Many people I've talked to recently are disappointed with the choices of presumptive presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That's understandable. Both Clinton and Trump are flawed candidates, vehemently opposed by significant portions of the population. But, unless something totally out of the blue happens, next January we will witness the inauguration of President Clinton or President Trump.
This will happen despite their flaws and despite the strong opposition each of them inspires among some voters. Disaffected voters will wonder helplessly what they can do to mitigate the outcome.
This week there is another momentous vote. The people of the United Kingdom will vote whether to remain in the European Union or to leave the European Union. This so-called Brexit vote has enormous implications for the future of Britain and Europe.
According to the polls, the people of Great Britain are closely divided on the question. Half of the people want to leave and half of the people want to remain. Come Friday, half the country will be sorely disappointed, wondering what recourse they have to affect the future decided for them by the Brexit vote.
Millions of people in Europe will also be affected by the Brexit vote, especially if Britain votes to leave the European Union. For better or worse, their political and economic futures are in the hands of British voters. Undoubtedly, some are hoping Britain will vote to leave and some are hoping Britain will vote to remain. But each person in Europe is a helpless bystander as Britain goes to the polls to decide their mutual fate.
Such is the way with socially-determined choices. One side wins and one side loses, and everyone must live with the outcome. Sometimes the outcome is momentous, as is the case with the presidential election or the Brexit vote. The future is uncertain, and risks of mistakes are high. The voice of the individual is diluted to meaninglessness. Their fate is determined by the majority, no matter how strong their opposition. The result is anxiety and frustration, a natural outcome of the state of helplessness of the individual.
Why are the Brexit vote and the presidential election so momentous? The common cause is that governments have become too big, too powerful and too intrusive.
Back in the day, before 1913 and the introduction of the income tax and the Federal Reserve, presidential elections were just not that important in the lives of ordinary people. Government power and presidential power has expanded over the last hundred years and today government reaches into the lives of ordinary people in ways that the founders of our country would find completely unacceptable. With so much power at stake, it is important that the "right" person become President. Elections are momentous, whether we like it or not.
Unlike socially-determined choices, there are no frustrated voters when people make their own individually-determined choices. In the limited government envisioned and bequeathed to us by the Founding Fathers, individuals make many more choices about what affects their daily lives. They may make mistakes, but they make their own mistakes, and can make more choices to put it right.
A good outcome is possible in the 2016 Presidential election. It is that the people may rediscover the genius of the Founding Fathers. The Founders did not trust the government with power, nor did they entrust power to persons. Yet today the government has virtually unlimited power, as long as the majority agrees. Presidential power has expanded with the machinery of executive administrative government into power a King would enjoy. Maybe a President Trump will convince even Progressives to become champions for limited government, the rights of the individual, and protectors of the preciousness of liberty.
President Thomas Jefferson best described a truly liberal government (HT Scott Grannis):
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson, first inaugural address, March 4, 1801.