He’s pressing the bailed‐out auto companies to make “greener” cars that Americans don’t show much interest in buying, and some of his supporters want to forbid the companies and their executives from raising questions about global warming and stricter emissions standards.
He’s also ordering that religious groups which get government funding not discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring.
In each case, the government is using its money to impose rules on private organizations, whether businesses or churches or charities.
For decades, opponents of big government have warned that government funding would mean government control. That insight, of course, is part of our folk wisdom: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”
The laws sounded reasonable enough: Any college, or business, or hospital, or nonprofit agency that is a recipient of federal funds must abide by certain federal regulations. After all, it was reasoned, the federal government has a responsibility to monitor how taxpayers’ money is being spent.
So firms that did business with the government became subject to affirmative‐action regulations, health and safety regulations, medical cost‐containment rules and drug‐free workplace requirements.
Colleges that eagerly took the carrot of federal funding soon faced myriad reporting requirements, especially to document compliance with anti‐discrimination rules. Members of Congress who had a good idea about how colleges should be run added amendments to appropriations bills: Any college receiving federal funds shall do thus and so.
But soon it came to pass that almost every company in America was doing some business with the feds and every college was receiving federal aid. It became almost impossible to escape the tentacles of Leviathan.
Conservatives used to complain about such big‐government intrusions, and liberals brushed the complaints aside. Government funding of everything under the sun was not only a way of redistributing wealth, the liberals thought, it was a way of bringing everyone under the control of progressive, fair‐minded bureaucrats in Washington.
But then the conservatives started winning elections – in 1980, and 1994, and 2000 – and they started attaching their own strings to the federal money.
The government forbade arts agencies funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to present any “obscene” art. Under pressure from the federal drug czar, Stanford University fired an instructor who said he carried drugs in his backpack on campus.