Tag Archives: State of the Union

Government And The Zero Sum Game

We all endured another of those showy state of the union addresses.  I really don’t like what they have become and have said so before.  Regardless of party or President we should revert to the former ways and have a simple written report to Congress by the Executive.  If they really want a meeting it should be a business meeting.  Bring in the books and records.  Go over those boring but vital details about the costs and functioning of government.  The political speeches have been the norm now for generations and they are pointless and detract from the serious business at hand of governing.  As to be expected from the current incumbent it was a laundry list of new proposals.   I lost count of how many new agencies, commissions and the like were put forth.  Every time there is a new government entity with the powers to enforce new laws we diminish our own freedoms.  The balance between the individual and government is and has always been a zero sum game.

Other than the extreme tree huggers, occupiers and PETA types most of us believe in some amount of government.  That has been true since the earliest days of man.  As soon as we formed cities and some could do other jobs than work the fields for crops, we needed some kind of government to protest ourselves.  That was the first and remains the foremost responsibility of any government–to protect its people from enemies.  The ancient Kings had a bargain with the people even though never overtly expressed.  Me and my army will protect you and in exchange you will pay taxes to support me and my army and ministers.  From those ancient states to those states of today, this has been the bedrock of government whether by King, dictator or elected leader.  Additional layers of government were added to assure prosperity.  Fair and predictable laws for trade  as well as enforcement of standard weights and measures for commerce.   Property rights and family law were established quickly by the ancients and the Romans codified and modified those laws many times over the years.   The criminal laws grew from the mutual fear of random violence and thievery.  The Old Testament is filled with many examples of the growth of government and the laws regulating society.

Each incremental growth of government took away some freedom or right from the individual.   We collectively agreed to cede some of our independence for the protections afforded by a government that protected some people and offered some perceived essential service or infrastructure.  The Roman army built the roads but all of the Romans were benefitted by being able to move the produce to market.   The people had to pay taxes for those roads.  Since the Garden of Eden, nothing has come free.  But they people gave up control over some of their money.  If the government grows the people are diminished in matching increments.  When the benefits are no longer perceived to be worth the loss of rights and property then the government faces revolt by its people.   The collapse of the Soviets is a perfect example of this and the Arab Spring is another from recent headlines.  There is a limit to what the people will allow to be taken from them.  It is not universal around the world.  The mores of each society differ but that there is a limit is without argument.  The “King” must have at least a substantial minority to keep control of the government and the people.   He has his army, bureaucrats dependent on him  and the police and then those that live upon his largesse taken from others in the Kingdom.  But when the tipping point is reached and that magic number (whatever it is) is reached and the people no longer will cede their rights and property to government his reign will fall.

Our government and Constitution is founded on the very notion of limiting how much of our freedoms and property will be ceded to government.  That is what the contract is as set out in the Constitution between governed and government.  Our Founders understood clearly the zero sum game and that is why the Constitution is so restrictive of Federal powers.  Only specific enumerated powers were granted to government and the 9th and 10th Amendments were vital to the passage of the Constitution.  Remember that every law written takes a right of restricts and activity, every regulation bans action or demands others every cent taken in taxes denies a person the free use and exploitation of their own money.  The trick is to find the right balance between the government and governed so that the benefits of government are worth the candle and not consuming us in the flames of regulatory hell.  No rational person would advocate anarchy but any man who values his freedom and takes pride in his own unique worth will wish the government to remain at bay and be very circumspect in its request to take more rights or property from him.  Too many take today but too few pay the price of government.  The zero sum game is tilted and tilting farther in favor of government.  When tilted enough everything will fall off the table.

“More” was the word of Oliver Twist  Samuel Gompers the Union boss and now our own government.   Are we willing to give more now?  There is only a finite amount of resources in the US and the government wants more and they can only get it by denying them to us.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com


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