Why We Permit Government Overreach

When we believe that if something is worth doing, government should do it, government overreach is the result. This is a threat to both liberals and conservatives. The reason the government can go so far is not because the majority of people support it, but because the majority only passively opposes it.

We Can All Agree

Government overreach is not a partisan issue. There is something in it to offend both sides of the political spectrum. The mistake is in believing that different types of overreach are unrelated. The same perspective that compels us to pursue a government solution to national healthcare also motivates us to do warrantless wiretapping or to use the IRS to intimidate specific groups. They both come from the idea that government can impose its will in any matter as long as its motives are altruistic. To put it another way, government overreach is the result of the idea that the ends justify the means.

Arbitrary Power

When government is bounded only by whether its motivations are good, it is a threat to all of society. It's dangerous to give the government permission to restrict your own rights because you believe those restrictions will hurt somebody else more—whether that other person is a suspected terrorist, a political opponent or somebody who doesn't buy health insurance. You cannot say that it's okay for government to be driven by charitable motivations in some areas but not in others because motivations are not objectively good or bad. This kind of arbitrary power is the very definition of tyranny.

Why We Allow It

We are permissive of government overreach because we don't mind police power being used to impose what we think is right in certain areas. The government can become more active in more areas of our lives as long as the majority of us only passively object to it. Active opposition seems inconvenient. It means uniting with sworn political enemies in a common cause. It means giving up and even opposing government support for some of our favorite things. And it means debunking the claim that if you disagree with government being involved in a cause means that you oppose that cause altogether.

But opposing government overreach in all areas is the only way to protect ourselves from government intervention in the most uncomfortable areas.

1 comment:

  1. "They should do something about that". We might often say or think this but who is "They"? It's simply a way to pass the buck and not involve ourselves. There is always an eager, ambitious, perhaps well meaning politician ready to fix anything and everything "for us". We must allow ourselves to be free and that means free to succeed and also free to fail as individuals.