In April 2001, I represented the Sutherland Institute, a Utah think tank, at a Heritage Foundation Resource Bank Meeting for the world’s “conservative” policy leaders in Philadelphia. If you haven’t had the joy of attending such a gathering, imagine a very long church meeting with speakers conversing in the tongue of academia — rather than Latin or archaic English.
This particular conference was a little more exciting (I could actually stay awake). George Bush had just defeated Al Gore for the presidency, ending the Clinton era of infamy. The policy gurus were atwitter at the chance conservatives had to reshape American politics.
Speakers boasted that the conservative movement would finally seize control of the various government agencies that had abused Americans for decades. They theorized how these agencies could be forced to do our bidding, and thereby accomplish great good.
As examples, we would redirect millions in government subsidies away from groups we opposed and toward church efforts under the guise of “faith based initiatives.” We would subsidize private research promoting “conservative” ideals. Heritage Foundation representatives were anxious to end years of harassment by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and spoke of turning these same hounds loose on our enemies. And certainly, we would reinvigorate the military through massive funding.
After one panel of scholars and experts had finished patting themselves on the backs for their cleverness, they called for questions. I rose to the microphone for the express purpose of dropping a proverbial turd in their swimming pool.
What were they thinking? Limited government advocates finally had an opportunity to slash and burn this federal monster that had viciously oppressed us all. Yet, rather than destroy the beast, they were attempting to saddle and ride it. Their efforts would surely fail and backfire against the cause they claimed to be pursuing.
The panelists gave no substantive reply. They denounced the impracticality of thinking we could cut government significantly, and concluded that we must focus our energies on making government suit our agenda. Which agenda, I wondered aloud?
I spent the remainder of the conference attempting to rally others against this agenda, to little avail. Most attendees were salivating at the potential impact on their think tank and/or activist organization budgets. Who was I to interrupt this veritable gold rush? In later months, my own organization succumbed to the same mentality, and wholly abandoned its direction and principles.
Eight years later, the folly of these “leaders” is evident. The Bush regime’s most significant feat was to tarnish the idea of limited government to the point of irrelevance. With help from hypocritical Christians and so-called conservatives, today’s federal Leviathan is larger and more intrusive than ever. Our economy is in ruins because we exacerbated the problems caused by financial monopolies that control our government.
Why did we fail to turn our nation around? In our zeal to promote limited government, free will, and justice, we ignored a vital lesson: How we attempt to achieve those ideals is as important as the ideals themselves.
Too many of us believed that bureaucratic beasts could be transformed into community saints if only we were in charge. We were naïve and arrogant, having no respect for the nature of these beasts, or their corrupting influence on all who touch them.
How quickly we fled to the dulling might and force of governments and other institutions whenever we perceived a problem! This foolishness has historically enabled Caesars and Popes to rise, and tyrannical empires and regimes to be born.
Mankind has yet to comprehend that more ideal governments and societies are only possible when enough people stop looking to behemoth bureaucracies and corrupt “leaders” for answers. We must each learn to control our own arrogance and lust for power, and strive to become independent of harmful external influences.
We must look inward for answers, relying upon our innate gifts of reason, intuition, and sense of what is just and unjust. As a consequence, we will naturally reject charlatans and those who compromise core ideals. We will have no interest in saddling and riding beasts, but will recognize the evil they represent, and will slay them at every opportunity.
In a world bordering on tyranny and collapse, such independent persons will soon be in high demand again — worth more than food, gold, and scriptures. Fortunately, we need not rely upon the Heritage Foundations, churches, and other mind-numbing institutions of the world to train and recruit them. They will rise to the occasion because it is the natural thing for them to do.
Hopefully, there will be enough of them to raise the world above our self-inflicted distresses — and toward a higher plane of harmonious existence.