Limited government

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--The Declaration of Independence is an amazing document. However, it seems apparent that too many lawmakers in America are ignorant of its intent.

When the founding fathers crafted their defiant declaration they very carefully listed the reasons they were dissolving "the political bands" which had them bound to England.

In the Declaration of Independence, the founders accused the British government of being overbearing, obtrusive, arbitrary and brutish. Taxation without representation was just one example of England's unjust policies.

Examining the Declaration of Independence in light of the subsequent Constitution, it seems clear that the government favored by the founders was a limited one. Hence, they created a representative republic highlighted by a separation of powers.

America's founders had long chaffed under a heavy-handed government that sought to control too many aspects of their lives. The last thing they wanted in a new government was an individual or individuals who would seek to micromanage their affairs.

Fast forward 232 years from the time the founders declared their independence and it seems that many of our legislators are more than willing for government to intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens.

Government in some shape, form or fashion now regulates too much of our lives. Consider the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, which began with good intentions.

Included for protection in the ESA are a variety of spiders, snails, snakes, fish, salamanders, bats, rats, lichens, ferns, flowers, etc. At last count, there are 1237 animals and 747 plants that are classified as "endangered or threatened."

If you live in California, according to the ESA, there are 309 species you have to be careful not to disturb. In Florida you have to be on the lookout for 114 and in Texas 93. I am fortunate. In Louisiana the ESA indicates that I only have to be on the alert for 30 different species that are "threatened or endangered."

Run afoul of the ESA and you will pay dearly. Not only could you be accessed a hefty fine, but your land use could be severely restricted. In 2003, a North Carolina logger was fined $95,000 for cutting down a tree where endangered eagles nested. No eagles where harmed, mind you, it was only the nest that was destroyed.

The ESA is only the tip of the iceberg of intrusive government regulation.

Government in some shape, form or fashion dictates not only the type of toilet you can install in your home, but whether or not you can pump your own gas. Two states, Oregon and New Jersey, actually forbid self-serve gas stations. I could go on and on ad nauseam. And if you really think about, you could too.

Last year, a New York state senator proposed legislation that would make it illegal for people to use an MP3 player, cell phone or any similar electronic device while crossing a street in either New York City or Buffalo. I am glad to report that this piece of legislation was defeated.

The most recent attempt of government to intrude into the lives of citizens comes from Mississippi where three lawmakers want to make it illegal for restaurants to serve food to obese people. The implications of this law, not to mention how it would be enforced, are disturbing. Here is hoping it is soundly defeated.

I would not be surprised, however, if some form of the Mississippi fat-law eventually gets passed somewhere in America. Consider the smoking bans that are sweeping the nation.

I don't smoke. In fact, I can't stand cigarette smoke and believe it to be one of the nastiest and most foolish and unhealthy habits one can ever engage in. If government wants to ban smoking on government-owned property, so be it. However, to tell an owner of a private business that he or she cannot allow smoking is beyond intrusive.

If a restaurant wants to market itself as smoke-free, it will have my business. If another establishment wants to tout itself as "so smoke-filled you'll think the place is on fire," I will steer clear.

"The law is the last resort of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the people," a wise man once observed. "However," he added, "too many laws written too specifically are neither wise nor beneficial."

Our founders would agree. And if they could see what has become of their vision of limited government, they would be appalled.


Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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