Home > Highlanders > The government is best which governs least.

The government is best which governs least.


Recently I’ve been reflecting on these words by Henry David Thoreau in his work, Civil DisobedienceI have generally subscribed to this approach since I first studied it in school, and the more I think about the state of affairs in the U.S., the more I believe it. As the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election looms with what I believe to be the two most corrupt, morally bankrupt candidates we’ve seen in a generation, Thoreau’s philosophy has guided my migration to support the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

Right up front I’ll admit that I’m not a perfect Libertarian, nor is Johnson a perfect candidate – by Libertarian or other standards. The biggest thing he has going for him in my book is that he isn’t Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But there’s more to it than that.

Although the President of the United States is often referred to as the “leader of the free world” and the “most powerful person in the world” (dubious claims I’ve never fully bought in to), the President is head of only one of the three branches of government. As powerful as the executive branch is, we recall from our early civics classes that the executive “enforces” the law; it neither legislates nor adjudicates. So long as we have rule of law, the President is not a dictator. He must always consider Congress and the federal judiciary.

I’m not enough of a pollyanna to fully believe that, as we’ve witnessed many Presidents play fast and loose with the executive order pen. President Obama and Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him spilled a lot of ink on executive orders. The President also has the power to appoint many powerful officeholders in the government, so the President’s influence and power is indeed vast.

But even if Governor Johnson could somehow manage to win in November, which I think is an impossible result, I believe a Libertarian President could do little with a Congress controlled by the two major parties. If a non-party President were to play loose with executive orders, I suspect that the President would be jerked back into line faster than you can blink. That safeguard is not as robust with either Trump or Clinton

There are components of the Libertarian platform – most advocated by the radical wing – that I disagree with, and which I think would be bad policy. Such is also true of the Republican and Democratic platforms.

For example, I do not favor legalization of drugs. I think legalization of pot in Colorado has been a mistake. One must only wander the 16th Street Mall in Denver after dusk to witness the growth of the transient population, and new stories emerge at least weekly on the news about crime, overdoses on poorly regulated edibles, and other problems that are the direct result of the increased access of weed. On the whole, has it weakened the cartels? Not likely. They’ve mostly moved to meth, heroin, and fentanyl (and sex trafficking).

Nor do I favor the most isolationist views of the Libertarian party. I do believe that the U.S. must, to a certain extent, serve as the world’s policeman. If we do not, that responsibility will likely be assumed by the incompetent United Nations or by one of our international rivals, weakening our nation’s influence in troubled parts of the world.

Other matters such as abortion, transgender and gay rights, and other issues are even more complex for me. While I have fairly strong personal opinions on each of these, I do not believe that government involvement is the solution. I think that we as a populace have become lazy and complacent and have allowed our government to address things that we as a society have the responsibility to address within smaller segments of society. I do not favor bigotry in any form, nor do I favor anyone to force me to serve an individual with whom I fundamentally disagree.

For example, we’ve seen in recent months that the owner of a popular bakery in Colorado was sued (and lost on a discrimination claim) because he refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. While I may or may not have made the same decision he made, I firmly believe it was his decision to make. The market would tell him whether or not that was a good idea. Instead, he was served with a court order saying that he had to serve people even though doing so violated his moral convictions. This is just one more example of government (in this case, judicial) overreach.

This should have been an issue that society handled by allowing people to decide whether or not to patronize his business. If he was boycotted, the market has spoken. If his business boomed, the market has spoken. There are undoubtedly many more examples I could offer. I don’t see the parallel to racial discrimination that my liberal friends will argue, but maybe my brain is too small.

Americans of all stripes have sucked the government’s tit for so long that we no longer know how to govern ourselves. We let the parties govern us, while time and again they prove that they only truly represent a tiny minority even of their own party. They cajole, make deals, obfuscate their intentions, and interfere with individual rights at every turn. Republicans are no better than Democrats in this regard. They merely serve different masters.

Indeed, I used to be a Republican. But I have either become much more cynical or the party has changed so much that I no longer believe that the Republicans represent “traditional conservative values” of a limited government. They’re in the pocket of big business and billionaire oligarchs, just as much as the Democrats are. Again, they’re the same; just enslaved to different factions.

Voting for a third party candidate is my way of sending a message to the other parties – most significantly to the Republicans – that they have to get their houses in order.

A vote for either Trump or Clinton is a tacit endorsement of the
brokenness that both parties are guilty of.

Donald Trump would be a disaster, just as Hillary Clinton would be. Gary Johnson, even if he could somehow manage to win, would be generally deadlocked at every turn by a Congress controlled by the other parties. Yes, there are Supreme Court Justice nominations in play. Johnson would have to pick nominees who are very much mainstream, otherwise the Court will continue to languish with a shrinking number of Justices as the geezers “retire” in the way Justices do. If Hillary or Trump wins, they can pick nominees far more radical and aligned with a main party’s ideologies and force them through with Republican or Democratic coalitions already in place.

As Thoreau wrote, I believe that the government is best which governs least. I believe that in this election cycle, that would require a third party candidate to slow the pace of regulation, slow the pace of legislation, and bring a new dialogue to Washington. Neither Trump nor Clinton would do that.

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