Monday, June 3, 2013

Just following orders

How many conservatives do you know that want to go into government service as a tax auditor, or to protect snails from oil producers in Texas, or audit mom-and-pop gun shops for book-keeping compliance? It is a fact of life that leftists are drawn to government service jobs in significantly greater numbers than are conservatives. Institutional bias against conservative groups or businesses may be intentional in some government bureaus, but it doesn't have to be intentional in order to be something that should be expected. It will occur, intentionally or not. That's the nature of institutional biases.

The recent IRS scandals have brought ideologically driven abuse by government agencies into the headlines, but it is not a new, or even unusual phenomenon.We have seen a variety of government agencies engage in ridiculous abuses of private individuals and small businesses in recent years. Private property rights are routinely trampled in the name of environmental protections. The BATFE exacts severe penalties on gun shops for minor typographical mistakes that do nothing to compromise the integrity of the process. Gibson guitar is still under fire by the EPA for violating some Indian export restriction that India has claimed wasn't violated. Catherine Engelbrecht was audited by the IRS, OSHA, and BATFE, and questioned by the FBI after attempting to register her "True the Vote" group as a non-profit. Whether it is a school administrator suspending a 5 year old for making a "finger gun" and then interrogating him in isolation to find out what the home situation is regarding guns, or an IRS agent demanding a pro-life group provide details about their public prayers, the underlying cause is the same.

There is a crusader mentality at work behind the assumptions that shutting down a gun shop that's been in a family for generations, and teaching children that American firearm heritage is evil, and reminding people that their property is not theirs to do with as they please, are good and appropriate things. The folks that called for the SWAT style armed raid on the Gibson factory to rescue some incorrectly presumed protected Indian hardwood, thought they were engaged in an act of righteousness. They were providing "good service" as one of the Cincinnati IRS employees recently put it. These are fundamentally leftist perspectives and they imply that an antipathy exists within these agencies towards large portions of the American public. "Public service" has unfortunately become an oxymoron in American government bureaucracies. The idea that low level bureaucrats in the IRS did not question their orders to scrutinize TEA party groups is every bit as troubling as the idea that higher ranking bureaucrats would have requested such scrutiny. The expectations within these agencies regarding what constitutes an abuse of the public trust is clearly set incorrectly at every level.

It is perplexing that conservative politicians aren't making the broader case that the recent IRS abuses are an obvious outcome of left wing institutional bias in our overgrown government bureaus. Conservative politicians must start using these opportunities to educate the American public about the strong points of conservatism. A prominent reason for the conservative tenet of limited government is standing in the middle of center stage with  blaring horns, and flashing arrows pointing right at it while GOP politicians focus on small picture issues. Of course the small picture issues need to be pursued, but is it too much to ask for the smallest amount of extrapolation to use the crisis to illustrate some fundamental principles?

As long as there is government there will be government abuses, but there is no reason that we should not expect to be able to reduce them. There are two things, and only two things that will reduce the frequency and magnitude of this type of abuse - diversity of thought in government agencies, and reducing the scope of the federal government. Conservatives will not typically gravitate towards many of these types of jobs, but it may be necessary to begin cultivating a call of duty for conservatives to these positions in ways similar to the call to military service, or public teaching.

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