Rebirth of Reason


Failure not Bush's but of the Welfare State
by Tibor R. Machan

Examining the memo President Bush had received as part of his daily intelligence briefing in August 2001, shortly before the terrorist attacks in September, suggests that none could have known what was about to be done by Bin Laden operatives on US soil.  The Bush folks are confident that this exonerates the government. In fact that is not so.

Yes, the particular charge that President Bush and his administration overlooked a clear warning is unfounded.  There was no evidence of a clear warning in the memo, even though it contains references to a history of hints about Bin Laden wanting to have a terrorist attack carried out in America, apparently "in retaliation" for President Clinton's missile strikes against his base in Afghanistan.  However, this does not exculpate the US government.

Let's recall that the only justified task of government is to secure the rights of the citizens of the country who have hired it just for that purpose.  This is not some libertarian fantasy, as statists everywhere are eager to claim, but the explicit oath of office of free government, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence. That is why government exists in a free society, not to meddle in everyone's life but to secure our rights without violating them in the process.  Any other kind of government is more or less despotic since it abrogates rather than stands fully ready to defend our rights.

The larger issue, then, about 9/11 remains the same even after the Senate hearings and will probably be obscured, papered over by all the politicians who are mostly interested in slinging mud against opposition party members: The US government has been spread too thin with all its irrelevant statist pro-activism to properly stand ready to defend the citizenry.

The point is fairly simple, actually.  If your cop on the beat has become your dentist, dance instructor, physician, banker, teacher, and everything else that is important to you, how can that same cop focus on the job of keeping the peace within the vicinity of his or her jurisdiction?  It is simply impossible - for a government that's become preoccupied with every element of human welfare in a country the funds and time and skill available do not make it possible to carry out its proper task. So, there is constant bickering about budgets, a veritable Punch and Judy show every fiscal year; the personnel aren't available, since so much else has gotten on the political agenda; the intelligence needed to learn about criminal plans is buried in reams of irrelevant paperwork that the leadership must confront in order to stay even modestly on top of the zillions of tasks governments have assumed; the citizenry isn't focused on the one thing government should be doing but is beefing constantly about its failure to do for it everything under the sun.

Is it not obvious that in such a situation there will be reduced focus on the purpose for which government is supposed to exist in the first place?  Of course it is, but instead of following George Orwell's dictum, namely, that "Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious," most American intellectuals and pundits are determined mostly to agitate for more and more government activity that has nothing to do with that institution's basic purpose.

Just as in many other countries horrific acts of state have managed to discredit the leadership throughout much of their history, without it ever coming to light just who did or who failed to do what to contribute to it all, so in the USA, too, the horrible security failure of 9/11 is never going to be linked to specific people.  It is the system stupid - it renders impossible doing the right job properly.

Are we going to have the US Senate do hearings on this broader issue, of how has the government gone astray over US history, how it never managed to live up to its mission to be a limited government, limited, specifically, to the job of defending us from foreign aggression?  I doubt that we will witness such a hearing, the only one that might come up with relevant answers.

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