I’m going to give you a bit of engineer speak for a minute, but bear with me – I have a political point.
All stable systems require some form of negative feedback. All lawnmowers have a speed governor that throttles back on the gas if the engine speed starts increasing. When the engine goes too fast, the governor cuts the gas. The negative feedback prevents a runaway engine.
Automobiles have a driver. If the car drifts to the right, the driver steers to the left. Rightward movement triggers leftward correction. The negative feedback keeps the car in its lane.
It’s not just mechanical systems that need negative feedback. Healthy household budgets rely on negative feedback too. If somebody has been spending too much, the negative feedback happens when mom doesn’t have enough money for the weekly groceries. Harsh words are exchanged, spending is reduced, and the system is brought back under control. It is stable.
This brings me to one of the most unstable systems in the world – the federal government. It’s a system in which politicians spend other people’s money, and suffer no negative consequences (negative feedback) when they overspend. The system lacks adequate negative feedback to remain stable.
I see all of those poli-sci students raising their hands to remind me that elections keep the system under control. Well, listen up kids – the federal government has amassed $30.5 trillion ($30,500,000,000,000) of debt. That’s $90K of debt for every man, woman, and child in America (regardless of how they identify). Clearly, the existing controls aren’t keeping this car on the road. When those spending the money, don’t suffer from running out of money, we get runaway government.
This is not just a problem of budget creep. It’s also mission creep. Kind of like how a mission to dig Osama Bin Laden out of the mountains of Afghanistan, turned into a mission to install democracy in Iraq – using other people’s lives and money. Government bureaucracies constantly push against their boundaries to expand their mission and influence. Just look at the news during the past few months.
The FBI was founded in 1909 to fight interstate crime and government corruption. But that wasn’t enough to keep it busy so it has expanded its mission to be an organizer of crime (i.e., Whitmer kidnapping plot) and purveyor of corruption (i.e., Crossfire Hurricane). But they sure have gotten good at solving crimes they’ve created.
The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2001, in response to the attacks on 9/11. Its mission is to protect Americans from international terrorism. But now it has created the Disinformation Governance Board. It has gone from fighting terrorism to fighting free speech – and the announcement was made without a hint of shame or irony. [Update: The DHS, with serious people, performing a serious mission, just released a children’s coloring book. I’d like to say something snarky, but I’ve got nothing.]
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) was created in 1946. Its mission was to combat malaria by spraying for mosquitos – hence why it is headquartered in Atlanta and not Washington. However, last week we learned that the CDC purchased the cell phone geo-tracking information for millions of Americans during the pandemic. An organization that was founded to spray mosquitos has morphed into an agency that tracks when people go to church or stay out past curfew. That’s not just mission creep – it’s downright creepy.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) was created in 1870 to prosecute violations of federal laws. But last week it announced that it was creating an office of environmental justice – because of the disproportionate impact of climate change on minority communities. It intends to use civil rights legislation to criminalize contributors to anthropogenic climate change, even though anthropogenic climate change is an as yet unproven scientific theory. Apparently, our current spike in violent crime isn’t enough to keep the DOJ busy. Just like the FBI, the DOJ has decided to manufacture some new crimes.
The Department of Energy (DOE) was founded in 1977, at the height of the Arab oil embargo. Its mission is to ensure American access to secure energy. One of its duties is to manage our pipeline infrastructure – like the Keystone XL pipeline, which was just canceled. So, the DOE mission has morphed from ensuring that we’re never again held hostage by unreliable middle eastern oil producers, to ensuring that we will forever be dependent on unreliable middle eastern oil producers. See how that mission creep thing works?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 to combat air and water pollution – which quite frankly, were horrible. The EPA was wildly successful and our air and water are cleaner than they have been in generations. Did the EPA declare victory? Nope. It’s trying to expand its mission to regulate carbon dioxide. For you non-biologists out there (looking at you Ketanji Brown Jackson), that’s the gas that we exhale with every breath. Would anybody care to argue that regulating exhaled air – which happens to benefit plants – makes sense? Anybody? No?
The Department of Education was created in 1867, though not as a cabinet-level agency at that time. Its mission was to promote educational quality by discovering best practices in use at local school systems and communicating those practices across the country. When founded, it had a staff of 4 and an annual budget of $15,000. Now it has a staff of 4300 employees and a budget of $60 billion ($60,000,000,000). That $60B isn’t for salaries. It’s for grants to local school systems. Grants that come with strings attached – requirements that the school systems comply with the way the federal government wants them to do their teaching.
Its original mission to share information has turned into a mission to tax citizens, and then give their communities some of the money back as payment to comply with federal dictates. They’ve turned local school systems into the institutional version of welfare moms.
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Bureaucratic systems are inherently unstable. Regardless of their initial purpose, without outside control, they inevitably become an institutional cancer, constantly seeking to grow and corrupt, until they destroy the host – in this case our constitutional republic.
In his first inaugural address, Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem. It is the problem.” When a government bureaucracy is created to solve a problem, it will inevitably become a bigger problem than it was created to solve.
The size – and worse, the scope – of our government is a testament to the fact that it is out of control. There is simply inadequate negative feedback to keep it under control.
Perhaps we should take a closer look at what the Convention of States Action movement is pursuing: constitutional constraints on government in the form of
- Term limits
- Fiscal accountability
- Restraints on government overreach
In fact, the convention itself would be a gigantic serving of some much-needed negative feedback. A loud and clear message to the politicians and bureaucrats that “we the people” remain in charge, whether they like it or not.
By John Green
John Green is a political refugee from Minnesota, now residing in Idaho. He currently writes at the American Free News Network and The Blue State Conservative. He can be followed on Facebook or reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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