An Oncological Model of Government Growth

© Bradford Hatcher, 2008
Version 08.3

    Frustration, anger or disgust might on occasion prompt someone to say: "this government is growing like a cancer." But I intend to assert this here in a more rational tone and apply this comparison to nearly all modern governments, at all levels, federal, state, county and municipal, and even some corporations and NGO's. No only does the analogy offer new points of view for a more detailed study of unregulated and parasitic growth in theses artificial entities - it also suggests strategies for treatment. Numerous writers have described the still larger relationship between humankind and the planet's biosphere, with special regard to our unchecked population growth and our overconsumption of resources, as a pathological process analogous to malignant neoplasm, or cancer (Gregg, 1955; Eisley, 1961; Hern, 1990; and Forrester, 1991). While such an analysis has a number of things to teach us about the dynamics of our predicament, in many ways the much simpler pathological model of parasitism conveys the same core message with greater simplicity and just as much mortal urgency. The two pathologies of population and government growth also warrant being considered together, particularly since overpopulation helps to accelerate government growth and since none of the broader human problems are ever going to be solved without a successful solution to our carrying capacity predicament. Here I will offer another use of the "Oncology Model" to describe the most prevalent pathological processes in the body politic. In this model the organs of government are likened to specialized organs and tissues, and the members of government to the specialized cells. Government entities, like tumors, are comprised of cells and tissues that have common tendencies to unlearn their sense of place, their specific and specified functions, their organizational limitations, their ability to sense and respond appropriately to feedback, and to corrupt the programs that were written to tell them when and where to stop. Contrary to how it would like to think of itself, the organ of government will not once be referred to in this analogy as the brain or the nervous system, especially after having demonstrated so little intelligence..

    At the beginning of multicellular life, the fertilized egg or zygote multiplies into a blastula, a big ball of undifferentiated stem cells. When this ball collapses into a blastocyst, two different cellular environments are created, inner and outer. This marks the beginning of cellular differentiation. Soon there are four types of cells: endoderm, mesoderm, ectoderm and germ cells. As their environments get more complex, the cells receive signals from different sides and sources that trigger further narrowing of the larger set of genetically inherited options that they formerly held open. By the time we are halfway developed, we have more than 200 types of cells in ten major organ systems. It is the information gleaned from the micro-environment, sometimes from adjacent cells and sometimes sent from systems higher up, that triggers the activation of certain portions of a cell's genome, directing its development in specific ways, into certain sizes and shapes, with certain sensitivities, plasticities or irritabilities, to perform more specific functions. At the same time, certain portions of the genome are shut down, often for life. Cell signaling normally keeps this process on track, providing the feedback required for healthy organ growth and development, restraint in growth, tissue repair and immunological response. Without adding a sense of teleos or purpose to this picture, it is in the process of cellular differentiation that the cell acquires functions and directives that are more narrow than simply feeding, eliminating waste, and growing. The cells now serve higher orders, and regulatory mechanisms come into play from around and above them that prevent their activities from being purely self-interested and self-serving. These functions and directives now subordinate functions of the cell to the larger organ systems and to the organism as a whole. It is in the proper and properly limited functioning of this specialization that the organism's overall health is to be found.

    Unlike the stem cells comprising the blastula, members of human societies specialize in function at even the smallest family scales, first around vertical (or age) diversity and around our sexual dimorphism. But the dissimilarity ends there. At the extended family or tribal scale, where we have hundreds of millennia of genetic adaptations behind us, a large number of archetypal roles open up, far beyond the simple divisions of young, adult and elder, or hunters vs. gatherers. Here, even in higher primate societies, we already have chief, alpha male, matriarch, alpha female, alpha's goon, challenger, challenger's thug, midwife, medicine man, shaman, weaver, inventor, chef, warrior, hero, brave scout, lead hunter, trickster, hot young female, hot young suitor, loser, sycophant, punching bag, and the crowd of betas, gammas and deltas all just getting along and getting by. When empty, these roles, spaces or vacancies in the social order seem to be sensed and occupied spontaneously or naturally by the one who feels most fit and suited to the job. How the emptiness of these spaces is noticed in the first place seems to be an inherited, hardwired neurophysiological process. This was what Jung meant by archetypes, which was not intended to be a metaphysical notion. This is not simply a matter of cultural learning, although this tends to add refinements and degradations to the natural forms. The artificial structuring of specialized roles and our specializations of labor enter our social and cultural pictures with the dawn of agriculture, permanent settlements and urbanization, where our population levels can vastly exceed the social numbers and scales that we have had time to adapt to genetically. It is here that we begin to adopt plausible-sounding cultural strategies that have not stood the tests of time, including those that threaten large-scale failures, and merciless, real-death cullings of the populations that adopt them. It should be noted that any necessity that we have for specialization, or subordination to a higher order, is not the same as subordination of the individual to a somehow more important whole or organism. It is the cell that is alive, and it is the structure of the organism that serves the living cells. The breakdown of proper order in the organism as a whole is a disservice to the cells. Cells that run amok in pathological processes are ultimately doing disservice to the other cells.

