The president still doesn’t get it. In the past few weeks, Americans have been bombarded with massive government failures and overreaches. We know about the NSA snooping, the IRS and DOJ targeting of Conservatives as well as reporters. Ah, the First Amendment’s such an anachronism.
Then there’s the EPA. ObamaCare now costs double what they thought it would. Amnesty, yeah the list goes on and on. So what does the president have the gall to say just yesterday?
President Obama: And I directed the cabinet to develop an aggressive management agenda for my second term that delivers a smarter, more innovative, and more accountable government for its citizens.
Ah, yes, that’s all we need. We’ll just make our massive, bloated government smarter. Why didn’t I think of that? His view on government is so warped, listen to how he describes the government-citizen relationship.
President Obama: And it’s a reminder that in this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better. We can’t just stand on the sidelines. We can’t take comfort in just being cynical. We all have a stake in government success because the government is us. And we’re doing things right.
I take a lot of comfort in being cynical when he’s the president. And we’re doing things right? You must be joking. Well, he’s not joking. But something tells me he’s not entirely accurate on that, that something that begins with the number 17, has about 12 zeros after it. The president’s description of the government-citizen relationship is fundamentally opposed to what the founders intended. He still thinks it’s the government that is America’s primary engine, not the people, not you at home. No, no, it’s government.
And since we’re vested in government because we’re paying taxes; therefore, we are what government needs, we must cheer for it to get bigger and solve everything and just give us big warm hugs. This is a statist ideology. They think they know better than you. They think they’re smarter than you, and they will try to force their will on the people.
And when we don’t go along with it, by the way, they have to find a way to enforce their will.
I believe the president has called this “going on his own without Congress.” Well, how does he do that? This is what’s key. This is what I want to talk to you about today – with a petty little army of petty bureaucrats, meddling Commissars, these groups, these agencies that harass, intimidate, and break the will of the people to be free. That’s happening every day now in America, all across this country.
The growth and power of the statist federal bureaucracy is a timeless threat. It does not go away with elections. It just gets bigger year after year. And the soulless, unaccountable edifices of a regulatory and legal bureaucracy in America that eradicates our liberty is something that is an existential threat to constitutional principles. As they say in the State Department, presidents come and go, but the department, well, that’s forever.
Now that’s true as well of DHS, FBI, HHS, EPA. I could keep going, because there’s a slew of bloated, quasi-authoritarian government agencies. This has caused a dramatic shift in the relationship of American citizens with the state. It’s a situation fundamentally of us versus them. It’s comprised of government agencies on one side and all of us, the citizens, who by the way are paying for those agencies, on the other.
The targeting of the Tea Party by the IRS was just one symptom of this much larger and more pernicious disease. We know from the NSA that we have no rights that they will not concede to us, and if they so choose, they can just dig up every phone call, Facebook post, e-mail, instant message. Whatever you’ve written your whole life, they can pull it all out, right? Oh, they can, but is for your safety, they’ll tell you. That’s what they’ll say. It’s to protect us from terrorists.
All of us are treated with this suspicion. All of us are treated as though we can’t figure out on our own what rights we should and should not be allowed to enjoy in this country, and it’s because bureaucrats feel empowered to intimidate us at will regardless of what the Constitution says.
Look, I can tell you as a former government employee myself, always be skeptical of those who wield power but not prestige, who operate without public approval but who can inflict endless damage on the public and on the Constitution in situations like this:
Officer: I need you to just pull right over to the side right there, right there.
Male: Am I being detained?
Officer: Pull over to the side right there.
Male: Am I being detained, or am I free to go?
Officer: Pull over to the side right there. Okay, step on out.
Male: So I’m being detained?
Officer: Either pull over to the other side, or you can step out right here. Which do you want?
Apparently that elicits a laugh these days or perhaps a roll of the eyes. He’s perfectly innocent. He knows his rights. He knows the Constitution, so let’s harass, intimidate, and belittle him. That was at a drunk-driving stop. They decided that they were going to go after this guy because he happened to know that what they were doing was not legal in the eyes of the Constitution.
Bureaucratic assaults on freedom are increasingly commonplace. We are being conditioned as a society to accept this. Recently, a man faced 11 years in jail for chalk drawings on the street which you could get rid of by pouring water on them, or they would just go away with the rain. Now, the prosecution went forward with this. A jury acquitted him of all charges, by the way. Thankfully, I guess you can still rely on a jury of your peers when the statist bureaucrats run amok, but not always, and it shouldn’t be that way.
And it’s not just as though this is a once-in-a-while thing. A Pittsburgh man, for example – this is a smaller issue, but I’m sure it matters to him –
has four pet ducks, and authorities want to fine him $500 a day for it because they’re calling it unlicensed poultry rising. They’re his pets. They say he’s raising poultry.
