A few years ago, I bought a new car. It wasn’t brand new, and it certainly wasn’t the nicest model on the car lot, but it was new to me.
My former car was the same make and model, just 10 years older. To be honest, there wasn’t really anything wrong with it. Sure, it broke down a couple of times on the way to the office, but if Dave Ramsey taught me anything, it’s that keeping your current car is always more economical than getting a new one.
The paint was the real problem with my old car. The clear coat was decomposing every day — it looked like I had indiscriminately taken steel wool to it. Perhaps I am too vain, but it was embarrassing.
So, I got an upgrade.
After a couple weeks with my new car, I gave the old one a spin around my neighborhood. Wow, was there a difference! It was loud, the seats cheap and uncomfortable, and it just wasn’t that great.
That drive was a short one. I couldn’t take the older model for very long. What I liked simply didn’t cut it anymore.
This feeling is a rather common experience, at least for me. I’ll get something new that gives me a jump in my standard of living, and I’ll slowly realize that I can’t go back. Or at least I don’t want to go back.
I doubt I’m alone in this. How often do we see growing families desire to move from a house to an apartment? Or buy a smaller TV? Or a less roomy car?
Rarely. And that’s just part of human nature. Once we get something, we keep it. We don’t want to give it back.
Governments are no different.
The American income tax, for example, was originally a temporary provision used to fund the war effort during the 1860s. While it wasn’t permanent then, it soon came to stay. In fact, personal income tax today accounts for roughly half of all the federal government’s revenue.
The New Deal, FDR’s plan to revitalize a struggling economy, was a response to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Much of the bureaucracy, regulation and programs that sprung from the New Deal still exist today.
And it’s continually difficult to roll back such bureaucracy. For example, the completely Republican-controlled U.S. Congress was unable to get rid of the Affordable Care Act when they tried early in President Trump’s first term. Obamacare, it seems, is here to stay.
Just as in our personal lives, “here to stay” is the theme of government expansion. Whether it’s a levied tax or increased authority over our lives — and therefore a decreased level of freedom — history proves that empowered governments like to keep what they get.
During the pandemic, many of our cherished freedoms, especially the freedom to assemble, were taken by the government. The government even took bodily autonomy from some — if they wanted to keep their jobs, that is.
While many of our freedoms have returned — we are now able to freely gather without masks in whatever size groups we want — we’re not in the clear. By no real fault of our own, we are now accustomed to looking to the government to determine what we are allowed to do, how far we can go and when. This is a problem.
Why? Because a government ruling over a people desensitized to the quick adjustment and loss of rights may very well infringe upon liberties in situations of lesser emergency or no emergency at all. In other words, now that the government knows what it can do during a crisis, it may be prone to flex those same powers during peacetime. What’s even worse, though, is that we may be less likely to see it as a problem.
Forfeiting our liberties is not inevitable. The pandemic, however, has moved us to a state in which a longer-lasting loss of freedom is more possible and more likely than before.
Just like with my new car, the government has seen what it can have. And to them, it’s shiny, attractive and hard to resist.
Our job is to make that bright, shiny, irresistible object impossible to take.
Parker Snider is the operations manager at 1819 News.
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