We the People – "The Little Platoons"
To her credit, First Lady Michelle Obama has raised awareness regarding our dietary habits and suggested that Americans should stop “super-sizing” their food portions to solve our nation’s obesity and health problems. Unfortunately, few in Washington D.C. have any similar determination to stop “super-sizing” our government to save our liberties.
We understand the overreach of government threatens our individual liberties, but could it possibly be a reason for a diminished love for America?
That perspective had not occurred to me until a friend shared Jim DeMint’s latest book, Falling in Love with America Again, in which DeMint details the myriad ways that Big Government (“The Mother of Big”) fosters Big Banks, Big Business, Big Unions, and inevitably Big Taxes. As he relates in the introduction of the book, the Bigs of America lead to the most frustration and even animosity among our citizens. How many of us rant about the red tape of bureaucracies, long holds on the phone while trying to correct a billing error from a large bank or company, or the lack of decent customer service from our government services?
Or as he so succinctly states: “When Big is all there is, people are unlikely to hold genuine affection for the whole. Even when people are dependent on the services of Big – whether government or private organizations – they are likely to resent their dependency and lack of choices while disdaining the people who control them.” 1
As a nation, have we become so entrenched with Big that we have permanently lost the concept of federalism that allowed so many freedoms and led to our exceptionalism? Federalism as intended by our Founders and defined by James Madison in Federalist No. 45 gave limited powers to the federal government – “few and defined” – while those of the States were “numerous and indefinite.” The original intent led to the design of the system of checks and balances to prevent an over-bearing centralized government which ultimately limits personal liberties. As DeMint explains, the framers of our Constitution were not trying design an efficient central government because they understood that the preservation of liberty was the essential goal.
Throughout the book, DeMint refers to the writings of British philosopher Edmund Burke and French author Alexis de Tocqueville, and their belief that great countries, and societies, are comprised of many “little platoons” (churches, charitable organizations, and civic groups) that connect us to our communities and to our fellow man. Burke wrote that love for the little platoon to which we belong “is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.” 2 During Tocqueville’s visit to America in the 1830s, he noted these “platoons” of “associations” that supported the efforts of communities to self-govern in a de-centralized local manner, and creating an American spirit of believing we can accomplish great things.
Progressive federalism, or increasing the power of the central government thereby eroding the powers of the States, making them little more than administrators of federal programs and enabled by both political parties, poses a bigger threat than ever to our liberty.
Yet DeMint cautions us in thinking the answer lies in bigger state and local governments because bad government occurs at all levels.
Whether federal, state, or local, big government diminishes the control we have over our lives, so is it any wonder that politicians in both political parties are willing to expand its role? Big government holds the power – not the people.
But rather than despair about the Bigs of America, DeMint provides encouragement for all, regardless of political philosophy, gender, race, or economic standing because of the success stories he shares of the little platoons across America.
What intrigued me about DeMint’s book was the emphasis on the “little platoons”, and what different people and organizations are accomplishing within our own local communities.
We simply cannot depend on the federal government because the larger it becomes, the greater the number of people who fall through the cracks. But our local platoons can still make a difference – one community at a time.
Many ask “what can I do?” Jim DeMint’s book gives us a blueprint and I encourage you to read it – then find your own platoon and help others fall in love with America again.
1DeMint, James, Falling in Love with America Again
2Burke, Edmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Marcia Chambliss is the Alabama State Coordinator of Smart Girl Politics, a 501(c) (3) non-profit dedicated to the education and training of activists and candidates, and Smart Girl Politics Action, http://sgpaction.com/, a 501(c) (4) which focuses on conservative issues. She can be reached at: Marcia@sgpaction.com. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart Girl Politics Action.