We have entered week two of the federal government’s “shutdown” and, amazingly, Americans are still hanging in there. This is a fact that has chagrined federal politicians to no end. In an effort to convince us all that we really need our omnipotent overlords, federal agents continue to execute their directive which, as one federal employee has unhappily admitted, is “to make life as difficult as possible.”
So far their actions have included closing national parks, barricading monuments, holding elderly vacationers hostage in Yellowstone and, horror of horrors, shutting down Michelle Obama’s Twitter account. If I didn’t enjoy the silence I would ask someone to tell FLOTUS that Twitter is free.
Sure, these are annoying maneuvers, but they’re fairly innocuous. They seem more like an overgrown temper tantrum than the triumphant return of the Dark Ages. On one level it’s actually been pretty entertaining to watch the federal government work so hard at trying to make us miss them. On another level it’s a little sad, kind of like a jilted teenager trying to make his ex-girlfriend jealous by going to prom with his sister.
Either way, it’s a little hard to miss them when 80% of federal bureaucrats are still on the job, the NSA is still spying on us and our earnings are still being stolen from our paychecks.
But there is a real lesson to be learned in how the federal government has responded to the so-called shutdown. Some very powerful people in Washington have gotten upset and they’re trying really hard to take it out on you and me. Federal politicians are literally trying to hurt the very citizens they’re supposed to represent.
This response has shown conclusively why the federal government cannot be trusted with large grants of power. Sure their recent actions have been childish, but they’ve also shown the bud of tyranny, in some cases drawing comparisons to the Gestapo. The question is, if they’re willing to resort to these tactics for such relatively insignificant things as parks and monuments, what would they do with real power?
If they’re willing to hurt people on these little issues, what could they do with the power to control your healthcare, determine how you can defend yourself, define your relationship or dictate what you can ingest? This isn’t just a hypothetical query, it is a vitally important question. Because, sure, it is clearly unconstitutional for the federal government to regulate such matters, but decentralization isn’t just a legal question. The larger point is that centralized power endangers the liberties of everyone and it is precisely this truth that provides the philosophical underpinning for federalism.
It was this philosophy that guided early Americans. While debating the Constitution, Pennsylvania’s George Bryan eloquently stated that:
“…a very extensive country cannot be governed on democratic principles (by) any other plan than a confederation…of small republics, possessing all the powers of internal government, but united in the management of their foreign and general concerns. It would not be difficult to prove that anything short of despotism could not bind so great a country under one government and that whatever plan you might (try) at the first…would (end) in a despotism.”
226 years later we find ourselves dangerously close to fulfilling Bryan’s prophesy, evidenced by a federal government that looks for ways to intentionally hurt its citizens. But we are fortunately still at a point in history where, through nullification, we can correct our course and return to the model of self-government bequeathed to us by our forefathers.
The alternative is revulsive. The message of George Bryan, the American Revolution and human history is clear. To grant wide swaths of power to a central government will end in despotism. It cannot end any other way. It never has.