the day when the masses of individuals awake and throw off the chains of government.
While liberty is good, the belief in the absolute dissolution of government is a fantasy. The presentation by Woods and Casey would have been more grounded if it softened its absolute categorization of government as abusive, incompetent, and power hungry. Presenting government as absolutely evil leads naturally to the false solution of complete liberty. They paint a black and white world where only the black of government is illustrated. The argument naturally leads to the false solution of complete Liberty. Thus goes the argument for Libertarianism, first describe government as necessarily despotic, and then offer its exact polarity to substitute men’s need for a regulated society.
It is interesting to note that Woods is inconsistent with his position on the complete evil of government. In his opening remarks he states the acceptability of a government limited to defense, police, and justice, but he rejects it as unrealistic. And certainly, in a Godless society, he is probably right. Interestingly, the limits he places on government are the essence of Federalism as envisioned by the Founders.
The problem with manifesting an enduring state of limited government is the moral tone of the people. If the people are unrestrained in their pursuit of ease and riches, they will use the tool of government to be their surrogate thief. And yes, government does inherently possess the powers of parental authority to enforce action. Citizens are the agents that give life to the nation and its institutions. Only a moral people could give a righteous spirit to the institutions of government. The currently popular, and false/ unConstitutional principle of enforced separation of church and state has ensured that both the people and the agents of government are unrestrained by an Absolute and True standard of judgment and action.
The Liberal actively enforces Godless education and forcefully prohibits even the slightest acknowledgment of Him or His Law in public life. The Libertarian is unwitting kin to the Liberal in this regard, refusing to acknowledge in their core principles the existence of an absolute God, and do not consider His standards worthy of imposing. Libertarianism and Godliness are not opposed, but the exclusion of recognition of God’s divine standards of Right from their philosophical center lowers their philosophy to the status of a minor religion, and/or just point on the full political spectrum.
And while Libertarianism is possibly one of the most important pieces of the political spectrum, it falls short of being the highest political theory because of its lack of embrace of, even recognition of, the pinnacle of perfection. And while none of us wish to have perfection imposed upon us at the point of the gun or under threat of fines and imprisonment, the gaping philosophical hole left by the lack of an advocacy for manifesting the standards of the divine in society brings it up short as a viable candidate for being the final answer to man’s search for the perfectly ordered society.
I believe a Constitutional Democracy, with its recognition of God as the giver of rights, combined with Libertarianism, and its advocacy of individual effort, combined with Liberalism, with its concern for the welfare of our fellow man, provides the spectrum of possibility that captures the fullness of our participation as individuals in society.
While Woods and Casey do not state overtly that “Government is Evil”, they build a singular case that government is inherently evil by their numerous examples of governmental abuse. They illustrate this evil with examples of how government attracts people with personality disorders, moral weakness, and deficiency in initiative or industry. To defend against the decay of government into a works project or absolute power center, government must be filled with men of character that police their own ranks and policies for evidence of self-serving action and motive.
Selfish men will be attracted to government jobs and lobby for high pay, low work, mechanical action, and inviolable job security at the expense of those who are forced to support their lifestyle and bureaucratic abuse. Such people could not compete in an open society without rules that give them an unfair advantage. And yes, government is a fertile field for the growth and feeding of the passions internal to all men.
The examples and condemnations of government were well spoken and plausible. But, the question is, “Do these examples prove that government is inherently, always, and irretrievably abusive, corrupt, and ultimately self-serving?” Giving many examples of abusive government does not prove that all expressions of government are evil.
Such a declaration is the equivalent to categorizing anything on earth absolutely good or bad in all situations. There is a place for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes). Every principle, institution, archetype can be expressed in both a good and bad polarity (e.g. making love and rape, artistic nudity and XXX porn, medical marijuana and getting stoned, righteous war and murder, Court of Law and Corrupt Justice, Limited Constitutional Government and Crony Capitalism/Welfare State/5 year Plan/Banana Republic/Monarchy/Socialist State…) There is a place for nudity in love, alcohol in short term relief of the psychic pain, and strong speech in times of extreme frustration. There is a place for all the institutions of life.
Eliminating government as one of the actors in life reduces the polarities, stations, and institutions of life. Doing so reduces one of life’s major institutional possibilities, and thus reduces its complexity and vitality. A richly expressed life must include all the possibilities of institution and polarity. Such is a workable definition of a vital and healthy society.
Solving complex problems by eliminating an entire institution reduces the degrees of freedom and the potential expression of life. And yes, government has the extreme potential for toxic execution, just as do sex, drugs, speech, and violence. The very principles of Libertarianism cry out for an expression of government as one of the choices of life. And of course, if improperly executed it will result in pain.
One of the types of freedoms that life offers is the right to self-regulate the group, by the group. A nod toward this concept is represented by the Tenth Amendment restrictions on the Federal government. It gives the States the responsibility to regulate within the group, and yes this is government, with all the powers and force that government naturally possesses, but it is acknowledging the principle that such power should be self-imposed.
