The essence of limited government is personal responsibility.
• If the people have responsibility, they have power and freedom;
• If the State has too much responsibility, the State controls the people, and freedom is lost.
The American founders put in place a new form of government, coupled with free-market economics popularized by Adam Smith, which propelled mankind into a 5,000-year leap in human technological progress. This system of government, created by the Founders, empowered and rewarded every man and woman with the fruits of their labors, which encouraged work, innovation, and production.
However, there was a third important element that allowed this 5,000-year leap to occur: the empowerment of the family. We have overlooked this element, because it was organic in the early years of the Republic.
In colonial times, 90 percent of all people lived on farms, most producing for personal consumption. Most businesses were small, family-owned businesses.
This created the perfect balance of responsibility and power between the three levels of government and the family.
Government was limited, because it had limited responsibilities. The federal government had the responsibility for national defense, post offices, courts, interstate regulation, and mint-produced money.
The family also has responsibilities. These should have been called “inalienable responsibilities”, just as we have “inalienable rights”. They include education, housing, food, clothing, medical care, and retirement.
Almost from the very beginning, responsibility and power began shifting from the family to the State. This happened in four major waves:
• The first major shift was in 1852, when the State of Massachusetts began public education based on the premise that the state was responsible to see children educated, not parents.
• The second shift was during Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during the 1930s and 40s, when the Administrative State began in earnest, and the State assumed responsibility for the economy, poverty relief, and retirement.
• The third major shift was in 1965, with the Great Society programs of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), which included anti-poverty programs, housing, Medicaid, and Medicare.
• The fourth shift of responsibility was in 2010 with Obama Care. The State took over much of the health care industry.
Because of these four major shifts, the federal government has grown tremendously. In 1900, it only took 8 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to fund federal, state, and local governments. Because of the growth of federal government (at the expense of family responsibilities), it now requires almost 50 percent of the GDP to fund all three levels of government, if deficit spending is included.
Let me add an important piece: This shift of responsibility to the State was by design.
“The thesis of the state socialist is, that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs, which the State may not cross at will; that omnipotence of legislation is the first postulate of all just political theory...
It proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view, and that the State consider itself bound to stop only at which is unwise or futile in its universal superintendence alike of individual and public interests.”
— Woodrow Wilson 28th President of the United States
The only way to regain limited government is to transfer power and responsibility back to the family unit away from government. I propose that family-supplied social programing is more efficient and effective than State-supplied social programing. We need a paradigm shift.
A paradigm shift is when an idea can cause science, society, or industry to suddenly shift such that old ways of thinking and doing things become irrelevant. A major shift will take place when limited-government Americans begin to recognize the economic and political value of intact, economically self-sufficient families, and we begin to ask ourselves what we can do to increase their number.
Remember, a functional family can provide social services more efficiently and effectively than can a government program. Who pays the majority of taxes? Those that produce and have jobs. Most workers and business owners have stable (though sometimes imperfect) families. Who receives the most social services? Those who belong to families that are not in economically, self-sufficient family situations. Our goal should be to increase the number of ESSFs (economically, self-sufficient families).
What is the glue that holds families together and provides strength and acts like a bonding material between family members? Most of you will say “love” which is not incorrect. There is, however, another bonding agent and that is called “responsibility”. As families accept responsibility, it gives them power. The goal is to transfer responsibility from government back to willing families.
There is a formula to accomplish this goal, which can be applied in a variety of situations.
1. Recognize an area where government has too much power. This is not hard to do. The areas with the most potential to create efficiencies and improve outcomes are education, health care, and poverty.
2. Create a legal structure that allows for responsibility to flow from government back to willing families. Think of responsibility as an essence or substance, like water. Water (bonding agent) needs canals to carry the water from the reservoir (government) to individual fields and rows.
3. Let families that want more responsibility, choices, and power to self-identify. Responsibility acceptance cannot be mandated.
4. Give parents a choice to accept the responsibility.
5. Finally, some parents and families will take the responsibility, and others will not.
I find giving examples of current laws, as well as envisaged parents’-rights laws, makes theoretical concepts more real and tangible:
Example #1. Years ago (around 1979) in Idaho, it was illegal to homeschool. If a family ventured out and homeschooled their children in this era, the parents were jailed, and their children were taken away from them.
The legislature, ultimately, found this legal action to be unacceptable. From my perspective, educating your own children is a God-given right, or as I prefer to call it an “inalienable responsibility” that the government should not usurp.
The legislature eventually created a legal structure, called a “law”, which clarified that parents may homeschool. With this newly clarified right (like the first 10 amendments), parents had the opportunity to claim this right and power, or they could choose not to homeschool and use the public education system.
Example #2. After a ten-year process, the current form of the Advanced Opportunities Program (AOP) became a law in the State of Idaho. This program allocates $4,125 to each 7th grader to be used to customize their education, if they choose. They can use the funds for summer classes; Career and Technical Education (CTE) exams; college credit, while in high school (dual credit); Advanced Placement (AP) tests, College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests; and workforce training. It is possible for a student to graduate from high school with two years of college under his/her belt.
The AOP is voluntary; it gives power to students and families, and is good both for taxpayers and students. A student who earns three credits in high school costs the taxpayers $225. If that same student waited to take those credits after high school at a community college, it would cost the taxpayers $450. If the student took those same credits at the University of Idaho, for example, it would cost the taxpayer over $1,800! Another example that empowering the people is more effective and efficient.
Example #3. Parents in Idaho may choose an alternative curriculum. Parents in Emmett, Idaho, as an example, have petitioned the Emmett School Board to offer a Hillsdale College government class for high school students in the fall of 2022. In keeping with my “limited-government” approach, Hillsdale College is a private, conservative, liberal arts college that…
“…does not accept even one penny of state or federal taxpayer funding— even indirectly in the form of student grants or loans.”
Example #4. With the advent and popularity throughout the United States of parent-choice school options, the State of Idaho is working on plans to offer programs where a portion of the parents’ tax-paid education funding will revert back to the parents to use as they see fit: public, parochial, homeschool, any educational system that is appropriate for their children’s individual needs.
There are several other examples of creating a legal structure that allows parents to claim responsibility, have choices, and gain power.
I sincerely believe that the next level of prosperity in Idaho will be based upon increasing the number of functional families by creating more and more government structures that transfer responsibility back to the family unit. Costs will drop, the economy improve, social contentment increase, free-enterprise competition will thrive, and social stability improve