A confluence of events has come together that make it apparent that our governing officials do not know how to use the proper tools in the cultural tool belt. Is it useful to use a hammer on a bolt? Is it effective to drive in a nail with a screw driver? Our carpenters know what tools are useful to build a house but our legislators are not so astute.
Consider that the U.S. government is now in debt in excess of $14 trillion. Social Security is in a shambles. Hurricane relief in New Orleans was a fiasco. More recently, Senators Blunt and McCaskill have complained about relief funds being diverted from Joplin to the east coast. Finally, our state officials have debated whether millions of dollars of tax credits should be given to private enterprises to induce them to make a hub in St. Louis, commonly known as the China Hub or Aerotropolis. Our elected officials have determined that they can do all of these things and they are not doing any of them well.
Western Civilization has, at least until the last century, held a common consensus that there are three cultural tools in the world’s tool box: the family, the church and the magistrate. Each of these institutions has been identified with a recognizable symbol. The family is represented by the rod as described in Proverbs. The rod is a symbol for discipline, discipleship and education. The church has been given the symbol of the keys of the kingdom as Christ gave the keys of the kingdom to the disciples in Matthew 16:19. The keys of the kingdom symbolize spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing. The magistrate or the state has been given the symbol of the sword as described in Romans 13. More particularly, in America, we have taken on the symbol of lady justice, blindfolded, holding the scales of justice. These two symbols communicate protection of the nation and an impartial judgment of right and wrong.
However, in the past century we have seen the federal government and now the states more and more taking the rod and the keys of the kingdom. Simultaneously, we have seen it and the states relinquish the sword and the scales of justice. What have these efforts obtained? In their taking up of the keys of the kingdom, our federal and state governments have created a social security system that is bankrupt. They have obtained our children’s children being saddled with $14 trillion of debt. They have produced low income housing at a cost in excess of $200,000 per unit. In their usurpation of the rod, our state officials have produced an educational system that is dysfunctional, bordering on a culture of crime. By proselytizing our young minds to be good workers for the state, they have enculturated good little wards of the state. All the while, our borders are breached, our defenses are compromised and our citizens must pay the price by invasions of privacy from laws such as the Patriot Act.
It is interesting to compare two recent events. First, both of Missouri’s U.S. Senators decry the recent diversion of relief funds from Joplin to the east coast to remedy disasters. Second, the Missouri Senate has debated the propriety of giving tax credits to private enterprise to induce the Chinese to create jobs in Missouri. The Senate debate is complex. On the one side, liberals decry the possible reduction in benefits to the needy for the benefit of the industrial class of our culture. In many ways, this is parallel to diversion of funds from Joplin to the east coast. Who is to say who is more deserving? On the other side of the Aerotropolis debate, you have some conservatives claiming that we need to make better investments with taxpayers’ money. But how can a government make investments with a sword and its eyes blindfolded? The common wisdom holds true. If you do that, someone will lose an eye.
In America today, governments love to throw money around to accomplish their social designs. Governments only obtain their money from taxation. Frederic Bastiat referred to taxation for such purposes as “legal plunder.” We, as a nation, have embraced such legal plunder. It is our life blood. Without it, even conservatives believe our culture will collapse. However, the flaw in legal plunder can be seen in the recent events of the east coast hurricane and Aerotropolis. Once you give in to “legal plunder” you must accept the directives that control the legal plunder. You may not like where the planners send your money, but having accepted it to begin with you must abide their decisions. If you accept legal plunder for Joplin, you must accept it when Joplin is plundered for the east coast. If you accept legal plunder for the poor, you must accept it when the poor are plundered for Chinese businessmen. Wouldn’t it be better to let the church and the local community attend to the truly needy and let business tend to itself?
A screw driven by a hammer is ineffective and usually destructive of quality workmanship. Compassion driven by law is messy and destructive of human dignity. It is time for our federal and state governments to reassess their roles and their function. It is time for our elected officials to seriously contemplate what they can do well with a sword and a blindfold on and quit pocking people in the eyes.