Tooooo Much Government

When I consider the so-called Liberals of these times, I find it impossible to compare them favorably with a man whose works I wish they would read, Henry David Thoreau.  Do I agree entirely with Thoreau?  No.  I think some of the stuff he wrote is appalling.  Nonetheless, the man grounded himself in the real world, and he was thoughtful and eloquent.  I wish I could do as well.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.  — Henry David Thoreau’s WALDEN

What is desperation?  Is it not like drowning?  When someone is drowning, it is sometimes difficult to tell.  The water over a drowning man obscures our vision of that poor soul, and the water filling the victim’s lungs impedes communications.  Nonetheless, the drowning one knows his plight.  He screams inside in fear and desperation.   If he gives in to his fears, he writhes and thrashes the water in futility.

They say we are descended from apes.   They say that we have inherited an ancient relic, the fight or flight response.   Perhaps this instinct’s source does lie in the genes of long dead beasts.   Whatever its source, when we are full of fear, we too easily panic like a dumb beast.  Instead of thinking and trusting our own judgment, we can be tempted to rely upon confident oratory.   Then we compound our foolishness.

No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire. Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufacturers and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations. For eighteen hundred years, though perchance I have no right to say it, the New Testament has been written; yet where is the legislator who has wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himself of the light which it sheds on the science of legislation? — Henry David Thoreau’s ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Our leaders cannot really run or fix our lives.   When our leaders try to run everything, they just get in over their heads with a weight that drags them down.    When they carry the load of so many others, they find they no longer know how to swim any better than anyone else.  Yet how they try.  They thrash and kick and destroy anyone who stands between them and the object of their desire.  They make a mess.  To keep their own heads above the waves, they pull all others down.

Unfortunately, so long as absurd promises win elections, there will be men foolish enough to make them.  So it is that last November we elected Barak Obama and a Democratic Party majority Congress.  We elected an experienced orator with almost no experience as an  executive.  We elected a Congress that considers the average man little better than a domesticated beast.  We elected men and women who detest any possibility that we might make a decision without their guidance, approval, and control.

So we now find ourselves in danger of sinking further into the depths.  Fortunately, the first panic has subsided.  If we have chosen to do so, we have had time to think.  What can we do?

What is at issue?  In a free nation, men and women know how to define civil rights, and they defer to each other’s civil rights.  Instead of being regarded as royalty, political leaders vie to be the People’s greatest servants.  Does that describe our situation?  No.  Of course not, but why not?

Consider the nature of leadership.  We give the men and women and who lead us great power — and great temptation.   What does the Bible say?

Matthew 26:41 (New International Version)
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

When We the People give some of our fellows leadership over us, we acquire a great responsibility.  For the sake of their souls, we must hold them accountable.   We must see to it that those who lead us do not give way temptation.  We must limit the authority of our leaders and keep them accountable.  We do that in several ways.

  • We limit the size and power of government by limiting its responsibilities.  What we can do for ourselves, we do for ourselves.
  • We divide government into separate branches:   executive, legislative, and judicial.
  • We further divide government into hierarchical, but independent levels:  local, state and federal.
  • Finally, we write down our laws.  These generally prohibit individual from doing anything that would interfere with another’s life or liberty.  On the other hand, these laws authorized government — and our leaders — to do only that which is needful.

Our laws allow us to hold our leaders accountable.  We can point to them and say when they have exceeded their authority.  This obligation is our responsibility and our salvation.  With laws we can point to our leaders’ proposals and demand restraint.  With laws we can point to our leaders’ infractions and demand their removal.  Yet we have not done that.   As any fool can see, our government has ballooned enormously.  Inevitably, the rights of the People have diminished, and our leaders look more and more like royalty.

We exercise accountability over our leaders through elections, and we form political parties to both promote our candidates and hold our elected officials accountable.   Unfortunately, like anything else, political parties too are subject to slow corruption.  Instead of serving as the voices of the People, over time our political parties have come to serve the “needs” of our leaders.  Instead of being mechanisms by which our leaders can be held to account, our political parties have slowly become tools through which our leaders exercise control.

In Virginia, this problem has become all to obvious.  Last May, the Republican Party of Virginia held a convention.   It was apparent then that our leaders were not particularly satisfied with the results.  Instead of their preferred candidate, the delegates chose Jeff Frederick.  Because the results were not even close, they were neither contested nor publicized.

Since his election, much effort has been expended to remove Frederick.  Why?  Many suspect the worst.  Instead of making the party responsive to its candidates, Frederick threatened to make the party responsive to its members.   So no one expected the party’s candidates, particularly incumbents, to like Frederick.  A party responsive to its members will hold candidates accountable.

The Battle Over the Republican Party of Virginia

Is it possible Frederick needs to be replaced?  I am not so stubborn I cannot be persuaded.  However, with the involvement of the political leadership, I have every reason to be highly suspicious.  Consider how the Washington Post put it.

