Contrast these two statements:
You’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted. — Barack Obama, May 2013.
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” – James Madison, 1788.
It wasn’t a great week for President Obama, or for the media, or for constitutional democracy. But in a strange way, as these things do tend to go, an almost unprecedented string of government abuses against basic liberties — at least in recent memory — underscore why conservatives, libertarians, and their associated organizations promote classic republicanism and the protection of individual liberty. To wit: the bigger government becomes the more it abuses its authority, just like Madison promised more than 200 years ago.
Why? Because we’re not angels, and because angels are not in government. It’s not a matter that is determined by the ruling party’s partisanship, or ideology, or view on taxation, or intervention, or tendency for social altruism. Rather, it is human nature to abuse authority, regardless of these things. Humans are by their very nature susceptible to corruption, particularly when it is for “the purpose of aggrandizing themselves,” as the anti-Federalist and pseudonym Brutus wrote.
Brutus continued: “They will use the power, when they have acquired it, to the purposes of gratifying their own interest and ambition, and it is scarcely possible, in a very large republic, to call them to account for their misconduct, or to prevent their abuse of power.” (“In a very large republic.” Consider the size of our republic in the late 1700s or even of Great Britain — from where their paradigm of a “large republic” would have been based — to that of today. Yet despite this exponential growth in government the one thing that has never changed is human nature.)
Because there is no true check on government authority the danger lies in the growth and unchecked empowerment of government itself. It is true that rights are insecure without government, what the founders called, “The State of Nature” — wicked, dissolute men unrestrained by government commit violations on the lives, liberty and property of others, to summarize John Locke.
So to secure our most basic rights governments are instituted amongst men. That’s the core rationale for government. But when government becomes the violator of rights, instead of protector of them, we can rely only on the masses — Jeffersonian “vigilance” — and particular institutions, such as the press, to provide through transparency a check on power. But what to do when the press self-abrogates such responsibility?
First, there was a week of Benghazi reports that, despite WH Press Sec. Jay Carney’s willing suspension of disbelief, prove to anyone with an education level of, say, fifth grade, or with exception of your classic Obama Kool-Aide drinker, that the federal government at its highest levels not only left its embassy personnel dangerously unprepared on the anniversary of 9/11, but brazenly lied and engaged in a cover up after the fact.
Then came the reports that the IRS abused its power by purposely targeting for audit any groups associated with the Tea Party, limited government, lower taxes, and even some pro-Israeli Jewish groups. We’re told that this is an act of a few low-level individuals in one office. Afraid not:
IRS admits current Commissioner knew of targeting
IRS IG Report: Targeting Conservatives Began In 2010
IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups
IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups
‘NBC: IRS may have lied to Congress in six responses in 2010′
It kind of now, looking back, puts into perspective that the Koch brothers were asking the White House, “How Did You Get Our Tax Information?” Indeed! And maybe this explains why key donors to Mitt Romney — like Frank VanderSloot — were being targeted by the IRS. We now know, by ProPublica’s admission above, that the IRS was leaking this information.
That’s bad. Really bad. It’s Nixonian — indeed, IRS abuses were the second article of Nixon’s impeachment. Not that this will likely go that extreme. The mainstream media is far too protective of President Obama to allow impeachment, or anything close to it. It would take an unparalleled abuse of power for the media to turn on Obama. It would take something like…
Incredible (or rather to Locke, Madison, and Brutus — quite credible, quite expected). A targeted effort to spy on journalists. Not even Dick Cheney would be so bold.
Meanwhile, Obama fiddles while Rome burns… ‘Obama to Attend 3 Democratic Fundraisers’ (in one week). And burns… ‘Obama parties with Harvey Weinstein, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel at $20,000 per plate dinner.’ And between the lines of these stories is John Locke, Madison and Brutus: their genius affirmed once more.