Writing on the proposed United States Constitution in 1787 Benjamin Franklin said:
…I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years and can only end in despotism as other forms have done before it, when the people have become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.
The Consitutution Franklin and Co. passed has certainly been a blessing to many in the course of its administration over the last two-and-a-half centuries. But the slow push up the long hill of government entitlements, government regulations, and government overreach leaves us at this point beginning the steep, downward plunge toward the despotism Franklin warned would occur if and when we the people became so corrupt that we were unfit for a more benign accord.
Democratic and Republican forms of government ultimately reflect the values and views of the electorate. If you see a despotic government in such a political landscape, you are forced to assume such is the desire of the majority of voters, at least. The place to look to redevelop freedom when such a coercive form of government is in place is not to the government itself, but to the people who elect that government. Freedom from government overreach is brought about by freedom-loving people. A coercive, over-legislating, over-controlling government is only found desirable by those who wish for such heavy handed control and whatever scraps they believe they enjoy due to its largesse. Consider the well intentioned but ultimately corrupting influence of a government headed toward despotism:
- a welfare system that leaves generation after generation dependent on senators and congressmen as their pseudo patrons, a dysfunctional relationship in which legislators and otherwise capable welfare recipients trade votes and welfare checks (a transaction that looks uncomfortably like the world’s oldest profession, each side taking their respective turn). (1)
- government requirements on business and employers which further government social policy at the expense of businesses and their customers, driving up the cost of living and driving down the numbers of the employed, a net drag on all production, and freedom.
- Government debt— this item alone steals taxes and productivity of this and untold future generations, the ever increasing debt requiring ever increasing government intrusion and capture of wealth.
We live in a time when the government grows larger and more grotesque in its black-hole, swallowing all-in-its path addiction. (2) The greater the need for government coercion and control, the more complete we may assume the populace to be without personal virtue.
[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. (. . .) Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ~ John Adams
I fear the population of this country has been to the government water cooler and drunk the kool-aid dispensed there; we have wrapped ourselves in the cords of government control, believing the pervasive constraints are a loving embrace when in fact they are restraining, weighted forces, drowning us as we fall headlong into the waters of Orwellian oversight.
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies. ~John Adams
Want to avoid despotic governance? Practice personal virtue— pay your bills, stay married, raise your own children, pray, love your neighbor, and love your God. And vote for and support those who do the same.
(1) I’m not opposed to a social “welfare net,” but the welfare state of the last fifty years has brought about incalculable harm to those it ostensibly seeks to aid, as any review of statistics of out-of-wedlock births, household income, literacy rates and crime rates relative to poverty, pre and post Great Society spending, shows. The welfare state was meant from it’s inception to buy power and votes and it has been highly successful in doing so, corrupting both government and the voting public. For a biblical view of welfare and work, and what has been the historic norm, read 1 Timothy 5 and 2nd Thessalonians 3.
(2) Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience would be a good read at this time for any freedom loving people. There’s no need to agree with all of Thoreau’s philosophy to see the sober wisdom of much that he has to say regarding thoughtful interaction with those in authority.