What happened to our founding fathers’ concept of limited government? How did we get so many departments and agencies at the federal level? Why do states not push back and exert their authority under the 10th Amendment?
These questions may not have simple answers, but every American citizen should be asking them. Our federal government has overstepped its constitutional boundaries for over two centuries. Creating new departments and agencies, expanding the welfare state, sanctioning millions of illegal migrants, and amassing a $33+ trillion debt, at best, is irresponsible.
I believe in limited government. On the other hand, many don’t seem to care how big government gets or how many freedoms we lose. In part because too many are receiving some type of benefit. It may be food stamps, housing subsidies, or Medicaid. Many receive subsidies or bailouts for programs in energy, transportation, farming, or manufacturing. Let’s not forget the contributory programs such as Medicare and Social Security. All of these have one thing in common: they are government-run programs that continue to grow, are run inefficiently, and jeopardize our republic. A sure solution to restoring our lost freedoms is to reduce the size of government at all levels.
Why should we care about a limited government? A primary reason is that restrained government allows individuals to use their God-given talents to create, design, produce, and improve lives. The United States is the most innovative country in the world. For decades, the world has benefited from discoveries and inventions such as automobiles, planes, electricity, the light bulb, steam engines, refrigerators, and so much more. When imaginations are stimulated, minds become challenged and motivated. The result is that society becomes enriched. When the government controls innovation, even from an oversight perspective, it legislates, regulates, and stifles ingenuity.
Our economy is based on the capitalist model to allow individuals to be self-sufficient and build their own future. Years of experience and productivity have made this country a bastion of success around the world. Businesses create job opportunities so individuals can use their talents and learned skills to become productive members of society. When the government expands, it not only erodes our economy but also stifles the ability of companies to meet the needs of individuals. We are experiencing this overreach in the 21st century. People are relying on the government rather than learning to be self-sufficient. Have we reached a point where ignorance and lethargy are prevailing?
Let’s get back to ensuring the government focuses on constitutional authority. Articles I, II, and III affirm a system of separate but equal branches with distinct powers. In addition, there are three overarching constitutional responsibilities, which are to provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
Since the constitution clearly gives limited authority, why has government grown to what it is today? The truth is, elected officials are more consumed with retaining power and control. This balance of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches becomes unbalanced when our elected officials choose themselves over the people. The longer a person stays in office, the more skewed their focus deviates from their role as a public servant. They are wooed by various interest groups who merely want a larger piece of the pie for self-enrichment. Thus, agendas become the priority, and we the people are an afterthought.
Presidents have played a role in expanding the size of government. The Department of Education was created by Jimmy Carter in 1979 as a political favor. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was created under the Department of Justice in 1908 while Theodore Roosevelt occupied the White House. After WWII, the Central Intelligence Agency was created by Harry S. Truman under the National Security Act of 1947. The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, signed by Jimmy Carter, consolidated two energy program traditions. The more recent was the Department of Homeland Security, when George W. Bush in 2002 signed the Homeland Security Act after the 911 attacks.
These departments and agencies operate under the executive branch, but the legislature plays a major role in creating and passing various acts. Once an organization is created, a budget is developed and passed via appropriation bills. Interestingly enough, every year the budgets get bigger, missions are expanded, and more regulation is imposed. This clearly demonstrates how these coordinated efforts among the branches and our elected officials blur authority and expand government.
We’ve grown to an unmanageable size, to the point where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Program duplication abounds across multiple departments and agencies. For example, the Department of Agriculture administers food programs for schools that provide funding as well as policies and guidelines. Consider the nutrition food chart. Other agencies provide similar resources regarding food and education programs. These include the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Education. Think of how many billions could be saved if multiple departments and agencies eliminated redundancy. And this is only one program.
History confirms that when the government expands, advancement and abuse of power follow. The propensity to increase budgets, overtax, and spend beyond their means is why the national debt is in the trillions of dollars. Growth can be fruitful, but too much growth eventually usurps individual responsibility, which conflicts with human nature and demoralizes the human spirit. Our ancestors taught us—at least mine did—to work hard, live within your means, save for the future, provide for your family, and help others in need. Are we teaching our youth these time-tested and treasured values? I fear we are not as we witness raging incivility, theft, destruction, and an absolute disregard for human life.
Can our republic reduce its federal footprint? Will it move towards supporting a smaller, more efficient way of doing the people’s business? I have hope that it can. First, we need citizens to pay attention and hold our elected officials accountable. As citizens, voting in ALL elections is our civic duty. Second, we need to elect officials who know what their constitutional authority is and who have the courage to stand up against the status quo. Third, states must take back their authority under the 10th Amendment and refuse the carrot the federal government continues to dangle. Lastly, we need to have a president who will reduce the size of their cabinet by closing departments that should not be at the federal level.
As we step into the 2024 election year, let us remember that the purpose of government is to preserve individual freedoms, protect personal property, and serve we the people. Serving as an elected official was never meant to be a career. Our founding fathers demonstrated this by doing their business and returning to their families and jobs. Let’s use their model to help us save our republic and ensure posterity for future generations.