When most of us go to Washington, D.C., we spend our free time admiring the Capitol, the White House and all the impressive monuments. And they are all magnificent, and remind us of our great history, traditions and heroes.
But last week, I had the opportunity to do a lot of walking from one meeting to another in the Nation’s Capital, and I was struck by something else.
It wasn’t the Washington Monument or even the Capitol that caught my attention. No, this time, it was all those massive government office buildings. Block after block of huge edifices filled with tens of thousands of people working in the federal government was a truly sobering sight.
We don’t need tens of thousands of government employees working for the Departments of Commerce and Education
I walked past the Department of Commerce. It covers an entire very large city block. It has 3,300 rooms, and corridors a thousand feet long. It’s an impressive building. What struck me most was the obvious question: What are the thousands of people in that building doing?
For that matter, why do we even have a Department of Commerce? Sure, there are few things it does that are important. The Census. The National Weather Service. Patents. Maybe a couple of other things. But $14 billion and 50,000 employees?
As I walked the length of that building in D.C., I just couldn’t come up with enough legitimate tasks for a Department of Commerce to fill all the offices behind all those windows.
The Department of Education? Same reaction. I see a huge building with thousands of people – probably individually well-intentioned – doing everything but educating anyone.
The educating happens in the neighborhood schools I pass at home in New Mexico, where there are real teachers and real kids. There wasn’t any education going on in that building in Washington, D.C.
Massive bureaucracies are a disturbing contrast to monuments for Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln
I could go on and on, but the sight of bureaucracies and bureaucrats as far as the eye could see was a grim reminder of just how out-of-control we have allowed our government to become.
If the Pentagon is, to many, an imposing reminder of the power of our military, what about the Internal Revenue Service building? It, too, is an imposing reminder of the force of government, only the force it represents is used against us, not to protect us.
The massive concentration of government power we can see so graphically in Washington in the form of endless office buildings stands in ironic and disturbing contrast to the monuments to Jefferson, Washington, and even Lincoln. These were presidents who reflected and even championed the notion of a limited federal government.
It occurs to me that it is almost offensive to have a federal Department of Education a few blocks from a memorial to Thomas Jefferson inscribed with this statement:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Tyranny takes many forms, but success in government should be measured in liberty and freedom
Tyranny over the mind of man can take many forms, including a federal government that endlessly tries to control how our children learn.
A massive federal government, as illustrated so clearly by a stroll through downtown Washington, is absolutely not what the Founders had in mind. I doubt they would be pleased to see what we have done with the framework they gave us.
Being an optimist, I hold out hope that someday the politicians will remember that the success of our government should be measured in liberty and freedom, not the size of budgets, buildings and payrolls.
(Photo of former Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland by Gage Skidmore)