Our founders created a governing system predicated on a belief that the government governs best when it governs least. They abhorred the very idea of a powerful elite national leadership that would rule over those they considered to be less intelligent, less honorable and less capable.
The Founders created a system and structure where the influence of government diminished when more removed from we, the people. Their intentions were clear when they enacted the Tenth Amendment that states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
That’s right! Any power not SPECIFICALLY granted to those folks in Washington is to remain with the people. And yet, we have in Washington, a government that has assumed enormous powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment without a peep from those black-robed Brahmans on the Supreme Court.
The Founders understood that if we the people are to have maximum influence over the laws with which we self-govern, they must be enacted by governments – local governments – where we have the greatest access and our voices can be heard individually. Just ask yourself one question. Would it be easier for you to raise your voice at a meeting of your city council or even state legislature — or to testify before Congress? Can you raise questions directly with a mayor or governor much more readily than the President of the United States?
So how is it that a people who long cherished their personal freedoms has allowed the elitist autocratic left to assume more and more centralized control over our daily lives? How did we go from the “rugged individualist,” whose mantra was “don’t make a federal case of it,” to a wimpish “snowflake” constituency that looks to government to protect them from all fears and anxieties – justified or irrational?
The power of the public reflected in conservative democratic principles can be overcome in violent revolution. But, it can also happen by evolution – and that is what America is experiencing.
In the latter process, the authoritarian left engages three areas of influence. They are the peoples’ treasury, control of information and the establishment of a bureaucratic form of government.
This ever-present danger to the Republic was well known to the Founders. Benjamin Franklin famously told a citizen that he and he follow Founders had created a republic “if you can keep it.” Franklin even told future generations how it could be lost when he warned that, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”
Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, the authoritarian left has preyed on human insecurity to persuade the people to “vote themselves money” in the form of welfare, healthcare, grants and subsidies. Expenditures, such as welfare and free public education – which were once the purview of local government — have been shifted more and more to that far away unresponsive government inside the Beltway.
All concepts of authoritarianism require control of thinking. While polls and voting results still suggest that the people of America are right-of-center. We are still devoted – at least romantically – to the principles of personal freedom. We still value our Constitutional liberties. But that is fading.
So, how is it that the progressive left has convinced so many of us that our once cherished rights are not quite so “inalienable?” That the Constitution, and such articulated rights as free speech, religion and local control, are outdated concepts? And that patriotism, itself, is some sort of false religion? That the concept of e pluribus unum must be cast aside for identity politics, political correctness and tribalism – pitting one group against another?
To accomplish all that, the authoritarian left must control information. Try to find a dictator who does not control all means of communication. Then consider who controls all the means of information in America. Who controls the major publishing houses? Who controls most of the news media? Who controls the entertainment industry? Above all, who controls the education systems that instill cultural values in future generations by what is taught — and what is NOT taught?
These are all how we educate ourselves on a daily basis and educate future generations. The fact that all these existential institutions are controlled by authoritarian elitists explains why so many people in our right-of-center nation dislike what they see and hear on television, in the movie house, on the book stands and in the classrooms. Collectively it is a drumbeat of big government propaganda against the long-held values of Americanism.
In addition to seizing the wealth and the minds of the people, the authoritarian left must impose a controlling structure – one that is responsive to topside management and not vulnerable to the exercise of popular will. It is nothing new. It is the empowerment of a faceless, nameless and out-of-reach bureaucracy to run the nation from the top side.
Bureaucrats, by their very nature, are authoritarian elitists. They believe that their own power trumps the opinion or determinations of the public. By their own laws, they protect themselves from removal from office. The serve in support of elected officials that grant them more power, more money and more personnel. Attempting to find a so-called public servant who pleads for less of the above is a task as daunting as Diogenes walking the streets of Athens with a lantern in search of an honest man.
Since my days in Washington in the early 1970s, I have long described the bureaucracy as the fifth branch of government – and a branch that is more powerful than the other three. The bureaucracy has its own executive, legislative and judicial processes — often operating in defiance of legal constitutional authority.
While the resistance movement against Trump may be more open and obvious, it is not a new concept. I personally experienced the tenacity of the bureaucracy in those days in Washington. I saw how bureaucrats in the Office of Economic Opportunity refused to obey presidential orders. They hung the obligatory photograph of the President of the United States – in that case, Nixon – upside down in the lobby. They bragged that they would still be running Washington after elected officials had come and gone.
The bureaucrats are also tied to the authoritarian elements in a society. To survive as a governing force, they must be parasitical to a political establishment. That is why most American Bureaucrats are Democrats. It is a natural alliance under the flag of authoritarianism. Governance by bureaucracy is what you see in China and Chicago, where one-party rule is carried out through the political party structure – the Communist Party in the Middle Kingdom and the Democratic Party in the Windy City. The president of China and the mayor of Chicago are not dictators in the true sense of that word. They are “bosses” that operate more like a chairman of the board.
This concern over bureaucratic government was clearly expressed by President Calvin Coolidge when he said (emphasis added):
No method of procedure has ever been devised by which liberty could be divorced from local self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction, and decline. Of all forms of government, those administered by bureaus are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. Being irresponsible they become autocratic, and being autocratic they resist all development. Unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one element in our institutions that sets up the pretense of having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody.
The work of the authoritarians in America is abounding. You see it in their desire to put bureaucrats in control of elections, campaign finance, redistricting, the appointment of judges, local school systems and the list goes on … and on … and on.
When we speak about – or hopefully against – the establishment in Washington, we are talking about that unholy and undemocratic alliance between elected officials, bureaucrats and the public sector lobbyists. Though many reject the term “deep state” as sounding a bit too conspiratorial, a name does not change the nature of the beast.
When those on the left say that Trump does “not understand government,” they are alluding to the fact that he came to Washington to upset the apple cart of the authoritarian bureaucracy – that is the swamp to which he refers. When they say Trump does not understand that the Justice Department – or any Department – are “quasi-independent” of his authority, they are saying that the bureaucracy is superior to the Constitution and, ergo, the leader elected by the people. It is not a matter of whether one likes Trump or not – or the issues between him and the Justice Department – it is a matter of people against the authoritarians.
I write this commentary at a transition point in my thinking. We seem to be getting closer to the tipping point between freedom and oppression. At one time, I was optimistic that the personal freedom coalition within the American culture would prevail over the dark forces of authoritarianism. Today, however, I am not so sure. Authoritarianism is like a political cancer. If recognized and removed in time, civic wellness can be restored. But if untreated, there comes a time that the malady will terminally conquer and destroy even the healthy portions of the body politic.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.