Without regard to whether it’s as bad as Benghazi or more on the order of Obama closing the National Mall in a fit of pique over not reaching a budget deal with Republicans, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent embarrassment over his staff fouling up traffic on the George Washington Bridge for four days in September in apparent retaliation against a political opponent is well-deserved.
Whether or not Christie authorized the mischief in question, the action of his aides provides further proof, if any were needed, of the truth of Lord Acton’s famous admonition: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In fact, as is often the case, the smaller the stakes, the more petty the politics. Taking their cue from their brusque and combative boss, Christie’s aides obviously let their limited power overwhelm their good judgment, assuming they ever had any.
The arrogant actions of Christie’s aides cost the governor’s constituents unneeded frustration and energy and caused otherwise productive human beings to waste hours of their lives sitting in already stressful traffic conditions. This demonstration of what the late U. S. Senator J. William Fulbright once called “the arrogance of power” tells all we need to know about why more government is bad for us and less government is good: bureaucrats tend to put their own interests ahead of those they are supposed to serve.
To paraphrase Mark Steyn speaking to Hugh Hewitt, if government is good for anything, then it’s supposed to be for stuff like building bridges across rivers to facilitate traffic between states. But shutting down traffic to annoy your political opponents is the stuff of petty tyrants, not a self-governing people.
It was amusing, perhaps, in the late 1970’s to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger as “Conan the Barbarian” recite what is best in life: “To crush your enemies, [to] see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” But there’s a reason he’s called a barbarian.
In the modern world, the only legitimate roles for government are to lead, to follow, or to get out of the way of the people. For four days in September, on the George Washington Bridge, the government of New Jersey showed no apparent interest in any of these things.