A Founder’s Wisdom

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” -James Madison

Of course, Madison was correct. This axiom was particularly true during the FDR era, where bucket loads of smaller bills and legislative measures slowly chipped away at the rights of the individual in favor of the collective. However, there are at times when the government, emboldened by so-called “electoral mandates”, loses itself and trades ‘gradual’ for the ‘violent’. Enter Obamacare.

Expansive, and expensive, usurpations like Obamacare have always been few and far between. And likely for good reason: Large grabs for power are unpopular, and make further expansion of government in this fashion practically and politically untenable, at least in rapid succession. Social Security was enacted in 1935, and despite it’s eventual popularity, enjoyed fierce criticism in it’s earlier years (it’s important to remember here that popularity and long-term solubility function independently).

It took 30 years after SS for the granddaddy of them all, Medicare, to be enacted in 1965 (Medicaid was enacted concurrently). Again, Medicare featured much of the same blow back that Social Security faced immediately after passage.  Fast forward another 41 years and one arrives at Medicare Part D in 2006. Seemingly, Americans will only tolerate, and Big Government-types will only contemplate, a single new entitlement every generation, the short period between Part D and Obamacare notwithstanding.

While the large programs are certainly to be avoided, the more insidious dangers are the slow, “silent” encroachments Madison warns of. They function much like the parable of the frog and a pot of water. Put a frog in boiling water and he’ll jump right out. Put him in cool water but slowly heat it, and the frog eventually cooks to death. Where the large grabs for DC power are easy to see, and thereby easy to organize against (i.e. jump out of the pot), the smaller but unceasing measures slowly suffocate us to death, shifting us from citizen to subject. How long will it be before we finally die from a million and one tiny cuts?


About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA

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