By challenging Frederick, McDonnell has picked a fight with some of his party’s most loyal supporters. Frederick, a social and economic conservative, was elected chairman at last year’s GOP state convention after he waged a campaign to unseat John H. Hager, a moderate, from the position. Frederick cobbled together a coalition of several thousand antiabortion and anti-tax activists as well as home-schoolers, many of the same delegates who supported Del. Robert G. Marshall (Prince William) over former governor James S. Gilmore III in the Senate race.

Until last week, McDonnell appeared to be embracing a strategy of marginalizing Frederick and the state party during this year’s governor’s race. Last month, McDonnell announced that lobbyist and former Bush administration official Ed Gillespie, who chaired the state GOP committee in 2007, would be his campaign chairman.

The hire was widely believed to be an indication that McDonnell was building a campaign apparatus that would largely bypass the state party. But McDonnell is now signaling he wants more control over the party apparatus. It’s understandable for a Republican nominee to want to have a close working relationship with the state party chairman, but McDonnell must now also face the potential consequences associated with his decision to try to remove Frederick. (from here)

We are also getting is what is known as the bandwagon effect.

Here and here Virginia Virtucon and Bearing Drift report how nine GOP chairs (out of 130) have called for Frederick to go quietly.

JNotes takes issue (here) with Frederick’s scorched earth policy.  How rude!  Instead of rolling over and playing dead, Frederick went public!  He is actually fighting back?

Mason Conservative woefully wishes that for the good of the party Frederick would resign.  Has he forgotten that ours is suppose to be a society that elevates the rights of the individual?

I call again for Chairman Frederick to help avoid the bloodbath and please resign so we can move forward for our ticket.  (from here)

RedState here is less woeful.  Is this merely about pure power politics?  Should we just set Frederick’s dead corpse aside and make deal (here)?

Here Bearing Drift lists the charges.  There are ten of them.  What a nice round number!

Here not too Conservative TooConservative reports the state Senate Republicans don’t like Frederick.  That’s a surprise?

Nonetheless, there are still a few voices expressing doubt or speaking out in support of Frederick.

Bacon’s Rebellion, using the words of James Bowden, provides a thoughtful commentary hereHere is some of what Bowden has to say at his own blog.

Virginia Conservative’s Weblog provides an orderly review of the situation and offers this comment.

Things are bad, yes, but do they warrant Chairman Frederick’s removal?  Right now I don’t know.  However, as Chairman Frederick fights for his political life and his opponents gather their forces, I don’t think any vicious new chapter to this conflict will surprise me.   Nothing defeats the Republican Party quite as well as the Republican Party itself.  (from here)

Yankee Phillip posted Frederick’s response to the charges (here).

Leslie Carbone provides her straightforward support here, and the Skeptical Observer concurs (here).

Virginia Virtucon notes here that:  “The independently-created RPVNetwork on-line forum has seen a “We Support Chairman Jeff Frederick” group form.”

Even blogs from outside the state have something to say (here, for example). offers an interesting analysis here.  What is most interesting about Kenney’s article is that he notes that Delegate Bob Marshall and Virginia AG candidate and current Senator Ken Cuccinelli have remained neutral.  Instead of taking sides, both of these men provide warning.  If the perception remains that Frederick is being railroaded, the party will be divided.

Meanwhile, Democrat blogs are reveling in a “house divided.”  Here Coarse Cracked Corn reports “the Augusta Republican Committee passed a resolution of support for Jeff Frederick.”  Here Blue Virginia cheers for Jeff.  There is much more of that, but why bother to review it?

What can we do?  Those individuals who plan on attending this year’s Virginia Republican Convention need to make their concerns known.  If we are to have justice and not a lynching, we cannot allow either ourselves or the State Central Committee to thrash and flounder in desperation.  We must demand an orderly and open process.


  1. I suppose I should answer your last question. Political parties are collectives, and YES, they should limit themselves. What happens when they do not is that we end up with a one (or two) party system.


  2. kgotthardt –
    1. What the Federal Government exists to do is to enforce cooperation and uniformity between the states where it is NEEDED — no more, no less.
    2. When one state government is fouling things up, and people decide to leave, why choose to make that the problem. Would you stop people from voting with their feet? Is the problem the fact government is making a mess or that people are leaving?
    3. Corporations have government charters. Without government’s legal recognition and laws that support them (limited liability, for example), they would not exist.
    4. Please read the Republican Creed.


  3. Okay, so let’s suppose the Federal Government had fewer rules, employees, offices, bureaucrats and general B.S. Let’s say the states had more authority. Doesn’t this mean the rules and laws would greatly vary from state to state? What if one state were preferred over another? Would everyone flock there, leaving businesses floundering in the unpopular state? This happens now, I know, but would the phenomenon become worse?

    Interesting that you say corporations are created by government. I thought they were created by Wall Street, but perhaps we are both right to some extent. One feeds off another.

    Incidentally, I find this concept an oxymoron and ironic, though I know what you are saying: “To hold fast to its ideals, what the Republican Party must do is promote candidates that strive for limiting the power of collectives.”

    Isn’t a party a collective? Therefore, shouldn’t it limit itself?


  4. kgotthardt — Thank you for the comment. Given the nature of your website, I am not surprised you are a Thoreau enthusiast. You ended with a question.

