Bill Murchison

"Trust us" is the mantra of Big Government.

Trust us, why? Because -- the words hardly need speaking these days -- "We know what you need; we know what you want; we know how to deliver. You don't need to know our names, our faces. All you need to know is that we care."

Big Government cares so deeply that it wishes to protect Americans from exhortations by suspicious groups made of suspicious people who are critical of our national direction. Maybe such groups will earn tax-exempt status, and maybe -- heh-heh -- they won't.

You never know how an IRS investigation will turn out: one more reason for wrath and alarm at the news that everyone's favorite federal agency has been scrutinizing groups faulting Big Government and its tendencies toward regulation and excessive spending. This suspect category includes one group whose apparently subversive aim is to "make America a better place to live."

A "better place"? Wait. Doesn't the federal government have some ideas of its own as to the ways and means of making America better? Can Washington, D. C. let just any old band of middle class malcontents receive tax exemption for chiming in with possibly contrasting notions?

The tempest over IRS' policy of singling out tea party groups and the like for special scrutiny has political implications. How could Republicans and conservatives be expected not to clobber the Obama administration for inspiring, supposedly, a campaign to mute or silence critics?

The whole episode opens up, nevertheless, the question of how much power a free country can ever accord government without ceasing at some point to be free in any meaningful sense. In other words, this whole thing is bigger than a single president or government agency, no matter how powerful.

On especially solemn occasions when government has overstepped in particular degree the limitations that ought to bind government, I abuse my tedious habit of quoting Lord Acton, the Victorian historian who wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." No eight words sum up better the perils attendant on surrender of rights and functions to government honchos and holy men.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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