FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Absolute power corrupts comprehensively
Everyone knows Lord Acton’s warning about how “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It also has a way of corrupting comprehensively.
Somehow the generations that grew up reciting Acton got the idea that if power is dispersed among many people, rather than being vested in a single monarch or dictator, corruption can be minimized. We are in the middle of a long and painful lesson to the contrary, reaching its most hideously advanced stages over the past few years. When power is concentrated in a central bureaucracy, it becomes entirely corrupt. Power is a virus that pollutes everyone it touches. We congratulate ourselves for escaping the menace of a corrupt dictator… only to learn that living under a few thousand corrupt dictators, dug into a filthy-rich bureaucracy that is largely insulated from the wrath of the electorate, is not much of an improvement.
And then we get the single corrupt dictator anyway, because the System grows impatient with what remains of republican representation and the Constitutional limits of power. The public is persuaded that its titanic government needs to Get Things Done, and only by vesting increased power in the electorate can the perils of gridlock be avoided.
Replacing King Barack I with someone more inclined to respect the American people and embrace the proper limits of executive power is part of the solution, but let’s not mistake it for a complete solution. The corrupt bureaucracy remains, and it’s quite aggressive about defending itself. It has an entire political party looking out for its interests, while the other part is either subdued in its willingness to reform the System, or prepared to protect it as well, hoping to use its power for somewhat different ends. Can anyone who watched House Democrats react to developments in the IRS scandal this week by demanding the rest of us apologize to the Internal Revenue Service doubt that government itself is their primary constituency?
The IRS scandal began when Democrats had a conniption fit over the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and their operative Lois Lerner stepped forward to “fix” the “problem.” This is a matter of documented fact – we don’t need any of the mysteriously vanished emails from Lerner, or the other six key scandal figures who supposedly experienced bizarre computer failures, to confirm it. Before Crashapalooza began, the House Oversight Committee had already produced a report demonstrating that Lerner and her underlings were very much aware of what Democrats were saying about tax-exempt organizations, had been contacted by key Democrats pushing for action against groups they didn’t like, and were eager to get involved in the crusade against them. Other agencies, including the Federal Elections Commission (where Lerner used to officiate, before moving to the IRS) and the FBI were drawn into the campaign.
Now, if you listen to the average liberal whining about the Citizens United decision, what they claim to be worried about is super-rich activists (not like George Soros or Tom Steyer, mind you – the other kind, the not-liberal kind) and Big Business interests purchasing control of American politics. But who actually got pummeled by Lois Lerner and her goon squad? It wasn’t billionaires or mega-corporations. It was little Tea Party and pro-life groups, many of them dining-room-table operations run by people who had never been involved in politics before. And if you had a little experience in politics, as in the case of True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht, you got the kind of “vetting” that George Soros will never have to worry about, complete with a conga line of federal agencies marching through your personal and business affairs.
This wasn’t about anyone’s sincere concerns that the American experiment would be terminated unless a busload of pro-lifers handed over their prayer books to the IRS, as part of a searing multi-year investigation into whether they should be given the kind of tax-exempt status that Barack Obama’s political organization received in a matter of weeks. This was about the corrupt System defending itself against a grassroots challenge by average people who were determined to change it.
The System has many weapons to defend itself, and much power available for sale to its best-connected customers. Far from serving as a populist champion against Big Business interests, Barack Obama’s style of government is their faithful servant, ready to unleash the hounds of regulation against any upstarts who dare to enter protected marketplaces. If you’ve got the right connections, you don’t need to attract investors with a solid business plan that balances risk against profit. You just need to persuade the mega-State to loot taxpayers and stuff the money into your pockets.
Lost in the thunder of the huge domestic and foreign-policy crisis rocking the Obama Administration was the news that hey, what do you know, it turns out nearly 90 percent of the people who bought an ObamaCare policy are receiving subsidies, and it’s going to cost the taxpayers far more than anticipated. Many of those subsidies were granted in error, during the mad rush to pile up “enrollees” and give Obama some talking points for April Fool’s Day. Some of the erroneous subsidies will prove to be deliberate fraud, while others were caused by glitches in the bugtastic HealthCareDotGov system. Many of those subsidies will be unrecoverable; in fact, it turns out there are laws limiting how much people below certain income levels can be expected to repay. Taxpayers will eat the rest, while the mountain of legitimate subsidies grows ever-higher.
The proper way to look at these ObamaCare customers is as living conduits of taxpayer money, pouring from the Treasury into the coffers of Obama’s Little Partners in the insurance industry. That’s why the industry went along with ObamaCare. It’s win-win-win for everyone plugged into the System: the bureaucracy gains more control over a populace increasingly addicted to government subsidies, the Party of Big Government enjoys the sight of liberty’s sphere growing ever smaller – health care becomes something else you’ll never be allowed to vote on again, not if your vote is to unplug yourself from the State – and the Democrat Party’s business clients get juicy subsidy checks and bailouts. Now they can complete the process of disconnecting their product from market reality, competition, and the laws of supply and demand… a process that was already under way for decades, thanks to the weird fusion of private business and government regulation that paved the way for ObamaCare, just as it will pave the way for collapse into a single-payer basket case.
It’s Cloward-Piven at the doctor’s office, just like we’ve got Cloward-Piven on the border, and Cloward-Piven in the student loan office. What a racket that is! The System rigged it so that low-quality college diplomas are vital to securing just about any decent job (coupled with plenty of cultural pressure to regard any job that doesn’t require such a diploma as indecent.) Then they got an entire generation plugged into a student-loan system that cast off the mooring lines that bound college tuition to market sanity, resulting in an explosion of tuition costs that came as no surprise to anyone who didn’t spend their twenties marinating in the corrupt stew of liberal economic theory. The cost of a college education skyrocketed, the loans necessary to procure one became choke chains around the necks of an entire generation… and here comes The System to promise a bit of relief from your student loan burden. Just be sure to vote the right way in the future, kids, and maybe they’ll take a few more bricks out of the debt load they strapped to your back, to reward you for your loyalty.
Everywhere you look, the American people are under attack from their government, which has become a living entity interested in feeding, growing, and protecting itself from the electorate. Absolute power has corrupted comprehensively, leaving us with a living Leviathan State that constantly uses its power to create crises that only more government power can solve. When it’s not busy rewarding its friends or punishing its enemies, Leviathan spends most of its energy telling the American people why it’s urgently necessary for them to toss even more money and freedom down its throat. It’s like a corporation with a gigantic marketing department, but very few people actually concerned with the products it sells. Why should they? The “customers” aren’t going anywhere. They can’t refuse to “buy,” and there are no competitors.
Right after he warned about the corruption of absolute power, Lord Acton said something else, not as well-remembered: “Great men are almost always bad men.” Well, great bureaucracies are almost always bad bureaucracies, too. Generations of Americans have foolishly believed that virtue can thrive as government grows, provided no single person wields too much power. That was never true, and guess what? We have, inevitably, ended up with too many single individuals wielding too much power anyway. Why is anyone surprised that they’re not terribly enthusiastic about the prospect of investigating and punishing themselves?