"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: But already it was impossible to say which was which."
So ended the novel "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, which satirized the Russian Revolution and the country's transition to communism.
In the easy-to-read book, the animals initially overthrow the people running Manor Farm and rename it Animal Farm. They come up with seven commandments to codify their beliefs in equality and expectations for their standard of living:
"Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy."
"Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend."
"No animal shall wear clothes."
"No animal shall sleep in a bed."
"No animal shall drink alcohol."
"No animal shall kill any other animal."
"All animals are equal."
Over time, the pigs become more powerful and begin to sleep in beds, drink alcohol and enforce discipline through punishment by death. Some of the commandments change along the way, as well:
"No animal shall sleep in a bed," becomes, "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets."
"No animal shall drink alcohol," becomes, "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess."
"No animal shall kill any other animal," transitions to, "No animal shall kill another animal without cause."
Eventually the pigs begin to wear clothes and walk on their hind legs, at which point the commandments are taken down and replaced with two maxims:
"Four legs good, two legs better," which replaced, "Four legs good, two legs bad."
The second maxim was, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
At the close of the story, the pigs are indistinguishable from their human neighbors.
"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," noted Lord Acton, a British historian at the turn of the 20th century.
The only way to prevent corruption is to prevent the accumulation of power into the hands of a few people or into a nameless bureaucracy. As power coalesces in government institutions, the focus shifts from forming coalitions and creating opportunity for others, to ensuring that the power stays where it is and grows. This is often facilitated by intimidation, threats and discipline of anyone who might rise up in protest.
Followers, on the other hand, are groomed to take at face value whatever the leaders say to be true.
So, while all animals are equal, the animals began to believe the mantra that some of them are more equal than others.
Thomas Sowell was right this past week when he wrote in the column "The Bullying Pulpit" that, "…the real danger to us all is when government not only exercises the powers that we have voted to give it, but exercises additional powers that we have never voted to give it. That is when 'public servants' become public masters. That is when government itself has stepped over the line."
"Government's power to bully people who have broken no law is dangerous to all of us," Sowell wrote, citing the IRS focus on conservative groups.
Imagine what would have happened if, under a Republican administration, the IRS had placed the same focus on other types of organization with certain attributes. For arguments sake, imagine targeting African American organizations, Hispanic organizations or gay and lesbian organizations. There would have been cries of discrimination from dozens of groups and individuals.
We need to keep in mind that, whichever party is in charge, if its representatives believe that they are smarter than the general populace; if they believe that it's not enough to follow the law, but more is required, then something is amiss. (The motto, "I must work harder," from "Animal Farm" comes to mind.) For example, it's not enough for Apple to follow the letter of the law -- it must do more or get bullied about by lawmakers.
While the motivation of liberals in setting up large government programs may be to help people, the reality is that those very programs can wind up perverting such good intentions.
The IRS is a case in point, as is the Justice Department's wide-ranging subpoena for reporters' email and phone records. It seems these days that, peering into the administration and its bureaucracies, the view is just as confusing as the final scene in "Animal Farm."
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