Saturday, March 18, 2006

True Power

Conservatives often couch their frame their criticism of government in terms of "power". As in Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan's assertion that:
Money is power, more money for the government is more power for the government. More power for the government will allow it to, among many other things, amuse itself by putting its fingers in a million pies, and stop performing its essential functions well, and get dizzily distracted by nonessentials, and muck up everything. Which is more or less where we are.
Yet as Josh Marshall points out, the problems the country currently faces have nothing to do with government tax rates. The point is intended to discredit politicians who propose taxes to cover the expenses of new or existing programs. It is even less salient when you view it in the context of conservative "fiscal responsibility". Ramping up expenditures while refusing to fund them for political reasons is not conservative, its irresponsible.

To add to that, concern for the growth of government power is important, yet focusing on its expanding role in social/economic programs while providing a pass for a boom in law enforcement powers misses the real issue.

In the end, the government's greatest power is to deprive its citizens of liberty. It does this through the its law enforcement powers. It's why we have the fourth through the eighth amendments, to protect the citizens from potential abuses of government power.

The expansion of government programs does increase the governments involvement in the lives of ordinary Americans, but it doesn't add to its power. Expanding law enforcement powers while rolling back judicial and public oversight is a much greater threat to basic freedoms.

- Murphy

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