To have a healthy fear of government is to understand human nature — it’s to understand ourselves.
I often hear people making fun of “conspiracy theorists” or those fearful of “big government.” After all, government is nothing more than the people. So what is there to fear?
First of all, government is not “the people.” Government is a representation of the people — or at least it should be. Secondly, inherent rights and power belong to persons, not groups. Government is a group and therefore a surrogate power. When we talk of issues such as civil rights or women’s rights, it is the people constituting the group, not the group itself, that own the rights and, consequently, the power. This distinction may seem unnecessary but it is crucial.
Persons within a democratic republic give up some of their inherent power to the government in exchange for various interests. However, the power ultimately rests within the people.
The danger of government lies in the heart of humankind. Which one of us has not experienced the “rush” of being appointed to a position of power or at times sought to lord ourselves over others? The potential for power abuse among individuals pales in comparison to that of government — especially that of a superpower. Surely those tasked with buying up billion-dollar industries and bringing nations to their knees face tremendous temptation.
Because of this, it is a wise citizen who posses a healthy fear of, and keeps a consent watchful eye on, her government.
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
— George Washington