Illustration: Truth and Lie

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, June 14, 2013.

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Is anybody in government capable of telling the truth? The recent record suggests not.

Attorney General Eric Holder lied about his involvement regarding the scrutiny of the phone records of Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman lied to Congress concerning IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about her role in the Benghazi disaster.

Then U.N. Ambassador and now National Security Adviser designate Susan Rice went on five Sunday shows last September and lied about what happened in Benghazi.

Last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about the scope of NSA collection of phone records and emails.

Earlier this year, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius lied about soliciting money from companies that her department regulates in order to promote and publicize Obamacare.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson lied concerning her use of shadow email accounts to avoid creating a permanent record of some of her activities in connection with the execution of her office.

The list of examples goes on but space doesn’t permit.

That federal officials and office holders have taken liberties with the truth is nothing new. The country has lived with lying politicians from the very founding of the republic.

Among examples from our lifetime:

Richard Nixon lied about the Watergate break-in and was hounded from office for it.

Bill Clinton lied under oath to a grand jury and, in so doing, in all likelihood cost his VP the presidential election in 2000.

Lyndon Johnson lied to the American people about U.S. involvement in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, effectively ending his chance at a second elected term while crippling America’s ability to prosecute a war for generations to come.

If you expect politicians to always tell the truth you will be forever disappointed. In a now famous encounter on the Phil Donahue Show in 1979, economist Milton Friedman responded to the uber-liberal Donahue’s faith in government over free markets by asking;

“Just tell me, where in the world do you find these angels who are going to organize society for us?”

The founders knew there were no such angels. The founders knew that humans are by their very nature fundamentally flawed and that any system of government that relies solely on the virtue of its leaders to keep itself in check is destined to become abusive and tyrannical.

Thus our Constitution was designed so as to keep the government on a tight rein with very limited enumerated powers. But two and a quarter centuries later we have so expanded the federal government that it now has power over us right down to how we toilet ourselves, how we light our homes, how we get from point A to point B, how we finance our businesses and what may and may not be said in the schools in our own neighborhoods.

With as much power over our lives as is now vested in the federal government, the virtue of its leaders and functionaries becomes a concern of much greater magnitude. And as we have been recently reminded, virtue in Washington D.C. is in very short supply.

Yet, in this virtuousness vacuum we are being asked to trust that the government will never abuse private information collected from our emails. We are being asked to trust that government won’t abuse the power it now has over us regarding our health care. We are being asked to believe that the exercise of our rights to free speech and assembly won’t earn us an invasive IRS audit.

In all three examples, experience of late suggests that that’s asking a lot.

Recent polls indicate that trust in the federal government stands at an all-time low. That the scope of the federal government stands at an all-time high cannot be dismissed as pure coincidence.

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