Speaking at the commencement ceremony at Ohio State University before the IRS scandal broke in May, President Obama cautioned the graduates to reject the voices “that warn that tyranny is always just around the corner”, that “suggest that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted”. Well, as observed shortly thereafter, it turns out that tyranny was in fact just around the corner and, as evidence continues to bubble up, this particular episode was about much more than a few mid-level rouge agents in Cincinnati and does seriously threaten the bonds of trust.
But it’s also becoming pretty clear that this phenomenon is about a governing philosophy that produces a culture that smacks of totalitarianism, at least to the extent that identifies the regulatory state as the embodiment of “community” or, as Barney Frank has put it, “government is just another word for the things we do together”.
And there are other manifestations, other ways in which this perversity metastasizes in a totalitarian culture without the necessity of direct instructions from superiors. It is inherent in the underlying principles of progressive political philosophy, with its preference for positive law and regulation (what government must do) over negative law (what government must not do).
So the IRS scandal is the high profile short-term issue, but the progressive regulatory state is the long-term problem, and it cannot be reversed until we return to our founding principles in negative law and roll back the size and intrusion of government in our lives.