Robert Knight

The U.S. military employs 1.5 million, plus an army of contractors. Congress, with 535 senators and members, makes do with about 30,000 employees. The U.S. Supreme Court, which actually runs the entire country, manages with only around 500 employees.

According to one analysis, the federal government effectively employs about 15 million people, including contractors. Some federal employees work on things that benefit us all, such as securing the safety of our food, water, drugs and airplane landings, and serving veterans. Some work to secure the border. Some work entirely in the realm of income transfer, issuing checks and payments from taxpayers to other Americans and an unknown number of illegal aliens.

As with kudzu, this all appears to be getting out of hand. CNS News reports that 101 million Americans – nearly a third of the populace – now receive some form of federal food aid. This exceeds the total number of full-time, private sector employees.

The Department of Agriculture has 105,000 employees, about a third of whom work for the Forest Service. The department oversees just over a million farmers, plus the food stamps now collected by nearly 50 million people. That’s a lot of oversight.

Many federal employees churn out reports, needed and otherwise. Despite the digital revolution, these eat up enough trees to make an Amazon forest logger green with envy. While perusing page 43,205 of the Federal Register for July 19, I came across a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to solicit suggestions on how to implement the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act. Well, okay. Cut back government! Glad to be of help.

Some federal employees, as we have learned recently, accumulate data about our phone calls, e-mails, Facebook postings,Tweets, bank accounts and credit cards – trillions of bytes of information. They want to know everything – in order to protect us.

To administer the Affordable Care Act’s new taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is adding at least 16,000 more employees. Somebody has to wade through the thousands of pages of regulations to figure out how to stick it to us – for our own good.

C.S. Lewis, who had a jaundiced view of “progress,” warned in The Screwtape Letters that the people to be feared most are those who expand authority under benevolent auspices.

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint,” Lewis wrote.

“It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

“Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state ….”

America is not a police state – yet. And government is necessary because, as James Madison observed, men are not angels. Without government, life would be nasty, brutish and short.

But right now, the federal government, with Democrats pouring Miracle Gro on its kudzu-like growth, has far too many people watching over us for our own good.

We’re finding out the hard way where the road goes that’s paved with good intentions.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.