“I don’t want to abolish government, I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” – Grover Norquist
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. – Amendment X to the U. S. Constitution
A lot of Americans have to be feeling that way after the hearings today about the IRS targeting conservative groups who were applying for tax-exempt status. Most people would argue that some government is good, even necessary; but the IRS scandal makes the best case for why limited government is a good idea, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.
Some time ago, I found myself on a radio program opposite a member of our local Occupy organization. We had a fascinating discussion about the role of government (and I wish I could find the podcast so I could share it here.) In essence, I remember her talking about the dominance of large corporations in politics – that was an essential theme of the Occupy movement. We discovered we weren’t as far apart as you might think.
Her complaint about government was that there was too much corporate money in Washington, that politics was flooded with money and lobbyists and influence peddlers. My question to her was: ”Why is it that so much money flows to Washington?” We know the answer: Washington claims as much power to decide things about our lives as it possibly can. So where else would the lobbyists, special-interest groups, and political contributions go? The money flows to where the power is held.
But what if, I posed, we stripped the federal government of as much power as possible? What if we gave as much of it as we could back to the states? Do you think the money and lobbyists would stay in Washington? Not a chance; they’d be rushing back to the states as quickly as they could, to attempt to influence legislation and promote their interests where the power was centered.
She heartily agreed with me.
And here’s the thing: decentralization would force lobbyists and corporations to spend money in the different state capitals, rather than efficiently dump it all in D.C. And after a while, that gets prohibitively expensive. Consider, too, how much more easily a regular citizen can connect with a state official than a federal one. Even with lobbyists haunting the halls of state capitol buildings, the average citizen stands a much better chance of influencing legislation at the state level. It’s possible that this is why we’re finding an increase in state legislatures and governorships being held by Republicans, even as Republicans in the U.S. House lost seats in 2012 and the Senate remains in Harry Reid’s hands.
Which brings me to the IRS scandal. The hearings today highlighted some of the most heinous breaches of the public trust possible. Requiring a prolife group to submit its PRAYERS and to promise not to protest at Planned Parenthood clinics? Asking for website logins to see members-only information? Providing copies of everything from all social media platforms? Those questions are precisely what political oppression looks like. And no, the Left would not like it had the machine of the federal government been turned on them in this way. Those are just a few of the examples documented in this scandal. But it’s more than a mere scandal. A scandal assumes this is separate from the regular operation of government.
This is the systematic abuse of power for the purpose of intimidating and harassing political opposition. And it doesn’t matter where you are politically, THIS is probably the ultimate case for smaller, more limited government. We’re merely faceless entities to the IRS. We’re names on a form, pests to be swatted, upstarts to be put in our places. But with more of government’s power localized, it would be easier for us to get in the faces of politicians AND bureaucrats and demand accountability.
And I don’t care if you call yourself a Republican, a Democrat, a libertarian, or some other label: it is in your interest to shrink the federal government and return the powers it has stolen from the states and the people as quickly as possible.
Start running the bathwater.