Republics Sing

If you watched the hearings on Hurricane Katrina and the hearings on the fate of whistle-blowers on C-SPAN, then three words come to mind: "incompetence," "cover-up" and "denial."

Those of us who are of a libertarian bent have been arguing for years that government is inherently incompetent and inefficient. Only a government could have 11,000 empty trailers sitting in Arkansas while at the same time it evicts thousands of homeless people from hotels and motels.

Only a government would tell the team in charge of testing the security at nuclear-weapons facilities that it must notify the facility in advance of the test. Even so, 50 percent of the time the test-terrorists succeeded. The response of the Department of Energy was to demote the man who led the team and try to publicly discredit him.

I often liken government to a mentally retarded giant. It is immensely powerful but basically incapable of doing any but the simplest of tasks. People have been teaching reading for more than 5,000 years, but our government schools seem to find the task very daunting. The Romans built roads that are still around, while our governments seem to build roads that pothole within a year.

I heard some fool of a bureaucrat recently spouting off about how "new" forms of warfare compel us to restructure our thinking and our forces. This young man, who looked like he was not that long out of the university, apparently believes that guerrilla warfare began in Baghdad in the year 2003. Guerrilla warfare — or, to use the bureaucratic term, "asymmetrical warfare" — has existed for millennia. The guy has apparently never heard of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, much less read any of the classic texts on war. The American Indians employed asymmetrical warfare for 300 years.

It’s scary how stupid some federal officials appear to be.

Laissez-faire government is not only the best form of government, it is essential, because once you ask government to do more than guard the coast and deliver the mail, it will start messing up. Billions of dollars have been given to the National Institutes of Health, yet the NIH has not found a cure for one single disease — not even the common cold. If the Food and Drug Administration is so good a watchdog, then why do nearly 100,000 Americans die every year from prescription drugs?

Congress ought to change our national motto from "In God We Trust" to "Oops, Our Mistake."

Read the Constitution. It was written to be understood by common, ordinary people. Lawyers didn’t have a stranglehold on the country in those days. Read it and you will plainly see that the federal government was to play a very limited role in governance. James Madison, one of its authors, said that in time of peace, the federal role would be about 5 percent. The genius of our federalist system, which we have scrapped, was that it allowed the states to experiment. It is the state governments that are closest to the people and therefore should do the bulk of legislating.

Let’s face it, we are poorly governed, and that is not a partisan statement. Sometimes I think the best thing the Republicans have going for them are the Democrats, and vice versa. Most Americans don’t understand what extreme danger we are in, not only economically, but also because of the failed strategy in the so-called war on terror.

The $7 trillion public debt and the outrageous trade imbalance bode ill for our future, and the only way you can eliminate terrorism is to correct the injustices that cause it in the first place. Furthermore, for a country that cannot govern itself properly to be constantly telling other countries how they should handle their internal affairs borders on the absurd.

The Founding Fathers gave us laissez faire at home and isolationism abroad. We have abandoned both and, alas, are paying the price for doing so. Just remember, republics sing and empires suck.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.