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Stupid People, and Other Arguments for Limited Government

The Constitution: protecting the people in times of government by morons.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

December 16, 2009 - 12:09 am
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New Jersey, for example, passed a birth and death certificate law in 1799. Here’s an 1884 New York State report referring to the mandatory birth and death certificate requirement. Here’s an 1893 report from the North Carolina government that refers to the mandatory birth and death certificate requirements. At least as early as 1866, Massachusetts required parents to register births, and apparently as early as 1639.

There are days I somewhat understand why the hard left holds the masses in such contempt, because stuff like this is so widely believed and accepted with no evidence. The left, however, seems to forget how many of their fellow elites believe:

  1. We never went to the moon.
  2. The World Trade Center collapse was an inside job.
  3. John Kennedy was really going to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam, and that’s why the CIA assassinated him. (At the same time, they ignore the more plausible explanation that Lee Harvey Oswald, a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and a Communist who actually renounced U.S. citizenship to move to the Soviet Union, might have assassinated Kennedy in retaliation for Kennedy’s approval of CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro.)

Wild, bizarre, unbelievable conspiracy theories are a huge problem in every society. This isn’t a new problem, either. It is one of the stronger arguments for limited governmental power. If most of the population buys into bizarre, strange, or even profoundly dangerous foolishness, there is a limit to the amount of damage that the majority can cause if the government’s power is limited.

Hitler and his followers, without a government to impose their ideas, might have murdered tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals over a period of a couple of decades. Some of the victims would have fought back well enough to dampen the enthusiasm that some members of the Sturmabteilung had for murder. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, if in charge of a government of limited power, simply could not have enslaved tens of millions of people, worked to death millions, and starved to death millions more.

It simply would not have had the power to do it privately. The strongest argument for a government of limited powers is that you should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

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Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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