Shrinking the federal government will create more freedom
It has become a recurring theme in Obama’s ongoing re-election campaign that if, heaven forbid, the federal government were to shrink over the next decade, you and I would suddenly find ourselves completely on our own. He used this rhetorical device yet again in his recent speech from Osawatomie, Kansas, making reference to “on-your-own economics” and claiming that his opponents wanted to leave others to suffer without help from the national government.
To begin with, the idea that the reduction in the size and scope of the federal government would yield an era of dog-eat-dog economic and social anarchy is a grossly false caricature even for progressives, if only because state and local governments still exist. But more than this is the underlying sentiment of Obama’s rhetoric, which is insulting and degrading to the nature of the human spirit. His repeated mantra that centralized government is your one and only friend and benefactor in life reveals that, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, Mr. Obama’s faith “is in the legislator, not in mankind.”
The President’s philosophical opposition contests that the government should focus on securing the life, liberty and property of its citizens rather than making lofty and unjust guarantees of housing and education for all. Bastiat would say that for progressives like Obama, “it is not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic.”
To Obama, a free people cannot be trusted to ensure that the poor and suffering among them are assisted — mankind is much too cruel and foolish to be tasked with such a noble endeavor. Government, the most benevolent of entities in the President’s eyes, is much better suited. His bureaucrats always have your best interest at heart — so the story goes. And as for your neighbor? He most likely wants to exploit you for his own selfish profit and leave you to suffer in rags in the gutter.
Clearly, there is a fundamental difference in the way each side views their fellow man. Obama’s side believes that without the edict of the state, a free people would quickly descend into moral and physical poverty. The state, therefore, bestows purpose, prosperity, and moral and charitable impulse upon an otherwise aimless, malleable and cruel species.
His opponents see the world very differently. We believe that mankind is fundamentally good, that the vast majority of people want to cooperate with their neighbor and assist them when they are in need, and that given the chance they will do so freely and abundantly. We attest that freedom of interaction allows for the maximum amount of peace and cooperation in society.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise then that big government has as one of its goals the demolition of private networks of charity and cooperation, wanting them to be replaced with channels controlled by the state. In that way, people can be kept wary of their neighbors and of a free society and turn instead to the friendly government who promises not only to protect us, but to give us everything our heart desires.
Any resentment and envy that arises from such involuntary governmental transfers of wealth and property can then be channeled into further support for the government to control our fellow man that cannot be trusted. Surely it’s just a coincidence that the legislator and executive of government are praised, enriched and aggrandized in the process.
Knowing this, maybe we shouldn’t be scared when Obama warns of a looming, ominous time when the national government tells us “you’re on your own.” Being free from federal coercion, social engineering and redistribution will mean that we are less on our own than ever before. Instead of looking to the legislator to ensure our well being, we will once again build powerful, local, interpersonal networks to assist our family and neighbors in a dignified manner. Most of all, we will seek to build a better and more prosperous society freely and voluntarily, rather than under threats of violence and imprisonment from Washington, D.C.
Steven Christopher is an economics alumnus and graduate finance student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at [email protected]