    Can your party and/or party leader give us what we all need–we, the people who are so diverse and often at the mercy of those in power, whether in business or government?

    Why does government and business threaten us? The problem is a matter of choice. Government is monopolistic. When government takes over any endeavor, such as education, we are stuck with the choices made by government officials. Similarly, large business enterprises can eliminate alternatives. Consider Microsoft. If you do not like Windows, you are stuck.

    Powerful people become powerful and dangerous because they put themselves at the head of large collectives. Corporations, for example, are big collectives. Government is the biggest collective of all.

    What can we do? Remember this statement in my post.

    We limit the size and power of government by limiting its responsibilities. What we can do for ourselves, we do for ourselves.

    When government does what we can do for ourselves, or when the Federal Government does what state or local governments could do just as well, we have just given some people more power over us than we should have given them.

    Consider also that corporations are creations of government. When a corporation serves no necessary purpose, when our laws alone allow it to grow in size, or when its CEO does not have to answer to the stockholders, that corporation becomes nothing more than an abuse of government power.

    So what can the Republican Party do? To hold fast to its ideals, what the Republican Party must do is promote candidates that strive for limiting the power of collectives.

    What politicians do is seek compromise. Compromise is the essence of producing legislation, but some compromises compromise our principles. What the Republican Party must do is promote politicians willing put their principles ahead self aggrandizement and bringing home the bacon. Unfortunately, that is far easier said than done.


  5. Whoa. Another brilliant Tomistic entry.

    Of course, you mention Thoreau, so you immediately caught my attention, which means I must now provide a wordy response. Sorry. I have a sketch of Henry David Thoreau on my living room wall. I have a rubbing from his grave. I have photos of his desk which is now preserved in a Concord museum. You get the picture.

    Above all else, Thoreau was an individualist. He did not allow society or government or trends to impede on his desire to go to the woods and live deliberately. While some like to say Thoreau wasn’t any great hero for camping out in his own back yard, I would argue that when one is from a wealthy, prestigious family, giving it all up for a cabin and notebook is pretty brave–never mind living many lives including that of a pencil-maker.

    In each of his lives, Thoreau was a man of conscience. He got locked up for refusing to pay taxes to fund a war he believed was unjust. He revered the natural world. He spoke and wrote about what he believed. He was a teacher and philosopher. He was a caring rebel.

    And while Thoreau was also an orator,he wasn’t a politician. Obviously, Thoreau didn’t hold politicians in high esteem.

    So what should we learn from Thoreau? Here is what I believe:

    1. Hold to your ideals even when they are not popular.

    2. Don’t trust politicians or government.

    3. Protect your individuality.

    Assuming we buy into Thoreau’s tenets, how then do we run a country based on 1-3?

    Our country was founded on individualism, pride and respect for freedom. Overweening government is in direct opposition to those qualities. But here’s what it comes down to. Rotten people are rotten people, whether they are rotten in government or in the free market. And when rotten people control power and wealth, most of us pay the price.

    Government and business must balance, and each must be held accountable in some way. If business could regulate itself, there would be no issue. If government could regulate itself, there would be no issue. The problem is, neither politicians nor big-business folks want to regulate themselves or their friends. They are like children who will binge on Oreos the moment mother leaves the kitchen.

    You make a great point that political parties destroy themselves when they serve their political candidates and elected officials as masters instead of serving the people who are attempting to elect what they consider a viable leader.

    To me, parties are self destructive in that, as you say, they focus on candidates. But in doing so, they also create artificial divisions that grow stronger every time the fight becomes “our guy vs. your guy” instead of, “How can we resolve common problems?”

    Well, how DO we?

    It’s easy to blame everything on government or business. It’s easy to scapegoat and finger point. It’s a lot harder to make government work for all of us.

    When I hear things like, “This is a Republican philosophy” or “This is a Democratic philosophy,” I cringe. I see Thoreau’s philosophy rolled into two clusters where people in each cluster nod and applaud at whatever their leaders say.
    It’s group-think that does not respect the individual in the party and only encourages respect for the candidate and the person who supports that candidate in every aspect at all costs. After all, the goal is to win, is it not? How can you win if you don’t all believe the same things?

    I don’t know much about parties, but what I am hearing is that the Republican party is perceived as splitting. The elephant in the room (sorry….couldn’t help it) is “Why?”

    I think if there were more acceptance of each other’s ideas within a party instead of the usual, “well, you’re too liberal for our party,” or “you’re too conservative,” the party would be stronger.

    The problem is that members of the party are not respecting the individuality of each member because they believe if they do, they will cease to have a party. But in doing this, they are indeed destroying the party.

    It’s hard to serve people. It’s hard to know what to do when there are conflicting needs. But good government is made up of LEADERS, not politicians. LEADERS find solutions that give everyone enough of what they need–not everything, but enough. The rest is indeed up to us.

    Can your party and/or party leader give us what we all need–we, the people who are so diverse and often at the mercy of those in power, whether in business or government?

    So far, I’ve never seen a party that has.

    I am hoping, one day, to see a LEADER who does.


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