Cover Story

How shall we then govern?

Issue: "How shall we then govern?," Oct. 28, 2000

Voters on Nov. 7 are choosing not just between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but between Bush and Gore administrations. When the New York Journal in 1787 assessed the position of the president in the Constitution then being debated, it worried that "He will be surrounded by expectants and courtiers," and that the number of federal positions would grow, and grow. The Maryland Journal in 1788 observed that "Once power and authority are delegated to a government, it knows how to keep it ... so far from parting with the powers actually delegated to it, government is constantly encroaching on the small pittance of rights reserved by the people, and gradually wresting them out of their hand." Republicans in 1995 who tried to close down major government departments ran into officials who had power and authority and knew how to keep it. Since then frustration has bubbled up among many conservatives whose study of the past leaves them no more optimistic about the future than the Maryland Journal was two centuries ago: "From the first history of government to the present time, if we begin with Nimrod and trace down the rulers of nations to those who are now invested with supreme power, we shall find few, very few, who have made the beneficent governor of the universe the model of their conduct, while many are they who, on the contrary, have imitated the demons of the darkness." Imitating "the demons of the darkness" sounds a bit like negative campaigning, and we at WORLD, in keeping with the rhetoric of the current campaign, have studiously avoided that. We also agree with our Maryland predecessor that "We have no right to expect that our rulers will be more wise, more virtuous, or more perfect than those of other nations have been." True, but thinkers and writers are a different story: For this special issue we asked some of the wisest and most virtuous observers of American government and life to write about what the next kings of the forest, whether Democratic or Republican, should do. Our Shadow Cabinet-we can imitate the British in one way-includes a current U.S. Senator and several people with executive-branch experience, but our main goal was to solicit creative experts capable of seeing and assessing the trunks, legs, tails, and carcasses of these giant beasts that government departments have become. After first providing a timeline that shows us how the feds have flourished over the past two centuries, we go department by department, starting with the four original cabinet agencies-Department of State, Department of Treasury, Department of Defense (originally the non-euphemistic Department of War), and Attorney General. Then, after a look at how the White House press office can rebuild its reputation, we look at the three departments that have most expanded Washington's reach into everyday life: Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education. Finally, we examine two crucial specialty areas: the Office of Management and Budget and the twin towers of late 20th-century provocation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The 10 essays vary in tone but possess a common tenacity, because the stakes are high. A new administration in a new millennium has great opportunities to choose between liberty and license, and even between life and death. One month after Americans in 1776 declared their independence from the British bureaucracy, Samuel Adams spoke words of triumph but also warning to a large crowd in Philadelphia: "We have fled from the political Sodom; let us not look back, lest we perish and become a monument of infamy and derision to the world." Today the world is watching very closely, and the choice is ours.

-Marvin Olasky

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Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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