Government, an aggressive and complex multicellular organism, can be found in nearly every region and climate of the planet, including those such as North America where the natural habitat is often inhospitable. In order to thrive in such climates, government has evolved a variety of sophisticated survival strategies. These have enabled it to co-exist with, and often out-compete, other species.
A full examination of these strategies falls beyond the scope of this paper, but a brief summary should suffice to acquaint the lay reader with the more salient ones.
Learned Predator Recognition. Government in the United States has several highly sophisticated means, from satellite surveillance to warrantless wiretapping, to scrutinize its environment for potential threats, both external and internal. The Nixon administration maintained an enemies list. The administration of President Barack Obama developed an “attack watch” website, and its Department of Homeland Security identified veterans returning fromIraq as potential terrorists. And, like the FBI under President Bush, the Justice Department under Obama trolled through the phone logs of national reporters, seeking out potential weaknesses.
Hypertrophy. Size alone confers distinct advantages in the competition for resources and the battle for survival. It is not surprising, therefore, that government grows at a remarkable rate. Consider public education: In 2009, the cost of a K-12 education, per student, exceeded $151,000 – almost three times the amount, after adjusting for inflation, spent per student in 1970. The story is the same for social-welfare spending, which has increased 375 percent in constant dollars since 1965. Even the most fearsome apex predators often are daunted by the prospect of confronting such powerful creatures.
Metastasis. Many government operations are able to permeate the bureaucratic lining and spread to other agencies. The federal government alone operates 33 distinct housing-assistance programs across four different agencies, and 49 job-training programs across eight different agencies. This strategy helps ensure that even if one strain of programs dies off, many others will remain.
Alleopathy. In the competition for finite resources, government has developed various means of inhibiting other organisms. Public school systems have become adept at fending off school-choice proposals, for instance. The Internal Revenue Service also has been used as a weapon. The earliest known occurrence of this in the wild was recorded during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Nixon highly favored this tactic as well. More recently, the Obama administration has targeted tea-party groups and other organizations that “criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution,” according to published accounts.
Crypsis. The simplest way to evade attack is to avoid being detected. Government therefore has several means of remaining unnoticed – principal among them taxpayer withholding. Through withholding, the government is able to feed its voracious appetite without, in many cases, the host organism’s knowledge or awareness.
Thanatosis. Many creatures, including the possum and the hog-nosed snake, feign death to avoid predation. This behavior has been observed in government as well. Programs thought to have been killed off only to spring back to life at a later date include the WWII-era mohair subsidy and the even older federal helium program, originally created to ensure a supply of helium for WWI-era dirigibles. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to continue its operations.
Symbiosis. In many cases government programs have developed mutually beneficial relationships with other organisms that help them to ward off attack. Military systems are particularly adept at this survival technique. The F-22 Raptor program involves more than 1,000 contracting companies in 46 states. Military systems have even developed defenses against attacks from other government colonies. In 2010 the U.S. Army conducted a review of MEADS, the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which found it ill-suited to current defense needs. “Current Army position is: Terminate MEADS,” the Army wrote. Yet according to a 2013 issue of Government Executive, MEADS “is continuing to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding.”
Invasiveness. Constantly seeking out new territory and food sources, government is among the most aggressive of all invasive species. Anti-poverty programs, once designed to ease the plight of the poor, now routinely seek out applicants with incomes of two to four times the federal poverty level. The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010, conferred on government the unprecedented power to force Americans to purchase a commercial good independent of any consumer behavior. The U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaims as its goal to “increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” To that end it has adopted a variety of strategies, including a partnership with the Mexican government through which Mexican consulates spread the word that resident aliens can apply for U.S. food stamps without having to answer questions about their immigration status. And in 2013, The Washington Post reported on the experience of federal employee Dillie Nerios in Florida: “It is Nerios’s job to enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds.”
CONCLUSION: While a certain amount of government is necessary for the health of any ecosystem, too much can prove devastating. It is important, therefore, to actively monitor and limit government lest it threaten Nature’s delicate balance. However, government’s aggressiveness and highly developed survival mechanisms will make this an arduous task for the foreseeable future.