Thursday, January 05, 2006

The government steamroller

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ: The Steamroller.

People in government--people in a huge, sprawling government--often get carried away. And they don't always even mean to. But they are little tiny parts of a large and overwhelming thing. If government is a steamroller, and that is in good part how I see it, the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel. The force of forward motion carries them along. There is inevitably an unaccountability, and in time often an indifference about what the steamroller rolls over. All the busy little atoms are watching each other, competing with each other, winning one for their little cluster. And no one is looking out and being protective of what the steamroller is rolling over--traditions, shared beliefs, individual rights, old assumptions, whatever is being rolled over today.

This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don't like big government. They don't even like government. We know we have to have one, that it is necessary, that it can and must do good, that it has real responsibilities that must be met. Madison again, in Federalist 51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself."

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