Ongoing coverage of street protests over recent grand jury verdicts regarding two black men who died in policing situations was eclipsed late in the week by the release of a U.S. Senate report on interrogation tactics no longer used by the Central Intelligence Agency. Let me start by saying I’m sure abuses happen in our government services because, after all, we’re all human. I also strongly believe that our government officials should be held to a higher standard. However, I hate to second-guess those who shoulder the tasks of maintaining the safety of our nation’s citizens in very difficult situations.
My perspective may be due to the fact that I’ve had very limited dealings with either the police or our judicial system. So perhaps it’s due to that experience level that I believe these institutions do a pretty good job overall. Similarly, I’ve talked to people who have dealt with the judicial system, for instance, and their overwhelming opinion is that the system is too arbitrary, largely unchecked and has far too much power over individuals’ lives.
Similarly, I hear the same from disgruntled citizens forced to deal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They say the agency has all the power, it is arbitrary in its decisions, and citizens have no recourse. Just as community police perform the job they are paid to do, IRS agents have a job to do. I think we’re mad at the wrong people. It’s not their fault directly, but rather the unchecked power of the government that employs them.
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In my home state of Colorado, we’ve been dealing with a proposed national monument designation and endangered species listing. While most Americans would agree in principle with the goals of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior, many citizens who must deal with these entities have an entirely different opinion.
My theory is that your support of any government entity is directly tied to your level of interaction with that entity. If you haven’t had to interact with our judicial system, IRS, EPA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or some other regulatory entity, you likely are generally supportive of what they do. The more interaction you have had with that regulatory entity, however, the more likely you are to believe they are overreaching, overly powerful and have a tendency to apply their power in an unfair and capricious manner.
We are a society of laws and rules, which are necessary if the system is to function. However, the greatest threat to freedom and society is almost always increased government power and overreach. The goals might be good, and the people charged with enacting the policies are usually not inherently evil, but the problem is that government always seeks more power. And that power always comes at the expense of freedom, liberty, free enterprise, and individual rights and dignity.
Very few endangered species get delisted; instead, the incentive is to list more. Government regulation, oversight and power never decline; they constantly seek more. The reason that everyone laughs when they hear the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” is because we inherently know that statement is the very definition of an oxymoron.
The challenge for any society is to have enough government to allow freedom and progress to exist, but to limit government so that freedom and progress are not taken away.
The great irony is that politics prevent us from addressing the obvious, and instead focus on the minutiae. Perhaps the government wants it that way to keep us all just a little bit distracted.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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