Is Government a Menace?
By Arnold Kling
Yesterday, President Obama said,
When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us. We, the people — (applause.) We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny.
Government is not “us.” Government is a relatively small handful of people with far too much power. Their exercise of vast powers is neither moral, Constitutional, nor effective. The power of the people does not include the power to stop bailouts or to stop health care reform. The power to elect our leaders is a very weak power. Our laws are passed by a Congress that, rather than enjoying the support of the vast majority of Americans, is according to polls opposed by the vast majority of Americans.
The Washington Post headlined President Obama’s speech “a fiery plea for civility.” Basically, he was calling on people to submit to his will and that of his party. But just as I would never donate money to a charity that gives to billionaires, I will not support the expansion of power for those who already exercise far too much.
I am willing to forego the use of the term “fascist” to describe our current government. The amount of physical intimidation that we face today is nothing compared to what people faced under Hitler.
However, Hitler did not just get the reluctant obedience of those who feared the violence of his government. He obtained most of his support from people who willingly looked up to him as representing the German “us.” The shocking thing about German history is not the people who reluctantly submitted to Hitler’s authority under threat. It is the people who were attracted by his fiery pleas.
Yes, government is a menace. It is less of a menace in the U.S. today than it was in Germany in 1933. But it is a menace. The pundits who denounce those of us who disagree with the government are a larger menace. The many intellectuals in this country who concoct rationales for even greater government power are the largest menace of all.