A rerun from before election day:
"I guess it all boils down to this: Whether we like it or hate it (or somewhere in the middle), the reality of our age (since FDR's uncorking of the Government Genie Bottle), the American people have come to see the government and its role as something entirely different than our founders. That is a FACT. A tragic fact, but still a fact.
Government not only delivers services and programs it has no Constitutional authority to, but it also serves as a sort of "billboard" for what its people believe is important. Like a billboard, it's hard to ignore the message it's sending, and can actually influence behavior as a result, even though the actual influence of the government in any particular area is relatively minimal.
For example, the US government giving funds to cancer research symbolically shows a national priority toward eradicating cancer, even though the actual amount of the grants are a drop in the bucket to what is actually needed to eradicate cancer. The federal government maintains forests and other wilderness areas, sending another message to its people that we are to value our natural resources.
Similarly, the formulation of marriage and what the government recognizes as a "marriage" has a similar acknowledgement of our national values. Once again, I don't necessarily support or applaud this vast "bully pulpit" the Federal government now enjoys....but I *recognize* it and understand how its policies can change the very values and moral makeup of its people. I don't like this reality...but it *is* our reality".
I've quoted this in full (and waited a couple of days to answer it), because Mark has laid out perfectly what I see as the problem not only with the current federal government, but with George Bush as well. The problem is the troubling trend that Mark notes, "the American people have come to see the government and its role as something entirely different than our founders. That is a FACT". It is unarguably a fact. And it is the primary fact that must be dealt with as we go forward as a nation. Government is no longer a protector of rights or an arbiter of disputes, it is, in fact, messianic in its nature and a leader and role model of a people who can no longer rule themselves because they have no internal compass.
George Bush puts it this way: "The role of government is to stand there and say, 'We're going to help you.' The job of the federal government is to fund the providers who are actually making a difference."
The quote was in reference specifically to the new Bush plan to spend $1.5 billion (1.5 thousand million dollars) on government marriage counseling, but it is a philosophy that permeates his "compassionate conservatism". It is a philosophy that makes government a molder and shaper of the people, and one which seeks to help them by borrowing money from foreigners and future generations to spend today on "problems".
Mark says it's a "tragic fact", and I agree. What we disagree on, I think, is what to do about it. His opinion is (if I may put words in his mouth) that we have a tiger by the tail and that we ought to point it in the way that does the most good (or at least the least damage). I think the fact is so tragic that the only solution is to shoot the tiger.
It's not because I pine for the old days for their own sake. The past had plenty of "problems", though complete cultural and potential fiscal collapse were not among them. But this modern tiger is tragic because it makes a promise that cannot be fulfilled and will lead to societal collapse, national bankruptcy, and a complete loss of confidence in government itself, followed by civil disorder. The fact is that there is no fiscal way we can fund the boomers' retirements while spending $500 billion a year we don't have. The fact is that the government, by its very presence in areas like marriage counseling, crowds out and destroys the solutions implemented by families, churches, non-profits. The fact is that as a "billboard" that big, nothing else can be seen and nothing good can grow in its shadow. But no tree grows to the sky and no billboard stands forever. It eventually rots and falls over because of its very weight.
It's not the fault of government, but its very nature. Elected officials are simply giving us what we want, what we asked for. We, as voters, look to Washington to give us this day our daily bread because it's easier than working or praying. But Washington can't do it forever. That's a fact, and a fact that leads ultimately to tragedy, because everything the government does fosters dependence. When it eventually can't meet its promise, those who depended on government, having lost the ability to depend on themselves and having had their family and social structure destroyed by generations of dependence, can no longer feed themselves. Imagine what our cities would become if the government simply stopped passing out free money. There are entire sections of society that would either starve or riot. The shadow cast by the government billboard has killed their ability to survive.
That being said, there is one item in Mark's list that strikes close to home. Cancer. The government funds cancer research to show how important it is, what a national priority it is. But what is cancer? Cancer is "a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis". What cancer does is that it grows out of control, spreading throughout the body, displacing healthy cells. It destroys the DNA that directs cells and makes it impossible for the body to heal itself. Government growth is a cancer that destroys civil society by unlimited growth and invasion and displacement of those functions of society that make it healthy.
A healthy society is a vibrant thing. Made up of families and voluntary associations (like churches, schools, clubs, and businesses), the decentralization and expertise of each one is directed by the members who make it up. Like individual cells, they divide, they repair, they grow. But government is a different kind of cell. It is compulsory. It consumes eternally. It drives the other cells out of place or subsumes them into itself. Where it steps in to "solve problems", it destroys the healthy cells that make up civil society. Where it fails, it leaves behind a wake of death... dead cells, dead organizations, dead families. It promises health and stability, it leaves behind a legacy of broken promises and a dependent population. The solution to cancer is not to ride it or direct it. The solution is to kill it, to cut it out, to excise it. On this there can be no compromise, or the body will die.
Therefore in order for healthy civil society to survive going forward, government must simply be cut. It must be cut back to its bare minimum, not trimming fat, but cutting muscle. It must be eviscerated, gutted to the point that healthy cells can survive and thrive where the shadow of its billboard once blocked all light. There is no "separation of church and state" where the state is ubiquitous. There is no educational improvisation where one size fits all. And there's no use arguing that one party will cut it more or less than the other, as neither wants to cut it. Both parties are now led by men who think the Era of Big Government is just getting started. They both want to direct a bigger tiger. They will each feed a cancer that eats out our substance.
Therefore it doesn't matter if GWB and I agree on 70% of the "issues", because the election is not about which candidate will steer the tiger the way I want him to run. It is about cancer, and what to do about the malignant tumor that is killing the body of American society. If neither major party runs a man who wants to excise it (or even understands it), I'll seek another.But why? What good does it do to vote for someone who can't win? It's simply a matter of looking past the next election. In the past 3 or 4, we have heard that "this is the most important election of our lives", but it's simply not true. The government under GOP or Dem has maundered along, growing and consuming, to the left or to the right. Neither Bush 41 nor Clinton left a "legacy", neither made a difference. Government has continued to grow, the cancer has continued to spread, people have continued to look to it for their daily bread. Civil society has continued to sicken into the frail and hollow shell it is today. Spend a day watching TV some time; civil society is on its last legs. When it reaches its last legs, the tiger will be laid bare for what it is, just like it has so many places before.
In the fifth century, there lived an old Christian saint who stood nearly by himself for the doctrine of the trinity when it seemed the whole world would pass into Arianism. He was so alone in his fervent belief that his tombstone read "Athenasius contra mundum" (Athenasius against the world). He was a man who looked square into the face of his times and said , "Not that way, but this". And the times changed, back to the truth, back to the right way. Today Arianism is found only in the Jehovah's Witnesses, and no one remembers Athenasius. I didn't even know if I spelled his name correctly and had to go look it up. But he saw into the future further than most. And he was right. Today there's nary an argument about it.
I don't know when the times will change back, if they ever do. I don't know when the cancer of ubiquitous messianic government will be revealed for the fraud it is. But I hope to be standing consistently against it, like Athenasius, not because I want to be elected or even remembered, but simply because it's a cheat.