Master or Servant?
William Henry Chamberlain’s essay, The Supreme Issue: The Individual Versus the State, written in 1959 succinctly described the paramount issue of the twentieth century: “Morally, politically, and economically, the supreme issue of the twentieth century is whether the State is to be the master or the servant of its individual citizens.”
Unfortunately in this, the 21st century, the “Supreme Issue” remains the same. The founders of the United States of America strived to achieve a balance as they wrote the Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights, between the individual and their unalienable Rights and the needs of a fledgling central government. Regrettably, twentieth century progressive ideology tipped the balance toward central government control over individual sovereignty. Mr Chamberlain on this writes, “When the State goes beyond its proper functions of maintaining law and order at home and providing protection against foreign aggression, and starts to assume the role of a universal provider and regulator, it never knows when to stop. One arrogation of power leads to another, and the planned economy quickly develops into the totalitarian State.”
The American People are witness to the veracity of Mr. Chamberlain’s words. The scandals permeating the current administration and those of most of the twentieth century and now twenty first century, are born of a government that is the “universal provider and regulator”. There is scarcely any activity in America today that is not overseen, regulated or constricted by the central planners of the federal government. Mr Chamberlain continues, “The State has undertaken functions for which it is inherently unsuited, such as protecting a vast variety of individuals and groups against the consequences of their own bad judgment or bad fortune.”
The rightful obligation of government under the Constitution of the United States ought only to be to protect the individual and his rights from assault by another individual. When government attempts to protect a “vast variety of individuals and groups against the consequences of their own bad judgment or bad fortune”, it invariably fails. A review of the history of “The War on Poverty” or “The War on Drugs”, will bear this out. Now, codified is the notion that some business entities are to big to fail and must be propped up by public money. For forty four years the United States engaged in a “Cold War” with the Soviet ideology of central planning and control supposedly to support Freedom and Democracy around the world. Now it seem this Nation has adopted the very same ideology. Again Mr. Chamberlain describes this Phenomena:
“Gone are the days when sturdy Grover Cleveland – rejecting a proposal to provide government compensation for farmers whose crops had been damaged by hail – remarked, in substance, that while the people should support the government, the government should not support the people. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that governments in many fields do undertake to support the people, or certain groups of the people. This task is very expensive, requiring taxation on a scale that formerly would have been considered fantastically impossible. It also necessitates far reaching controls. One is reminded of Alexis de Tocqueville’s "immense and tutelary power, "which would rob the human race of all initiative and self-reliance, which would labor for their happiness, but choose to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness, which would "spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living.”
So here we as Americans stand, deeply in debt with a government mired in controversies and little expectations except more and bigger government. Perhaps we as Americans have been robbed of “all initiative and self-reliance” and have been spared of “the care of thinking and all the trouble of living” by government elitists that believe they have the answer to happiness for all. But, it is the “pursuit of Happiness” that the Declaration of Independence describes as an unalienable Right not happiness itself. To the enlightened there is a difference between the “pursuit of Happiness” and happiness but to the political elitist there is no difference. That in essence is the issue Mr. Chamberlain describes, “whether the State is to be the master or the servant of its individual citizens.”