One of the most brilliant and famous allegories in the history of Western literature is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Whole books have been written on its multiple layers of allegorical subtext. One of my favorites is the ring of power itself.
Symbolic of fallen human nature, the ring of power corrupts everything it touches. The evil Sauron, inspired by Lucifer, seeks to possess the ring so that he can subdue all of Middle Earth with it. Mankind seeks the ring believing that if “good people” possess it they will use its power for good, but alas these “good people” are unable on their own to rise above their base fallen nature, and thus the ring of power corrupts them as well. “Good people” end up becoming monsters. Only by casting the ring of power into the fire, which is a Biblical metaphor for purifying/refining, can Middle Earth be saved.
Such is also the case with government.
During the George W. Bush years, Republicans gained total control of the federal government for the first time in half a century. While this was obviously better than the alternative, it was still fraught with peril because the temptation was to believe that “big government” becomes “compassionate conservativism” and thus becomes our friend when “our guys” are in control of it. Instead of dismantling the statist monstrosity threatening liberty, we just tried to manage it better.
In other words, we put the corrupt ring of power on our finger believing we’d do good with it, rather than casting it into the fire for the sake of real freedom.
And now as we see what truly committed statists are capable of with a government this big – whether it’s the IRS scandal, NDAA, American citizens placed on a drone “kill list” without due process of law, or the now emerging NSA surveillance story – our partisan naiveté about the nature of big government is coming home to roost.
We conservatives would’ve been wise to listen to our libertarian friends about the potential danger of setting a precedent that government can become the good guy provided the good guys are running the joint. We forgot that government is neither good nor bad, but what George Washington once famously compared to a dangerous tool like fire. Both government and fire are necessary to a point of limitation, but left on their own they can quickly rage to the point of diminishing returns.
We didn’t dismantle the IRS when we had the chance, but instead let the “good guys” use it to pick winners and losers. We didn’t dismantle the surveillance state, but instead introduced it ourselves as a response to a post-9/11 world. We just trusted that we weren’t going to exchange freedom for security because the “good guys” were in charge. And I admit I fell for it hook, line, and sinker myself.
But one time shame on you, two times shame on me. I’m not falling for the banana in the tailpipe again.
Whenever Republicans don’t dismantle statism, but instead try to manage it or even grow it themselves (i.e. No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Medicare Part D, etc.) we simply set a precedent for the Democrats to extend further once they reclaim the throne. As recent headlines have proven, we’re not defending freedom and liberty by managing statism, but instead setting the baseline for government’s future intrusiveness into our lives moving forward.
We must remember why our Founding Fathers created the most radical concept of human freedom since the New Testament itself—they didn’t trust human nature.
Thus they created a system loaded with checks and balances that would make it difficult for one group to achieve power and quickly alter the trajectory of the country. They created layers of interpositional power at the federal, state, and local level to avoid authoritarianism becoming centralized. Instead of citizens being subjects of the government, they created a “government by the consent of the governed.” Instead of government arbitrarily granting rights and being able to arbitrarily take them away, they wrote a Constitution that limited the jurisdiction of government so a free people were free to enjoy their God-given rights.
This Judeo-Christian distrust of human nature even resulted in the presumption of innocence for the individual being introduced into our very rule of law from the outset, but we are currently abandoning that presumption. When confronted by the IRS the burden of proof is on the defendant not the prosecution. Mass surveillance of the American people places a presumption of guilt upon the governed, and a presumption of innocence upon a government as if it is somehow incapable of the very injustices it claims to be fighting against. Government – not the Creator – is now the ultimate barometer of truth and justice.
That faulty assumption is always the premise that lies at the heart of every tyranny ever known to human history.
Soon it will be 12 years since the September 11th attacks that ushered in a world where television shows like Person of Interest are no longer fiction but ripped from the headlines. In the 12 years since we have accumulated more debt and more government than we’ve ever had, with less freedom and less prosperity to boot. Sadly, it appears we have a done a better job attacking our own liberty than the Jihadists have.
We’ve wasted way too much financial and human capital on failed nation building in Islamic lands, lied about dead Americans in Benghazi, aided and abetted the rise of Islamic radicalism in places like Egypt and now Syria, marginalized the worldview that gave birth to Western Civilization while giving the worldview that gave birth to 9/11 cherished victim status, groped our citizens at airports as if every American is a potential terrorist, and allowed government to threaten many of the freedoms the Jihadists hate us for the most.
At this point it’s rather foolish for the Jihadists to continue to blow themselves up for Allah. At the rate we’re going we’ll blow ourselves up without their help just fine.
I am staunchly pro-life. I am staunchly pro-marriage. I am staunchly pro-Second Amendment. I am staunchly pro-economic growth. Maybe you’re all those things as well, or just some of them. Regardless, if we’ve learned one lesson from the George W. Bush/Barack Obama years it’s that we will not win any of those battles as long as this statist monstrosity remains in place.
If we don’t come to that realization soon we may live to see the day our own government becomes the biggest threat to freedom and liberty we face. Just eight months after Obama’s re-election the American people may finally be ready to have a long-overdue adult conversation about the size and scope of government.