Beware of Government Overreach
by: Deji Yesufu
I saw an article online a few days ago where a man was lamenting the dressing of a young woman on the street of Lagos. This person then suggested that the government of Lagos State steps into the matter and proffer dress codes to people. He was of the opinion that just as government regulates a number of things in society, government should also legislate on how people dress.
I am not sure I have ever been more aghast as to what I read online. The internet throws up a lot of rubbish but nothing ranks in plain foolishness as to a grown, educated man suggesting government regulations on dressing. But one should no longer be surprised at people thinking like this: it is the outcome of a society that has wholly become dependent on government. In this article, I want to warn against the dangers of government overreach and I want to suggest to my readers the true place of government in a society and how citizens can develop a sense of responsibility at building up a society without becoming overly dependent on government.
It is interesting to note that the concept of a democratic government is a very recent development in human experience. Prior to democracy becoming the much accepted governmental norm, most societies have been run on a monarchical system. A monarchy is the government of one person – or a family – over the rest of society. The concept is derived from an antediluvian worldview that some human beings are born better than others. So in a given society, Family A may be regarded as one that is so highly exalted and they are regarded as being born with royal blood. In fact in the days of yore, an ordinary peasant could not marry into royalty because their blood will be seen as mixing with royal blood and thus perverting it. This is why royalty mostly married royalty in those days.
It was the Christian worldview, that teaches that every man is equal in the sight of God because every man is created in the image of God, that began to eat at the root of fascist worldview. The American founding fathers built upon this Christian worldview and added to their system of government the Greek concept of democracy. The Greeks invented democracy and they use to allow ordinary people to elect men into their government in a people’s senate. The men in the senate then went on to elect a supreme leader – sometimes called the Caesar. After the American revolution of the 18th century, the founding fathers of that great country renounced the concept of the governing of a people by only one family – the English crown. Rather they adopted democratic principles and began to elect leaders over themselves. Europe, a little afterwards, particularly following the French revolution, will soon renounce most of its monarchical systems and adopt democratic principles as their system of government. In places, like England, where the monarchy still existed, it was very much a ceremonial title and not a government that possessed unending powers.
The number one reason why the Americans removed themselves from the monarchical system of government under the rule of England, was because the government of one person leads ultimately to autocracy. In the same vein, the government of one group of persons will lead to autocracy too. So, while the Americans brought democracy into modern times, they also retained certain principles in their constitution that will discourage the tendency of government to become tyrannical. In the sense that they gave powers to government, but they also gave some powers to the people – especially powers that guaranteed personal liberties. Certain structures were put in place to guard against autocratic tendencies in government. So that in America today, there is freedom to practice one’s religion. Government cannot legislate against the faith that anyone practices. The good thing about this is that people have freedom to practice their religion; the downside is that America has more cults in its society than any other country in the world. But I digress.
While the United States was ensuring democratic ethos in its system of government, most of Europe was falling to the rising socialist mentality of the 19th century. With the rise of the doctrines that Karl Max taught, Europe began to buy into the idea that society must be ruled by, yes, elected officials. But because Marx doctrines were anti-Christian at heart, they did not include in their governmental principles the idea of the liberty of conscience or the necessary freedom that every man must have – while at the same time having a government over them. So that Marx’ socialism taught that society should be governed by elected men but it denied the people freedom under this type of government. The number one reason why the American founding fathers gave freedom to her people within their constitution was because they realized that there was no such thing as a human being without flaws. They understood that the underlying principles of men’s heart is a certain depravity, which if left unchecked can produce the worst of wickedness. So, society, while governed by elected men, should also give freedom to people to speak. In the days when the American constitution was made, a certain doctrine pervaded the American society. It was the Christian worldview. Most of the people who fought in the American revolution and help birth their new society, free from British imperial rule, were Christians. In fact, some of them were ministers in churches. So that while the American people had an elected number of persons to lead society, and they had their constitution, they also had a Christian minister teaching the people the way of godliness each Sunday. At the same time paying attention to how the nation is being governed by their elected officials. So that speaking truth to power was a common thing and the people often followed their godly pastors in choosing persons to elected offices. Gradually, however, things began to change.
The first spanner that was thrown into the wheel of the system of government was the coming of socialism. While socialism also advocated the running of government by elected persons, it did not have the Christian worldview of freedom and thus it tended to instill all powers (not some powers) in government. Socialism held the view that the moment a people elect a number of person into government, these persons can inaugurate any policy. And socialism came in the garb of welfarism. It was the idea that government will oversee the production processes of society and equitably distribute the profit from these proceeds. This is where the whole idea of government providing for the poor in society comes into play – and which allows for many people to be lazy, because all they need to do is to sit at home; obey government and earn a stipend to wade through life. This is however against the more capitalist foundation of the American society that was founded on the Christian principle that “the man that does not work, should not eat”. The Calvinist-Puritan work ethics of the American founding fathers propelled them to work and to earn a lot, with which the great American society, that is much envied by most of the world, was birth.
Many people have warned against the rising challenge of government overreach in Western nations but it has all gotten to head with the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has revealed not just the challenge of the frailty of men’s lives but also the extent to which people will relinquish all powers to government without restraint. At the moment, in many Western countries, government has made it mandatory for people to take the Coronavirus vaccines. Those who have refused to take it are being restricted in society and a lot of them are loosing their jobs and unable to provide for their families. The “anti-vaccs” as they have been labelled, are arguing that there are many scientific findings that are reveal the dangers of taking the Coronavirus vaccines. This is the first time in the history of the development of vaccines that vaccines have been plunged into world market without the necessary time testing that will reveal whether or not the vaccines carry long term side effects. Many countries are reporting deaths as a result of people taking some kinds of vaccines and many of these vaccines are being withdrawn from circulation in those countries. This is besides the proven fact that the greatest vaccination that anyone can have is the naturally generated anti-body that comes with recovering from the Coronavirus disease itself. The reality is that our world has come face to face with another wave of respiratory illness and the same way we beat the last ones – with antibodies – is the only way we will beat this one. But government tyrannical hold on people has made it practically impossible for the debate to be had in public. This is one example of giving unlimited powers to government. The people in government are not divine; they don’t know all things and, yes, they can be very wrong on issues. When public debate is restricted to views that support only what government approves, we are moving into a realm of life that will not augur well for us and our children in future.
If Western nations do not know what tyranny looks like, those of us who grew up with military governments know very well what it looks like. A group of men, whom society have entrusted with weapons to protect them, suddenly cease power from those who were elected into public office with these same weapons, and then begin to issues decrees on how society should be run. Even though Nigeria has returned to civil rule since 1999, we are yet to be delivered from these military rule mentality. Most of our leaders are either former military men themselves or government is still run in this country with the same repressive autocratic mentality that the military people have. When force becomes right in society, those who can build society through intellectual discuss are denied the opportunity to do so and society can only witness degeneration from then on.
I am saying essentially that there are dangers with giving government all powers in society. Government consist of ordinary men and women. These people are human beings with flaws and these flaws can be manifested in various forms if they are left unchecked. The best way to lead society is, while allowing for elected leaders, you also empower citizens with rights and freedom. Of course this freedom cannot include a freedom to impugn on the rights of another person. But it certainly should have nothing to do with the personal right that one has, like those of what one should wear, eat or people one chooses to associate with. When government begins to legislate how we must live, move and have our being, government is taking the place of God and that is not only morally wrong but it also has the tendency for bringing an autocratic fellow into government – who may choose, one day, to change all the laws of society to fit his own perverted mindset. Case in point: the Kim dynasty of North Korea.
Friends, I beseech thee, beware of government overreach.