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The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen

Conservative commentator Dennis Prager once said, “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” He’s not wrong.

Rest assured, I believe government has a purpose. Jesus even said to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” indicating, among other lessons, that he recognized that earthly authority has its place.

A government must certainly provide for the common defense, establish the rule of law, and ensure that life, limb, and property are protected. Government by design fights our nation’s wars, establishes trade with foreign nations, protects the vulnerable by means of police and fire departments, and enacts laws through representative bodies of elected citizens.

But the founders knew that placing value on the role of the private citizen is what makes this country so great. When government is the first resort to take care of our basic daily needs, bad things happen. More and more government means more and more regulation. As government grows, it must justify its existence and prove to the world that life cannot exist without it.

Ronald Reagan once said, “A government big enough to give you all that you need is a government big enough to take away all that you have.” Truer words could not be spoken.

Liberal progressive ideology believes that the American spirit is a myth and that government knows best. Progressives contend that we exist for the benefit of government and not the other way around. Liberal progressives believe government should always be the first resort when you face hardship, as opposed to your family, your church, your community, and certainly not your own self-determination.

Those who find themselves fully dependent on government also find little incentive, little drive and little fulfillment. There is only entitled expectation. Dependent citizens demand, they no longer create. Dependent citizens are required to exist off of the revenues collected by government.

For those who still try to produce, to thrive, or to create, the government must have more from them while also creating more regulations to tell them how, when, and where they will provide for the government so that the government can give to those entitled individuals who have chosen the government as their first resort.

In a work designed for Christian leadership, but that applies in any category, author J. Oswald Sanders said, “The spirit of the welfare state does not produce leaders. If a [person] is not willing to rise early and work late, to expend greater effort in diligent study and faithful work, that person will not change a generation. Fatigue is the price of leadership. Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired.”

I don’t want the U.S. to be a mediocre country. I don’t want Alabama to be a mediocre state. We should never desire to be a nation of low-level producers who reach out to the government for the next stimulus check, the next handout, the next excuse why we don’t have to go to work. I reject the idea of a nation in which productivity is stymied by so many regulations that folks just give up trying and where taxation becomes so onerous that people choose not to produce just to avoid the government reaching into their wallets again.

If we get to the point that people cannot exist without the government, it will be because we have forgotten that government actually cannot survive without the people. In that event we are just the proverbial self-licking ice cream cone, existing for the never-ending loop of mediocrity, living off what the government gives us, while in turn feeding an ever-growing government.

Pastor Adrian Rogers once said:

“Friend, you cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. And what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government can't give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody. And when half of the people get the idea they don't have to work because the other half's going to take care of them, and when the other half get the idea it does no good to work because somebody's going to get what I work for. That, dear friend, is about the end of any nation.”

I claim the mantle of conservatism for a number of reasons, one of which is limited government. I don’t balk at government existing; I don’t rail against the machine and believe that all elected officials are corrupt. But I do believe that too much government is never best.

For us to thrive as a nation, we must have the “will of the people” not the “will of the government.” Government should exist solely to ensure that liberty survives, to free up the private citizen to build a better mousetrap and set the parameters for national growth.

Over the past several years we have lived under more government regulation and interaction with our personal lives than perhaps ever in the history of our nation. Recent developments indicate that big government advocates have no intention of slowing that roll.

But I am a conservative. I believe in limited government. A government that is responsive to be sure but one that is not in the way. I am a conservative so I believe in a limited government that allows freedom of movement, sets the stage for success, and then steps back and applauds when the private sector knocks another home run out of the park.

I am a conservative. I believe in the satisfaction that comes from enduring, creating and achieving. From trying, failing, trying again, and succeeding through effort, real effort, not big government entitlements or stifling regulations.

Limited government. Just one of the reasons I choose to be a conservative.

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