Shawn Mitchell

Yes, if we think borrowing 40% of spending is too much, trillion dollar deficits are too big, and $16 trillion in express ledger debt is stifling now and especially to our children and grandchildren, then we are demanding the abolition of the state.

And, in too many debates to count on social networks, any argument about the increasing federal bite in personal earnings, in GDP, and in American productivity draws a trite retort about the value of roads, schools, parks, and police and fire protection.

The most recent such doe-si-doe was just yesterday (today, as I write) with a former reporter for a major regional newspaper, now a press flack for a government agency. As we arm-wrestled over the size and reach of government, he challenged: if I’m so opposed to socialism, then how can I countenance the Interstate Highway System established by the Republican luminary Dwight D. Eisenhower?

Well. If anything is to be done collectively, I guess there’s no reasonable objection to everything being done collectively.

Like Peter Finch, I’m mad as hell. Unfortunately, there’s no escape from continuing to take it. But if I could get in all their faces at once, boy would it feel good to rant…

No, Mr. Rock, the president is not my Daddy. I have a family and intimate relations that I treasure, and a government with constitutional limits that I respect. The two relationships aren’t analogous.

No, Mr. Regulator-Cheerleader-legislative-witness, questioning the value of new regulations is not advocating a return to the Wild West, anarchy, or law of the jungle. That’s not what supporters of liberty and limited government want. We want government that enforces the norms of civilized behavior: you can’t punch me, and I can’t cheat or defraud you.

You see the difference?  We don’t want government that thinks it knows better than consumers and producers what should be produced, bought, or sold. We just want government to be a neutral referee and keep us from abusing each other in the process of our transactions.

That’s the gist: Government is a peace protector and rule enforcer, not a big-biceped coach and  mentor. If you want government to be a quarterback that steers people and resources toward “good” opportunities, and deflects them from “bad” choices, you are a progressive statist, whether right or left.

But, if you want government to be a sheriff, that takes a dim view of people hurting, cheating, or forcing their neighbor, then you are a defender of liberty and limited government: Freedom except when fist hits nose.

Finally, if you argue that challenging the permanent 20% jump in spending and the relative size of the federal government we’ve experienced with this administration is tantamount to rejecting roads, schools, police and fire protection, you’re either ignorant or dishonest.

We’ve had all those public services for many decades in America, even back when the federal bite on our wealth was a fraction of what it is today. Indeed, virtually all the parade of civilized glories is state/locally funded and delivered. Uncle Sam has no call to justify his 25% lien on national wealth based on the vital local services our states provide for much, much less.

Can we debate what we actually need constitutional government to do? Or is that too nuanced for liberals?


Shawn Mitchell

Shawn Mitchell was elected to Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly in November of 2004. Shawn is an attorney at private practice in Denver and Adams County.