In light of protests sparked by incidents of police brutality, a friend recently bemoaned the state of our nation. He pointed to citizens coming to grips with the realization that institutions we have traditionally placed our trust have been revealed be to untrustworthy. He seemed genuinely surprised. That, in turn, became the source of my surprise.
We have allowed our government to grow far too large and unwieldy. With a large host of laws, rules, and regulations, we have many opportunities to break the law, in various degrees of severity. Broken or disobeyed laws become crimes, and when these crimes are witnessed, it follows that there will be many opportunities to be detained by the police, and for things to go wrong.
In some cases, injustice may go unpunished because we have given too much immunity to individuals acting in the name of an omnipresent state. In other instances, we force those accused by the state to bargain for their liberty, denying many of them a fair day in court.
Worsening the situation, too many people live in the shadows and ditches of life because of the numerous barriers to entrepreneurship, trades, and even property ownership.
In just three months, Americans have witnessed fearmongering over a pandemic-driven economic turmoil, and now, many cities have been ravaged by rioting and looting. For all who will see it, the Great Leftist Lie—the Democrats’s Dilemma—has been exposed.
Outwardly Hating The State While Plotting For More Power
Leftists have spent decades demanding we place unconditional trust in big and growing government for our safety and well-being, suggesting we give government institutions control over our lives from cradle to grave. Each new expansion of the state creates the need for more zealous enforcement of laws at the hands of an ever-expanding legion of government officers and agents.
Yet these same leftist Democrats demand we join them in deriding the very intrusive government institutions they helped to grow. After mocking our fears of losing our liberty to the government leviathan, they now expect us to accept responsibility for their massive government institutions running afoul of the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness endowed to each American. As citizens struggle under the weight of government, we are told the solution is to make the government even greater.
We should not be surprised when government agents are oppressive. It is a problem as old the history of government itself.
When the ancient Israelites sought to exchange liberty for the shackles of worldly government, God told them what would happen. As recorded in 1 Samuel 8, God warned Israel of the “ways of the king who shall reign over them.” They were not pleasant.
God wanted His people to govern themselves under His laws; in their sin, they wanted a big government to replace Him as king, “to go out and fight their battles.”
Never in history has there been an example of “small government” tyrant. Dictatorships throughout time have always been built on expanding government under the guise of protecting the citizenry from some terrible foe—whether sincere or invented. Tyrants use the bureaucratic machinery to brutalize people deemed unclean, unworthy, or unnecessary. In the aftermath, those who still dare question the power of the state are oppressed as well.
Creating Chaos To Expand Big Government
The 21st century has provided a gruesome spectacle of leftists using the shortcomings of government as an excuse to grow government further. We are not witnessing race riots. We are witnessing leftist agitators exploit incidents of racism to sow chaos in an effort to unravel our republic.
The irrationality of the political position of the leftists should be obvious. How can those who complain about government abuse recommend an even more expansive and oppressive government?
Sadly, the left’s agitation works because so many on the right default to being reactionaries. On too many occasions, many on the right side with oppressive institutions simply because they are attacked by the left. Instead, we should resist the urge to defend any bloated institutions of government—no matter the attacker’s affiliation.
Those on the right should also be slow to side with the leftists just because we partially agree with some of their current criticisms. Joining the current radical leftist mob will only aid the agitators seeking to sacrifice individual liberty on the altar of the collective state.
It is a failure of epic proportions for those on the right to defend the indefensible actions of government actors. It’s even worse to endorse further government growth as a solution to the excesses of government policies. We who claim to be skeptics of government power—precisely because it is prone to overreach and abuse—should not become reflexive proponents of those institutions in the face of the left’s latest power-play.
Remembering Our Roots of Self-Governance
The modern left both exaggerates the problems they rally behind and recommends dangerous non-solutions that will only serve to worsen things in the long run.
While many of today’s protestors may indeed seek to “defund the police,” their leftist organizers seek to centralize and grow power for themselves. The more power is given to the government and its agents, the more often those least able to defend themselves will be abused.
Instead, we must be true to the principles of liberty and self-governance.
Our faith and trust must not be in government institutions or its functionaries. A self-governing people should eye with heavy suspicion every agent and officer of government. And, when government expands beyond its natural bounds, we must remember that none among us can be trusted to wield so much power over anyone else.
The British statesman and Christian philosopher John Dalberg-Acton understood the grave danger posed by the corrupting nature of power: “The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.”
Living a generation earlier, America’s John Adams wrote, “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”
Government is not the solution to the challenges at hand. Indeed, it is the chief enabler to many of our troubles—in some cases, it is the very source of the problems we face.
If we are to live peacefully with each other, if we are to stamp out the injustices of racism and envy, if we are to rein in abusive actions by government officials, we must begin by reclaiming our sense of self-governance.
The solutions to our most vexing problems come not from relying on government, but in putting our faith in God and His guidance.
We must stop outsourcing our responsibilities to the leviathan of the state. Instead, the way forward requires that we take personal responsibility for our own safety and welfare, including that of our neighbors.