“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves.” — Thomas Jefferson
This year’s election presents, perhaps more starkly than usual, the same choice that Thomas Jefferson pointed up as an issue that had been of long standing even 200 years ago. Before you mark that ballot, I would ask you to give this some thought.
Simply put, who is better able to manage your affairs — you or the government? While both political parties have a tendency to extol the virtues of expansive government more than I would like, plainly the liberals (or as they like to call themselves, the “progressives”) are in the forefront of expanding government.
As Jefferson correctly points out, this is nothing new. The Declaration of Independence states as a fundamental principle of this country that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” To my thinking, this is entirely accurate.
By contrast, however, Woodrow Wilson, in many ways the father of modern progressive philosophy, said, “Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence. ... The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us.” As he further elaborated, “Omnipotence of legislation is the first postulate of all just political theory.” Wilson obviously trusted the government and not the people. While few modern liberals would put it so plainly, by necessity, this is the foundation of their worldview.
I say the liberals are wrong, morally and practically. By definition, as the powers of government expand, the rights and freedom of the individual contract, and this is the moral problem with the liberal approach. I don’t know about you, but I object to the limitation of my liberty. You may not be so concerned with this because you think that the government is reining in someone else, but I can assure you that if you allow the government to extend its power, your day will come. Just remember that to everyone else in the world, you are that someone else to rein in.
Practically, the liberals’ confidence in government is just misplaced. Throughout history, it has not been the government on the forefront of innovation but the individual operating in a free market. Study after study demonstrates that where the markets are most free, the people are more prosperous. While in freer markets the spread between the richest and poorest is greater, nevertheless, the poorest are financially better off. The aim of the conservatives and libertarians to limit government, therefore, is not because they are cruel and heartless. Rather, it is because they want to give everyone the opportunity to prosper. Government control limits prosperity, and it always has. Free individuals, and not the government, are who create prosperity.
And so, before you cast that vote, I would ask you to consider: Whom is it that you trust?
Rick Akin is an attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs, Denver and Austin, Texas; a former member of the Pilot & Today Editorial Board; and vice chairman of The Steamboat Institute.