The other day I saw the following quote on a bumper sticker:
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”
–Gerald R. Ford
It got me thinking about the relationship between power and freedom, and how that relationship applies not only to governments but also to businesses, authority figures, laws, programming languages, and even games. Continue reading
This essay is a follow-up to a previous piece I wrote on the topic of Objectivism.
The role of government should be as small as possible–otherwise the friction of the necessary bureaucracy would just be a waste. But how small is that? Some hold that the only true function of government is to protect its citizens from the use of force through the military and the police; hard-line Objectivists sometimes advocate for the complete or near-complete elimination of government except for these duties. Yet I think this attitude is too narrow: military and police are one necessary function of government, certainly, but might there be others? To understand what government’s role should be, we must first understand why large-scale organizations and bureaucracies, including governments, exist at all.
What are you most likely to hear from a citizen’s mouth when their country does something unspeakable? What is an American most likely to say when other countries hold Americans accountable for actions of war; torture; colonialism; corruption; and secret, nationwide, warrantless spying on their own citizens? “I am not my government. As an American citizen, my government may do bad things, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I don’t endorse their actions.”
What would Thomas Jefferson do if he heard an American citizen speak these words? What would John Adams or Alexander Hamilton say? How would any of our founders respond? They would declare the American experiment an abject failure.
To say “I am not my government” is a rejection of the fundamental premise of a constitutional republic. To say “I am not my government” is to refute the ideal that we are a government BY the people, FOR the people. To say “I am not my government” is an admission of defeat; a tacit surrender of idealism to the harsh “practicalities” of a nation ruled not by people, but by money.
Money is not evil. But money, in itself, has no value. True value–as in values–comes from ideas, not printed slips of paper, and it is this value that was meant to be the real currency of exchange of our nation–it’s why the sharing of those ideas was considered important enough to be protected in the very first amendment to our Constitution. Ideas, true values, come from individuals, not from corporations. To surrender your stake in your government as an individual is to surrender a government of value, and replace it with one of fraud.
An America whose citizens must say “I am not my government” has failed its citizens. An American who says “I am not my government” has failed their government. A nation of people who admit “they are not their government” needs a new government.
Let’s start over. The founders of our nation could never have foreseen the scale of globalization nor the pace of technological change that are the cornerstones of our generation. Thomas Jefferson believed the Constitution should be rewritten, from scratch, for every generation. Our government has been run on more or less the same document for over two hundred years, and its age is beginning to show. We need a new one.
We need a revolution.