many of us believed that bureaucratic beasts could be
transformed into community saints if only WE were in
charge. We were naïve and arrogant, having no respect for the
nature of these beasts, or their corrupting influence on all
who touch them."
In April 2001, I represented the Sutherland
Institute, a Utah think tank, at a Heritage Foundation
Resource Bank Meeting for the world's "conservative" policy
leaders in Philadelphia. If you haven't had the joy of
attending such a gathering, imagine a very long church meeting
with speakers conversing in the tongue of academia — rather
than Latin or archaic English.
This particular conference was a little more
exciting (I could actually stay awake). George Bush had just
defeated Al Gore for the presidency, ending the Clinton era of
infamy. The policy gurus were atwitter at the chance
conservatives had to reshape American politics.
Speakers boasted that the
conservative movement would finally seize control of the
various government agencies that had abused Americans for
decades. They theorized how these agencies could be forced to
do our bidding, and thereby accomplish great good.
As examples, we would redirect
millions in government subsidies away from groups we opposed
and toward church efforts under the guise of "faith based
initiatives." We would subsidize private research promoting
"conservative" ideals. Heritage Foundation representatives
were anxious to end years of harassment by the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS), and spoke of turning these same hounds
loose on our enemies. And certainly, we would reinvigorate the
military through massive funding.
After one panel of scholars and
experts had finished patting themselves on the backs for their
cleverness, they called for questions. I rose to the
microphone for the express purpose of dropping a proverbial
turd in their swimming pool.
What were they thinking? Limited
government advocates finally had an opportunity to slash and
burn this federal monster that had viciously oppressed us all.
Yet, rather than destroy the beast, they were attempting to
saddle and ride it. Their efforts would surely fail and
backfire against the cause they claimed to be pursuing.
The panelists gave no
substantive reply. They denounced the impracticality of
thinking we could cut government significantly, and concluded
that we must focus our energies on making government suit our
agenda. Which agenda, I wondered aloud?
I spent the remainder of the
conference attempting to rally others against this agenda, to
little avail. Most attendees were salivating at the potential
impact on their think tank and/or activist organization
budgets. Who was I to interrupt this veritable gold rush? In
later months, my own organization succumbed to the same
mentality, and wholly abandoned its direction and principles.
Eight years later, the folly of
these "leaders" is evident. The Bush regime's most significant
feat was to tarnish the idea of limited government to the
point of irrelevance. With help from hypocritical Christians
and so-called conservatives, today's federal Leviathan is
larger and more intrusive than ever. Our economy is in ruins
because we exacerbated the problems caused by financial
monopolies that control our government.
Why did we fail to turn our
nation around? In our zeal to promote limited government, free
will, and justice, we ignored a vital lesson: How we attempt
to achieve those ideals is as important as the ideals
Too many of us believed that
bureaucratic beasts could be transformed into community saints
if only we were in charge. We were naïve and arrogant,
having no respect for the nature of these beasts, or their
corrupting influence on all who touch them.
How quickly we fled to the
dulling might and force of governments and other institutions
whenever we perceived a problem! This foolishness has
historically enabled Caesars and Popes to rise, and tyrannical
empires and regimes to be born.
Mankind has yet to comprehend
that more ideal governments and societies are only possible
when enough people stop looking to behemoth bureaucracies and
corrupt "leaders" for answers. We must each learn to control
our own arrogance and lust for power, and strive to become
independent of harmful external influences.
We must look inward for answers,
relying upon our innate gifts of reason, intuition, and sense
of what is just and unjust. As a consequence, we will
naturally reject charlatans and those who compromise core
ideals. We will have no interest in saddling and riding
beasts, but will recognize the evil they represent, and will
slay them at every opportunity.
In a world bordering on tyranny
and collapse, such independent persons will soon be in high
demand again — worth more than food, gold, and scriptures.
Fortunately, we need not rely upon the Heritage Foundations,
churches, and other mind-numbing institutions of the world to
train and recruit them. They will rise to the occasion because
it is the natural thing for them to do.
Hopefully, there will be enough
of them to raise the world above our self-inflicted distresses
and toward a higher plane of harmonious existence.