by Jim Davies, 9/24/2010
Usually when a ZGBlog refers to a news item, it is recent; please forgive this exception - from October 2009. It's important because it speaks so eloquently about whether it's ever possible to "limit" government, rather than reduce it to zero as advocated here.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was taking reporters' questions about health-care proposals, of which one was to compel everyone to buy health insurance or else pay the IRS a fine. One came from the reporter for CNS News; the "C" stood once for "Conservative" but now for "Cybercast." He asked:
Good question! In this country, pro-government people say they can do things because the Constitution grants them authority. It doesn't really, and even if it did, the powers so granted would be unacceptable to self-owning human beings; but disregard that for now. Pelosi's reply was:
The reporter reaffirmed his question, upon which the Speaker shook her head and passed on to another; she dismissed it as absurd and irrelevant. As if she was saying "We don't need no goddam piece of paper. We can do anything we want."
Her Press Secretary later did damage control by saying (falsely) that the Interstate Commerce Clause provided the needed authority, then Minority Leader Boehner tried to jump aboard by saying Well, Im not a lawyer and Im certainly not a constitutional lawyer, but I think its wrong to mandate that the American people have to do anything. You know, one of the things thats great about America is that we have the freedom to do anything that we want, as long as it doesnt infringe on somebody elses freedom. One comment writer on a Statist forum was amused: "The Minority Leader is an anarchist ? Who knew ?"
These are the most powerful two people in Congress; they stand at the apex of the most powerful state in history. Yet neither of them showed the slightest grasp of where they supposedly obtained that power; they were each so abysmally ignorant as to deserve an "F" in grade-school civics.
Pelosi evidently thought government can (constitutionally) do everything, while Boehner's brain was so far unplugged from the wall that he imagined it can do nothing. The question raised was way outside their respective orbits.
That's the actual, everyday practice; limitations are simply not on the radar of government people. As for the theory, "limited government" is an absolute oxymoron. There is no way to govern under limits; either you govern (rule, impose limits) or else you are limited; you cannot possibly do both. If a government were limited, it would cease to be a government; whatever was doing the limiting would be the (unlimited) government. It's what the words mean.
That's the total absurdity under which this country has labored since 1787, and which its leaders have excluded from their minds. No wonder it's dysfunctional.