America’s most treasured citizens, by the way, veterans, who every politician’s always saying we must do everything we can for our veterans, the federal government apparently does a lot for them, because they give them tons of forms, 613 across 18 different federal agencies in order to get the full range of benefits. That makes a ton of sense, doesn’t it – 600, 600-plus?
What do all of these things, what do all of these transgressions have in common? Spiteful, stupid, or careless bureaucrats who took it upon themselves to punish citizens, go far beyond any rational judgment, in many cases to just forget about the Constitution and interpret the law as they see fit. And it’s not just there. We see this at the 30,000-foot level as well. The tax code, it’s 70,000 pages. Why is that?
Criminal statutes are in the 4,500 range now, going up all the time. That’s quite an increase from the original three named in the Constitution. Nobody even knows how many laws there are. The people that are supposed to enforce them and bring prosecutions couldn’t even tell you.
And it’s not like these laws are written by intellectual giants – Aristotle, Kant, Edmund Burke. No, we have people of the mental capacity of Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz creating moronic laws that could easily send you to jail for the rest of your life or at least ruin your life through a stupid prosecution.
Amoral bureaucracy is the greatest single threat to American liberty today. The world has seen this before, by the way. This is not a new concept, not a new idea. It’s one we must pay very serious attention to, though.
In 2010, Glenn warned you that America was repeating many of the same mistakes that caused the decline and collapse of the Roman Empire. The comparisons he cited are chilling. For example, declining moral values and civility – check, an overextended military – check, irresponsible fiscal policy – big check. I want to add one more to Glenn’s list, by the way – the tyranny of bureaucrats.
I believe that in many ways that contributed to, caused, or amplified all of the other symptoms that brought ancient Rome to its knees, that dissolved the Empire and led us, by the way, into centuries of darkness known as the Dark Ages. Rome was not perfect, not at all. There were absolutely moral failings, but it was functional. It worked. People wanted to be citizens of the Republic. But then something changed, gradually, but unquestionably, the separation of the government from the governed.
All of a sudden, this bureaucracy that was supposed to be there to support and assist the people and implement the law, Rome became a tyranny of bureaucrats. It all changed. And it was characterized by – see if any of this sounds familiar to you right now here in America – regulation, inflation, taxation. These are massive problems now just as they were crippling problems then.
But there’s something more visceral at work than that, the res publica. This is the Latin term from which we derive republic, and it means the public thing, the idea that there was more than just what you were doing day to day. There was something greater, an idea that was worth fighting for, that was worth believing in. That evaporated in Rome, and it evaporated in large part because the politicians, the tax collectors, and yes, even the military in ancient Rome began to operate solely for their own benefit.
They became simply too numerous, too powerful, and like a swarm of locusts, they descended upon the people and took from them. Now from Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, we can take just one quote to illustrate this: “The number of ministers, of magistrates, of officers, and of servants, who filled the different departments of the state, was multiplied beyond the example of former times; and (if we may borrow the warm expression of a contemporary) ‘when the proportion of those who received exceeded the proportion of those who contributed the provinces were oppressed by the weight of tributes.’”
The bureaucrats were just taking too much, asking for too much, wanted too much. A rapacious, insatiable bureaucracy taxed the people beyond anyone’s imagination. They increased taxes dramatically and almost continuously over the course of a couple centuries, by the way. And this led directly to Rome’s demise, as did the debasement of currency needed to try to prop up this rapacious bureaucracy.
What did they do, by the way, other than just raise taxes? They started to ignore and flaunt the law. In Rome under Emperor Domitian, assets of the rich were seized. They just said you’re really rich. We’re going to take some your stuff. Oh, you don’t think that could happen now? Under Caracalla, another emperor, they said that there was some victory far away that required a tribute from a province nearby, another means of raising revenue.
Now, the military apparatus became absolutely all-powerful. Emperors came and went very quickly because the military became the sole source of legitimacy. The Praetorian Guard played kingmaker. They cared not a whit for citizens. They were involved in assassination plots. They were deciding what was best for them. They didn’t care about the average citizen.
And as the bureaucracy grew, and it needed more, it also became more authoritarian. It became less legitimate, and eventually in the Fifth Century, Rome ceased to exist. There was no more Rome. The res publica was gone. It had rotted from the inside out, and those who were supposed to administer the state to protect citizens and help the Roman polity function, they were the ones that did it in.
The collapse of Rome was caused in large part by a government that was simply too big and too self-interested. It was a failure of political culture. It was the destruction of the res publica. Meanwhile, today, our president wants to believe he can solve the nation’s ills by simply making a bloated, massive bureaucracy smart. But the only smart government is a small government, a small government that seeks to keep its people as free as possible.
Tonight, we discuss how petty bureaucrats have helped bring down great empires throughout history, and we’re going to look at how modern bureaucrats today are slowly strangling our freedom. Unless we stand against this, it will bring about our decline and fall.