Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan Library

Ben Stein tomorrow at the Ronald Reagan Library

Ben Stein to speak at the Reagan Library


Powerful government versus a large one

We often focus on the size of government, as measured in percentage of GDP taxed and spent by the government, which is an important and measurable concept. But our real concern is power. What kind of power does the government wield over the people? Powerful state institutions tend to be large, but that doesn’t mean that a larger state is necessarily exercising more power. Imagine a small town that adds two officers to its police force. Now it has more police officers, and that costs more money; the government is “larger.” But if the officers now do a better job of arresting violent criminals and protecting the lives and property of the people — and refrain from arresting or hassling non-criminals — then the government has not expanded its power. Indeed, better eight officers protecting lives and property than six officers enforcing drug laws and blue laws. We should focus on what is actually important — the exercise of arbitrary power over others.

David Boaz/The Cato Institute

He’s right. Big government is not necessarily a bad thing, if the people choose to enlarge it and if the people choose to fund it. But I don’t think, for instance, that the Founders had a Department of Education in mind when they wrote the Constitution. (You can replace that department with Health and Human Services, Agriculture or any other big government department of your choosing.) The Founders believed that those “services” would best serve the people at the local level. The people would decide how much government they wanted and how much they would be willing to fund. And those departments, because they were local, would be accountable and responsible to the people who chose to fund an enlarged local government.

The seal with branches that resemble sinister tentacles entwined in the leaves and an acorn, which now has an entirely new meaning in our society.

At some point though, this big federal government power grab took place and some do-gooders and greedy elected politicians in Washington, DC determined that the people weren’t smart enough or capable of determining the appropriate curriculum their children needed. They believed that people needed Ivy League academics, primarily from the Left Coast, to make the rules and determine the curriculum for students in Rock Springs, Wyoming and San Diego, California.

Isn’t it more sensible for a citizen to call their school board member or attend a meeting to voice concerns than give it all up to some bureaucrat in Washington, DC? How can an elite academician in Washington know what the needs and desires of students and parents in Butte, Montana are? What gives them the right to mandate rules and regulations on people 2000 miles away?

Departments like education should only exist on the county and state levels and by the decision of the local citizens to determine their existence or not. It would be then responsive and responsible to the citizens who are funding them with their own tax dollars. The people would be able to determine what and how their children are being taught. And people would be able to decide if those school districts were places they wanted their children to be educated in.

Education is a prime example of a state’s rights issue, as is abortion, the death penalty and other areas that the federal government has imposed themselves in.

As Ronald Reagan said, Americans have the freedom to vote with their feet. If a person doesn’t like the government, rules, laws and regulations in one state, he can move to another. Mark Levin, in his book Liberty and Tyranny, said that the mobility of Americans to relocate to areas that are more compatible to their beliefs and desires is what the Founders had in mind and that this diversity in states is what created a more “harmonious union.” I agree and believe that this is what the Founders believed, too.

Instead, what has evolved from the Founders original vision is a one-size fits all kind of government – a socialist government – where the needs and desires of the individual is trumped by the collective majority and power-hungry big federal bureaucracy.

The Founders had faith and trust in the intelligence of the people to govern themselves. We have gone 180 degrees from that and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to ever return to what they had in mind.


Mark Levin at the Reagan Library

His interview:

And his speech: