My Opus

The Proper Role Of Government

If you start on this diary entry, please finish it. I solicit feedback from converts and dissenters alike.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Declaration Of Independence, July 4, 1776.

Well did Thomas Jefferson write that the powers which government possesses must come from only one of two sources: the consent of the governed; or from the sword. To understand the remainder of this diary entry, you must keep this in mind: our government’s powers are given to it from the citizens themselves.

In 1968, Former Secretary Of Agriculture, Ezra T. Benson, gave a speech wherein he outlined the proper role of government. In his talk, Secretary Benson said: “The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place.” He concluded by stating: “This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act.” But what does this mean? I can best illustrate it by an example:

Suppose three individuals were hopelessly marooned on a large Pacific island. Soon afterwards, they began planting seeds and tilling the ground for their inevitable long stay. In sum, they become island farmers. Over the course of time, disputes arose, and the first farmer accused the second farmer of stealing his seeds and wrecking his thatch hut. The second farmer likewise accused the first of running through his fields and ruining his harvest. Soon these individuals realized that they could not stay awake at all hours of the night watching over their crops and homes, so they appointed the third farmer to act as a sort of watchdog. Each promised to pay the third farmer a portion of their harvest if he would–in lieu of farming–keep an eye on their respective plots and property. At this precise moment government is born.

The two farmers acknowledge each other’s respective right of self-defense, and the defense of their property, and through the third farmer they have delegated this right. Logically then it follows that they could not possibly delegate to the third farmer a power which they themselves could not rightfully do alone. It is this concept which underlies our Declaration of Independence–government gets its power solely from the consent of the governed and one cannot consent to give it a power that he does not possess himself.

Therefore, in addressing what powers our federal government may exercise, and understanding that its powers come from the governed, we must ask ourselves: “Absent government, could I demand this of my neighbor?” If I have no right to break down the door of my neighbor’s house in order to take his property to pay for my health care, then how am I able to delegate such authority to my government? The answer is simple: I cannot.

Not only our Declaration of Independence, but also our Constitution recognize this principle. With this in mind, consider the myriad of government programs now in effect and while looking at them ask: “Could I demand that my neighbor pay for such a thing in the absence of government?” If not, then government cannot demand it either.

Both political parties have lost this concept. One or both must return to it or a collapse is inevitable. I am confident that a few good people will come forward and espouse the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and thus serve to check the growth and power of a government without restraint.

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