Federal Government as a Threat to Liberty: But How?

In another attempt to mistakenly grab the mantle of the Founding generation, the better to cloak their anti-federalist intentions, the far right through Ed Morrissey of Hot Air seizes on a CNN poll showing that Americans “believe the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” He chalks it up to healthcare reform — a measure that hasn’t even passed yet — and seizes on it as a partisan conclusion:

The health-care initiative pushed by the Democrats would put the government into our most personal and private choices, greatly increasing the power of Washington and decreasing the liberty of Americans.  After more than seven decades of increasingly statist policy, Americans have belatedly awoken to a crisis in liberty and a fiscal meltdown of the welfare state.

It’s surely not. Anyone who lived through the Bush years would also agree that federal power is a threat to basic liberty. It’s altogether telling, though, that Hot Air considers the question of whether one’s healthcare plan will have federally prescribed minima one of “our most personal and private choices,” while excluding from that definition anything related to truly personal choices like sex, marriage, and even what book to check out from the library, all of which were under even daily attack under the previous administration. Chalk this up to another attempt to exalt as the very definition of “liberty” whether one will be taxed, and on what those taxes will be spent.

As Americans, we can all agree that runaway federal power is dangerous, even as we disagree over what aspect ought to worry us the most. But when resolving that question, we should remember, in true fidelity to the Constitution’s drafters, that our current charter was deliberately drafted to strengthen the federal government as pertains to economic matters, thus replacing a central authority bereft, in practice, of any real authority to tax and regulate, on the explicit premise that a strong regulatory power, backed by a strong tax power, was necessary to preserve the union. The amount of ink spilled by men like Alexander Hamilton to defend the necessity of taxation (Federalists #3036: the largest subject-matter bloc in the Papers) ought to prove that while worrying about taxes is a basic characteristic of American government, so is paying, gladly, to support a union in which we all believe.



  1. Steve Jeffers · ·

    ‘greatly increasing the power of Washington’

    It’s only just occurred to me how stupid that sentence sounds when it’s said by someone who advocates going back to what the Founders intended.

  2. Except he and mnay like him don’t actually want to go back to what the FOunders intended. All the FOunders knew that governmetn was necessary to regulate human excess – they just didn’t like being the colony of a monarchichal empire. Not a one of them thought, or wrote, that government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub. Rather they set about to create a governing structure that they believed would curb the worst abuses of government (through chekcs and balances) while at the same time ensuring a living, breathing Constitution that could be adapted to new, real, important challenges to the union.

    That, in a nut shell, is the anthesis of modern conservative thought.

    1. Steve Jeffers · ·

      Oh, of course – like Biblical fundamentalists, who think that all the Bible says is that material wealth is a reward for religious devotion, don’t have abortions and God will hurricane you if you allow gays.

      The simple fact of the matter is that the Founders were politicians, with vested interests, who cobbled together the Union and kept altering the plan. Anyone who thinks the Founders said they’d sorted everything now, so you’d better not change anything is barely worth engaging with.

      I do think it’s interesting that all this Founder fundamentalism tends to come from the side that has Biblical fundamentalists. In both cases, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, if reality and the sacred document disagree, the fundamentalist will insist that reality’s the one that’s got it all wrong.

      The problem is … you can’t argue against that, you can only dismantle it.

      1. Actually, if you read George Lakoff, you se ethat modern conservative thought/belief/politics seems to be based on the “Strict Father” model or world view, and liberal thought/belief/politics are based on the Nurturant Parent model. It explains a ton of the differences, the approach, and why all this Founding Father reverence exists.


        1. Yay! Someone else who’s read the Moral Politics.

  3. Can we get real time spell checking in here as we type?

    1. If you’re using Firefox (and if not, why not?), you can activate a built-in spell checker in the Tools -> Options menu (“Check my spelling as I type”) and grab the dictionaries you need from here.

      1. I’ve got firefox on my machine, but no tech support – all our folks are Microsoft trained. Plus I’m, too lazy to move my boockmarks.

        1. EDIT – turns out there is a spell check button in my google tool bar that will do this when I type in forms of various kinds – including blogs. Having learned something new today I shall now go home!

  4. I was wondering if you’d like to exchange posts on my website? Im usually looking for talented people like you to exchange website reviews and so on.

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