Jon Sanders

Recent history has known such leaders. As Robespierre, the guillotine-bloodied butcher behind the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France, famously stated, "One can’t expect to make an omelet without breaking eggs." The idea entranced an even bloodier tyrant, Lenin, who echoed him: "If you want to make an omelet, you must be willing to break a few eggs." (Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky said he had seen many broken eggs but never tasted the omelet.)

As with Mother Goose and her king, Papa Lenin and his like-minded tyrant-chefs never questioned whether it was any of the state's damned business to make omelets. Concerning the eggs, all the king's horses and king's men are able to do is destroy them.

Rare is the Canutian leader like Ronald Reagan, who came to power during one of those great falls but held the king's horses and men at abeyance. The situation Reagan inherited in 1981 was worse than what Barack Obama faced in 2009. Nevertheless, he stated in his first inaugural address, "The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom."

In other words, stand back and watch; Humpty will pick himself up.

Reagan continued: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

We'll never know how Humpty would have fared without the king's stampede. But God help us when government thinks its job is to make breakfast.

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.