state – mode or condition of being
union – a political unit constituting an organic whole formed usually from units which were previously governed separately (as England and Scotland in 1707) and which have surrendered or delegated their principal powers to the government of the whole or to a newly created government (as the United States in 1789)
Although an annual address bearing the name is given, rarely do Presidents speak about the state of the Union – in public. Such topics are likely reserved for private conversations with advisors. As of late, the Union has encountered some bumps in the road – including, but not limited to, state level resistance against drug prohibition, encroachments on the right to keep and bear arms, and further intrusion by the Central Government into the health-care industry – not to mention the quickly growing libertarian and politically independent sectors of the population. However, these are symptoms of a single underlying problem that plagues all forms of government – they tend to grow with time.
Like any other organization, governments are collections of individuals. This is often forgotten, or subconsciously disregarded, in favor of an anthropomorphized fictional entity – upon which blame can be conveniently laid. For example, one might say, “The government has stepped over the line.” Such a statement detracts from what truly governs human behavior – accountability. More accurately, one could say, “The individuals that are collectively known as government (and their associates) have stepped over the line.” After all, it’s the Representatives, the Senators, the President, individuals that work within the bureaucracy, and individuals/organizations that support/manipulate “the government” who share various amounts of blame.
A fundamental question that can be used to predict the expansion of a government is, “In practice, are the individuals comprising the organization held accountable for actions/legislation that go beyond the scope of the powers delegated to them?”
It should be apparent to most that behaviors which are rewarded and go unpunished are those which tend to be repeated. Like a child that actively prods to discover how much he or she can get away with, so do similarly disposed adults. If Fred and Mary can spend copious amounts of work-time conversing at the water-cooler, how much time can you spend at leisure while on-the-clock? If politicians can make exorbitant sums of money by taking actions that grant special privileges to particular groups of people at the sake of the rest,1 and the chance of suffering consequences are nil or very improbable, why would they not do so? In such circumstances, sound personal character is the only barrier to action – which cannot be relied upon for the restraint of a government (obviously).
So far a failed mechanism, the authors of the Constitution intended that the States and elements of the People be the actors that restrain the Central Government. The 10th Amendment reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
While members and cohorts of the Central Government often hide behind the Supremacy Clause, the latter can only be taken to concern matters that fall within the confines of the Constitution. In the envisaged system, the States were supposed to be the first line of resistance to central overreach. Neglect to successfully fulfill this duty has brought into being the behemoth we now face.2
For those interested in preserving the Union, promoting its expansion will almost certainly work to its detriment. Like the average American, the Central Government is overweight, and dressing it in stripes and distracting colors will not hide the fact any longer. Although there are disagreements about where to trim, when asked whether or not the Central Government is too big – the majority of Americans will answer with an emphatic – “Yes, it’s too damn big!”
(Raise your hand, if you think the Central Government is too small. [crickets chirping])
To the dismay of tyrants throughout history, it is not a myth that governments cannot long persist without the consent – or at least, the complacency – of the governed. Once dissent spreads sufficiently, individuals begin to ignore the edicts of supposed authority figures; juries refuse to convict; police refuse to enforce; soldiers refuse to fire on fellow countrymen; etc. Authority is an illusion that only lasts as long as those affected believe it exists.
One needs to honestly answer the question – “Are we living during the rise of the United States, or its decline?”
Nothing lasts forever. It’s only a matter of time. How long will the Union last? If significant changes aren’t made, it will end sooner rather than later. After all, governments do not have any money of their own. They either acquire funds under the threat or use of force or steal it through monetary inflation. One way or the other, the more governments expand, the more money they spend, and accordingly, the more money they steal from the People. Tick, tick, tick.
It’s no wonder the People are talking.
Perhaps if the picture were more rosy, a President would actually discuss the state of the Union – in public.
1. The banker bailouts that followed the partial deflation of the real-estate bubble in 2008 serves as a good example.
2. Can a government be limited? Any respectable dabbler in political science should ponder this question. So far, history has not said yes.