Thursday, September 17, 2020

A teachable moment on government

I listened to a conversation between Senator Tim Kaine and students this afternoon, and he never used the term, but he very directly promoted identity politics with them.

He talked about how it's important to see people in government that “look like you.”

The irony was he reserved terms like “division” for when he wanted to talk bad about Republicans, but in actuality, he himself was planting seeds of division in that very conversation.

Another line of thought stood out, too. I don't remember if it was a student or the Senator, but someone talked about having a government “that works for them.”

That's not the purpose of government. That's not the nature of government.

Government is not there, with respect to good, to do anything. In fact, that increases the risk of government overreach.

Government is by nature a force. Even when supposedly doing good, there's no such thing as a government policy without force behind it.

The Affordable Care Act, supposedly doing the good of “helping” the uninsured, carries a host of penalties for non-compliance, and those go well beyond the now zeroed-out (but not yet repealed) individual mandate.

If I were in that situation, I would use the teachable moment to ask the students to name a government policy that does not involve force.

They may be able name some things they think sound force-free. (Perhaps these could be written on a whiteboard for further discussion.) Then, we'd discuss them and explore more of how those policies work.

Here's an educational example: the Hubble Space Telescope. Sounds like a good government project with lots of value, right?

There was a time when servicing the Hubble came after the second Shuttle tragedy, and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin was considering not running the risk of any unnecessary missions, especially without a rescue option of something were to go wrong again. Congress had already funded it, but the Hubble mission was more vulnerable than ISS missions.

Before the decision was final, Congress held a hearing, and I specifically remember Senator Barbara Mikulski noting that it would be “against the law” for NASA not to fly that mission. That's force.

Even in things people think are good, everything government does is as a force. There's no escaping the inherently coercive nature of government.

This is why consent of the governed is so important. The people must agree on how to let government use that force.

The only thing the government should force is not doing evil. When government looks and acts like that, there is freedom. That's what it should mean for a government to “work for you.”

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