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Reblogged:Look to the Founders and Abolitionists for Ambition

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Writing at RealClear Markets, Jimmy Sengenberger of the Millennial Policy Center rightly calls the media on its predictable and incorrect adulation of nearly every left-wing program as "ambitious:"

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Minds change one at a time, and almost never all at once. (Image by Mael Balland, via Unsplash, license.)
For some reason, massive entitlements and intricate bureaucracies are always and necessarily intrepid policy proposals. Yet there's nothing genuinely "ambitious" or "bold" about pitching complex, massive programs to give people "free stuff" and make "the top 1%" pay for it. The reality is that this path -- the big government path -- is truly the easy thing to do.
This much is correct. Indeed, allowing for the confusion, common among conservatives, of "small" government with properly limited government, it is clear that Sengenberger's heart is in the right place when he goes further: "In truth, the hardest thing to accomplish is to shrink government -- its size, its scope and its power."

Unfortunately the conservatives Sengenberger praises -- Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Donald Trump -- are dismal failures. If these hollow men are his inspiration, he is doomed to fail in the efforts -- with which I sympathize -- to "unleash... the unlimited potential of every individual to improve their own lives."

Take just the first of these, Ronald Reagan, whom Sengenberger quotes:
As Ronald Reagan said way back in 1964, "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on Earth."

Truer words were never spoken. How many federal programs have been created that have really gone away?
Put that together with controls breed controls, and it sounds like we are doomed.

We need to dig deeper back in time and look harder for better examples to have any hope.

And fortunately, I can think of two things -- foreign tyranny and the institution of slavery -- that were each far worse than any federal program today. Despite the fact that they are so far back in the rear view mirror that even today's would-be defenders of liberty often seem to have forgotten them, they hold lessons for us today.

In both cases, men who regarded liberty as a moral cause did everything in their power to persuade others of the merits of their cause and to join them. Unlike Reagan (and many of their contemporaries), the abolitionists didn't tsk and pretend that slavery was some sort of unchangeable condition of nature. Nor did they propose to "reform" the inherently corrupt system they opposed, as did George Bush. And they certainly didn't "take an ax" to the institution of slavery by, say, freeing a few hundred slaves and leaving it at that -- which would be the nearest equivalent I can think of to what Trump has done regarding the regulatory state.

The restoration of liberty in America, if it is to occur, will require a significant minority of people to re-embrace the individualism that was once much more common in America. That may take some time, but it is a fight worth fighting in whatever way one can.

My contribution of the moment to those passing by would be to point them to the thoughts of the philosopher and energy activist Alex Epstein regarding mass movements (worth the price of admission), historian Brad Thompson on the abolition movement, and novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand on the moral foundations of liberty.

-- CAV

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