Government can be a vicious beast, but it can be tamed and used for our service. The life with righteous government can be better than the best society without government. Government provides coordination that is possible only with a centralized nervous system. The Libertarian acknowledges the need for such coordination but declares that participation in such top-down authority structures should be voluntary. And, I agree. The mobility offered by a free society, with many expressions of organization, give people the opportunity to choose their place and style of community organization.
In a prior essay, we acknowledge the fact that any form of government will work for a moral people. This implied that the only criteria to use in selecting the optimal workable governmental form was one which 1) minimized bad behavior, 2) incentivized good behavior and productivity, and 3) was self-regulated, in that it naturally regulated human nature by pitting group against group. Every group and individual is thus allowed to prosper according to their work, innovation, and risk. Every form of government has its limits of efficiency, even when the people behave in the manner optimized for that system.
The Libertarian system is essentially an every man for himself system, but inside this law of the jungle system, people organize to meet the needs associated with larger group projects. The Libertarian creates an ad hoc limited government to handle issues such as police, justice, and defense. In the Libertarian market system, the public servants, who necessarily are paid for by the public, albeit competitively, will do their jobs well, or be released in favor of those who can perform as moral, skilled, conscientious, and diligent workers.
The Constitutional Republic (of American heritage type) was meant to function in the same way. In this system, people are free to the extent that they behave morally. If people are self-governed, then government does not need to pass laws to enforce good social behavior. The functions of justice, police, and defense are all handled by agents chosen by the people and should be funded by those who wish to support their services. The income tax, etcetera was not a Constitutional principle, and as such is outside of reach by those who wish to criticize the Founder’s system of limited government.
The only people fit to govern a Constitutional Republic are those with a Right moral compass. In fact, the whole system is dependent upon a generally Righteous populace. In a Constitutional Republic, the individual should be as free to engage in entrepreneurial risk and invention as inside a Libertarian system. The functions of government should be codified as per the will of the people and should be voluntarily funded by those who wish to participate in the cost and its benefits. The States and smaller bodies of government should be as free to be specific or general in their regulations. Mobility and choice of residence and work should allow migration out of regions with unacceptable tax or regulatory burden/benefit ratios. The optimum function of the Republic and State governments will only be realized if the general populace truly lives in the spirit of service.
The Constitutional Republic can be the best governmental system, integrating the initiative of freedom with the efficiency of group tasks performed by a service organization. But, it will only work well, and not degenerate into the hell described by Woods and Casey, if the individuals occupying the governmental posts are moral servants. This is the caveat to government of the people, it requires a huge investment in learning, teaching and training in Right morality. If executed well, no other system will produce with the same efficiency as the Constitutional Republic. If executed poorly, it will be just another disguise for tyranny.
The Iraqi, Afghani, and Russian democracies are examples of how badly a Constitutional democracy can be implemented. The vote can be a tool for tyrannizing the minority, or a sham used to give the appearance of majority rule. The only society fit for ruling itself as a Constitutional democracy is a righteous people. All other peoples will find themselves in various forms of chains. Frank dictatorships and the more subtle tyrannies of corrupt men can disguise themselves as democracies, but their true nature is easily visible under the patina.
Woods objected to government as a general principle because he did not see how limited government could be realistically achieved. And no doubt, such a goal will not be manifested as a stable form of government unless the people are wise and moral. The goal is achievable, but not for an unregenerate people. Woods has taken the easy route of advocating for the simplistic solution of eliminating government, rather than pushing society to improve its character, and thus actually prevailing in the fight against sloth, immorality, incompetence, power creep, and legislated self-advantage….
Libertarianism illustrates, advocates, and holds an important political polarity, just as does Liberalism. Libertarianism illuminates the potential and actual abuses and dangers of government. It thus serves as a warning and a reservoir of ideals about freedom. But, as a full solution to life’s complexities, and optimizing the functioning of humanity, it is not the optimum solution. By eliminating government as one of the tools of human collaboration, it offers too narrow a solution to the problems of optimizing human commerce. The problems of taxation, conscription, and regulation can be solved by moral and fair people. And yes, government will degenerate into one of the many variations of the hell-world slave-master regimes if not tamed by men of right moral vision.
Likewise, Liberalism is a caricature of reality, with its solution of universal compassion for everyone, with its worship of equality as the highest of all virtues. Of course, freedom is good, and so is equality, but when they are imposed upon all of life, then life becomes cartoonish in its simplicity. Uniform solutions applied to all situations produces nonsensical solutions, inappropriate action, and concomitant suffering.
There is a place for government, but it should be kept in its appropriately limited place. The more piercing question, and one with a harder solution would be, “How do we realistically bring government into its Constitutional limits?” It is a hard question, and we are currently not making progress toward reaching that goal.
Wood’s criticism of our current form of government is justified, but the interview discussion lacked balance, preferring a simple condemnation of government to the more difficult analysis of the subtleties and complexities of life. In the end, there is a place for government, but to use it properly will require an extreme amount of moral rectitude. Moral maturity is the problem and the issue that should be addressed.