Leviathan and Prairie Dogs
Last week a Federal judge ordered Department of Justice lawyers to attend ethics classes after finding they had committed “unseemly and unprofessional conduct” by being “intentionally deceptive” in proceedings regarding a lawsuit brought by 26 states against President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The judge also hinted that had he the power, the government lawyers involved would be summarily disbarred.
Disbarment would be nice, but lawyers with the full weight of the Federal government behind them lying to the legal representatives of 26 sovereign states and a Federal judge actually seems to call for a more severe penalty. Old school tarring and feathering, perhaps. But we live in the times we live in, so they’ll take an ethics class, undoubtedly taught by a fellow lawyer. The incident does, however, serve as a reminder that our real problem isn’t necessarily the representatives we elect, but is instead the vast bureaucracy, of which politicians are merely the face we see.
The government is often described, thanks to Hobbes, as a ‘Leviathan’, calling to mind images of a great, ravenous sea serpent. A huge, monstrous government is of course bad and a thing to be avoided. But a Leviathan would in many ways be preferable to what we actually have; large, lone monsters are after all conspicuous and if you know where it lives there’s at least a chance you can kill it. This is unfortunately not the case with our government.
Our current government is more like a huge system of prairie dog burrows. Sure, a politician or a few DoJ lawyers may poke their heads above ground every now and then and get themselves picked off, but for every one you pick off there are ten more down there, digging and breeding, breeding and digging. Sitting in the bed of the truck with a 6-pack and a rifle may be fun, but you aren’t really solving the problem. You’re really only getting rid of the ones dumb enough to get themselves shot.
The size of the Federal government is always much commented upon by conservative politicians: 89,000 IRS employees, 113,000 co-workers of those ethically challenged lawyers at Justice, etc. But the state of California employs some 2 million people. Arkansas has more than 60,000 state employees in a state of only 3 million people. It’s worth remembering that none of these people actually produces anything.
Granted, some of these people are necessary. The numbers do include law enforcement agencies and teachers (whether or not taxpayers are getting their money’s worth from a lot of those teachers is obviously debatable). But taxpayers aren’t just picking up their year-to-year salaries: many state and local governments face a future of serious pension and retirement fund liabilities.
Many good, honest, hard-working people work for government agencies. Most of them aren’t lying DoJ lawyers or IRS agents targeting conservative organizations. But we also have to constantly remind ourselves, and the elected officials who vote to fund all of these disparate government agencies, of O’Sullivan’s Law. The drift of our society to the left both socially and economically, belied by actual electoral success of nominal Republicans in Congress and in many of the states, ultimately isn’t actually led by senators or presidents. Any government institution, if not closely monitored by a vigilant taxpaying electorate, will continue to grow in size, unchecked, seizing ever more authority for itself. The prairie dogs will breed and dig, dig and breed, until the tunnels can no longer support the weight of the earth above, and it collapses.
Leave a Reply.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.