The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

If It Ainít Broke …

February 10, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 7

This article appeared on on Friday, February 7, 2002.

I worked inside the huge federal government for 26 years. My agency enforced federal laws about corruption and abuse that are always a part of large bureaucracies. The incompetence I witnessed was both remarkable and discouraging.

We were attacked on September 11, 2001, and immediately the population turned to the federal government for protection, and President Bush did not let us down. His administration has performed magnificently, and his approval ratings soared immediately and have remained high.

Nobody should be surprised, since the federal government is doing what it was established to do, and itís doing it very well. Protecting the population is the fundamental task of government.

People now trust the government in poll numbers not seen in many years. But when weíre not at war, it almost seems like the federal government gets bored and starts looking around for matters in our personal and local lives to mess with.

Itís not just the loss of liberty and the loss of money out of our paychecks that Iím referring to. A too-large central government breeds discontent in the population. Dislike for oneís own government is not a good thing. People arenít happy when they dislike or distrust their own government.

But, people love the Constitution and Bill of Rights because of what these documents say and stand for. As a companion to these documents, the Federalist Papers spell out much of the thinking of the founders as they struggled to get on paper a balanced form of government they believed would give us great lives, and guarantee our safety and liberty.

One common thread runs through these documents – the belief that the federal government should not be involved in local matters. An excellent example of "local matters" are our fire departments and rescue squads. The founders had good reasons to conclude local matters should remain local.

First, they knew men of loftier concerns wouldnít have the interest in local matters that, well, locals would have. They also knew that from a distance they could not possibly run local functions as well as residents of a community could. Thatís just common sense.

But there is another reason why they did not want to meddle in local affairs such as law enforcement and the putting out of fires, because, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number 17,

There is one transcendent advantage belonging to the province of the state governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a clear and satisfactory light – I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice. This, of all others is the most powerful, most universal, and most attractive source of popular obedience and attachment. It is this which being the immediate and visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes more than any other circumstance to impressing upon the minds of the people affection, esteem and reverence toward the government.