The Rise of Government and the Destruction of Liberty

by Jul 13, 2016

If you ask people today if they value freedom they will invariably tell you that they do. Regrettably, based upon their preferred government policy proposals, that assertion cannot be true. I am often surprised at how little people think about the nature of government and the problems that have arisen in society as its power and scope of operation have increased so dramatically over the course of the past hundred years or so. Today our government does so much more than it ever should do. Yet, there seems to be a common belief that it is the duty of our government to educate people, provide them with the health care they need, and even house and feed them. Can the government actually be the provider of the people?

President Grover Cleveland was once asked why he continually vetoed the progressive legislation of his era. Bill after bill that came before his desk promised to provide something for the American public from the government’s treasury. When asked why he vetoed them, Cleveland asked his own question, “If the government is to provide for the people, who is to provide for the government?” President Cleveland understood a fundamental truth of life that has been lost on the American public. In short, government does not produce anything. Government cannot provide anything for anyone that it does not first take from someone else. Our government is a dependent entity. It cannot exist apart from the tax revenues it takes in. Thus, it is foolish to believe that government programs can provide for our economic sustenance. After all, is it possible for the government to take money and property away from the people who produced it, then spend and distribute it in various ways along political lines, and have economic prosperity as a result? In truth most of what flows into Washington stays there and is siphoned off by bureaucracy. The rest is distributed as political favors to a select few at the expense of the many.

What then is the purpose of government? I suppose the Apostle Paul captured its purpose best when he wrote that the God given aim of government is to punish wrongdoers. We live in a fallen world. As individuals we are simply not the people that we ought to be. We all have desires. Some are good and some are bad. Also, we all desire to achieve our ends with as little effort as possible. Therefore, there is the temptation to avoid work altogether and simply take what we want from others by force or fraud. As some people drift further and further into immoral behavior they are more and more willing to use force and violence against others to achieve their own ends. The result of such action produces chaos and discord in society. Put simply, such behavior disturbs the peace. Therefore, governments are established in order to secure the peace so that those wishing to live peaceably with their neighbors may do so. That is, governments are established to use force for the purpose of legitimate self-defense.

Herein lies a problem. What if those wishing to use violence against others to gain their own advantage are able to seize the reins of government and direct its power to promoting their selfish ends? Instead of pursuing its true purpose in society, the government may actually be used as an instrument of destruction. Specifically, such immoral people may well be inspired to use governmental means to destroy the freedom and liberty of their neighbors, to steal the fruits of their labor, and to create chaos in society for their own momentary pleasures. To test whether or not this is taking place in a nation is a simple task. Simply ask yourself whether or not the use of government force being applied would be justified if taken by an individual? If the answer is no, you can rest assured that the action is an illegitimate and immoral act for government as well.

Today Washington D. C. has been inundated by an immoral ruling class that extracts large amounts of tax revenue from the populace and uses the proceeds for their favored ends. They make themselves wealthy even as they extend hardship and insecurity. Fear is their basic motivator for continued success in their endeavors as they proclaim that all that is needed to provide security for the populace are just a few more rules and regulations and an increase in taxes on others to secure the so-called “common good.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul Cleveland

Boundary Stone was started by Dr. Paul Cleveland. Working as a professor for over 35 years has allowed him to study and think deeply about issues of political economy. He has discovered ways to communicate these sometimes illusive concepts to today's students, often through story telling, which makes understanding these principles more accessible to all of us.


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