Government of Anointed Intellectuals
The more government tries to fix something, the worse it gets. New England yankees used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Government, however, goes by the aphorism “If it ain’t broke, we’ll keep on fixing it ’til it is.”
In his most recent book Intellectuals and Society, economist Thomas Sowell dichotomizes Americans into those who view the world with a “tragic vision” and those who look at it with the “vision of the anointed.” The former believe the world will always be less than perfect, but people have the liberty to pursue happiness - and whether they succeed or fail is up to them. The “anointed,” though, believe they have superior wisdom, and with it, they can perfect the world if people will just do what they say. They would use government to impose their vision on everyone else, like it or not.Thomas Sowell
Those of us with a tragic vision see the Constitution as limiting government, which is a necessary evil. The anointed see the Constitution as something to get around so they can use government to “fix” everything. They see human nature as evolving and perfectible. They see no limit to what legislation can accomplish, and see nothing as immutable because they are anointed with superior wisdom. They believe, for example, that the law of supply and demand can be repealed if they will it. But the supply and demand dynamic isn’t the result of legislation; it just exists - always has and always will - independent of the anointed’s ability to discover it or define it. Government can outlaw drugs, prostitution or child pornography, but if there’s a demand, a supply will emerge. In spite of massive expenditures of money and manpower, the best government can do is reduce the supply somewhat and drive up prices. We learned that between the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution, which were monuments to government overreach. The anointed thought they could ban alcohol and found out they couldn’t. Government could outlaw it, but if people wanted it, and they did, they’d find a way to get it. Smugglers got rich supplying it whether they were moonshiners or mafioso.
Maine’s government can increase taxes on cigarettes, but as local merchants try to tell them over and over, people will continue to smoke and buy their cigarettes in New Hampshire or elsewhere. Government won’t get more revenue from the increased tax, but less. The same is true of income taxes and mandatory workmen’s compensation insurance. Make them too high and people will find a way to get around them. The underground economy will grow, not government coffers.
Our Founding Fathers rule of thumb was: “That government is best that governs least.” This kernel of wisdom is variously attributed to Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau and, until progressives started using government to “fix” things in the 20th century, it was the American way. It’s the polar opposite of the anointed progressive mantra, which is: “That government is best that governs most.” In the early days of the century, anointed progressives at least had the decency to abide by the Constitution. To expand government power, they passed four amendments. Two were okay, including the 17th - allowing the direct election of US Senators, and the 19th - giving women the vote. The other two, however, were disastrous. The 16th created the income tax, and the 18th prohibited alcohol. Prohibition was repealed after sixteen years by the 21st Amendment and should have been a lesson on the limits of government for all time, but it wasn’t of course.
Progressives lost power in the 1920s. Then, when faced with economic slowdown, conseervative presidents Harding and Coolidge cut taxes and shrunk government. As a result, the economy thrived. Progressives regained control in the thirties however, and tried to “fix” another economic slowdown by creating a huge government bureaucracy. As a result, they prolonged it and turned it into The Great Depression. It might have gone on even longer if World War II hadn’t started. Nonetheless, progressives were able to give us our first major, unsustainable entitlement - social security - which is now bankrupt.
After an 8-year respite under Eisenhower, progressives came back with Johnson’s Great Society which gave us another major, unsustainable, bankrupt entitlement: Medicare. If conservatives hadn’t taken over Congress in 1994, progressives in the Clinton Administration would have given us still another major, unsustainable entitlement: socialized medicine for everyone. Now, in spite of a $12 trillion federal debt and a projected $100 trillion deficit in Social Security and Medicare entitlements, government is about to “fix” a medical system which is the envy of the world. How long will it take before it resembles the department of motor vehicles and the public schools?
Naturally, the president and the anointed progressives in Congress who imposed this upon the rest of us, have exempted themselves.