    Strategies for structuring the specializations of political leadership have, without question, supplied humankind with its greatest challenges and its most spectacular and tragic failures. Although it would be utterly pretentious at this early point in our evolution to think that we have developed the ultimate and optimal systems for governing ourselves, this does not seem to prevent the voting majority from believing that we have, particularly when that majority is voting in a democracy. Bear in mind that half of any population will be below average in intelligence, and that it only takes one more mediocre mind to tip that balance. The basic theory of U.S. constitutional government, which tends to be carefully avoided or ignored by the governments so constituted, would seem to address and preempt the problem of simple tyranny by the majority. The word democracy is not even mentioned. Before a government is chartered into existence, certain rights, both enumerated and implied, are claimed and retained by the people, who, being between governments, hold all of the original sovereignty. As is their natural right, the people also create new civil and social rights, such as those of social privilege and property ownership, during this process. The organ of the people's government, together with the tissues that hold it together and the individual cells elected or appointed to specific offices, is more or less specified in the constituting document as a set of delegated powers. This, in theory, is limited to those powers which are specified and by a larger set of powers retained by the people. In a healthy sociopolitical organism, these political organs, tissues and cells retain their originally intended size, shape, duration, function, and proportion in relation to the remainder of the body politic. They each know their proper places, limitations and functions, and, in exchange for an environment in which to thrive, they work to serve a greater good, as organs and tissues in an organic whole. When such a body is healthy, its health will be characterized by homeostasis in the relationship between the governing body and the rest of the organism. The surest indicator of a healthy homeostasis is a lack of long-term or sustained growth in adjusted per capita spending or costs, indicating a consistency in proportion or ratio, a ratio-nal relationship. Even a steady rate of growth is a compounded rate and therefore shows exponential growth. Today even a steady rate of growth is rare. A stable condition might last for a few years following the creation of a new government, without a radical intervention by the people. But it always seems to succumb eventually to pathological growth. So how do these organs of government, and the cells within their tissues, inevitably become so dedicated to their own overgrowth in relation to the whole, and how do they become so entirely self-serving?

    Cancer is often described as a disease of the regulatory functions of cells, a progressive series of entropic degradations in both the internal set of instructions for specialization, growth and retirement, and in the ability to respond properly to cellular signaling from the micro-environment. This is frequently brought on by cellular stress and/or DNA damage in excess of levels that tumor suppressor genes can handle, particularly mutated ones. Mutated genes that incline to cancer (oncogenes) are often dominant and when triggered lead to gains of cell function over proper cellular specialization limits. This is a de-differentiation process, a movement back towards the broader capabilities of stem cells, regaining abilities to function in ways that are now maladapted to new micro-environments. Between internal mechanisms and external feedback, cells are instructed in how large to grow, what shape and orientation to grow in, how to adhere to neighboring cells, what nutrition to take, what limits or borders to grow to, how often they may reproduce, what to be sensitive to, how to signal, and even when to die. In cancer cells, many or most of the following things occur: 1) The genes for the regulation of cell growth and differentiation are altered so that the factors and signals for growth come largely from within; 2) The factors and signals that limit or control growth are inhibited, rendering cell propagation hyperactive; 3) The factors and signals that trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis), the self-destruct mechanisms, are ignored or avoided, rendering the mutated cells "immortal"; 4) Cells develop an important ability to send useful false signals to neighboring tissues, secreting chemical factors that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones nearby (angiogenesis), enabling tumors to feed themselves and thus to grow beyond small clusters in size; 5) Cells develop additional abilities to misinform, to mask the symptoms of their pathology, to avoid or resist detection, to deaden vital sensory information and to delay or misdirect immunological responses; 6) Cells at the borders of neighboring tissues are no longer prevented from invading those tissues - they lose their boundaries, or their sense of place; 7) Tumor suppressor genes become inactive, leading to even less precise DNA replication and further mutation; 8) Rules for orientation within tissues are lost; 9) Rules controlling proper adhesion to adjoining tissues are lost; 10) Cells become de-differentiated (anaplastic), de-specialized, generalized, dis-organized, functionless, and self-serving; 11) Cells become too adaptable to foreign environments, allowing them to move into a wider range of tissues; 12) Cells may become self-sufficient enough to break free from their surrounding tissues and opportunistically colonize remote parts of the body (metastasis) wherever they find a micro-environment with an impaired immunity to such colonization, or a susceptibility to their disinformation strategies; and 13) In the final stages, there are no more checks on metabolic parasitism - growth continues in spite of host starvation, and the host is eaten alive until it dies. There is no need to posit an evil force in this process - it is often simply a matter of natural forces operating according to observable patterns. But such growth is certainly akin to a blind or selfish ambition in social populations, and it is axiomatic that even the best of intentions can lead to evil consequences. It therefore falls to others, or to an effective regulatory or immunological response, to hold this blind ambition in check.

    Hyperplasia, the enlargement of an organ or tissue caused by an increase in the reproduction rate of its cells, is usually the initial phase in the development of cancer. I'll use the word phase to distinguish this from the "four stages" terminology. Healthy tissue remains in a proportionate relation to the organism as a whole, growing while the organism is growing and then, in mature adults, finding a state of homeostatic equilibrium with respect to growth. Tumor suppressor genes, which normally stand ready to check runaway growth by causing cell death at the proper time are deactivated. Steady-state cellular economics is the characteristic of health while, as Edward Abbey put it, "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

    There are a few factors that, on the surface of things, will suggest something faster than linear growth in the per-capita costs of government. The complexities of social interaction rise more than linearly with population increases, and when the lebensraum starts to get scarce, the stresses of crowding exacerbate this. Another factor is that growing per-capita income tends to reflect a larger and more complex economy, which, at least according to government sources, requires a great deal more government management. These two may certainly be enough to offset most or all of the gains to be had from economy-of-scale reductions in the per capita costs of production and distribution of goods and services. But today, real or adjusted incomes are rising a lot less quickly, where they are rising at all. The income of government has now been successfully tied instead to gross measurements of income and the gross size of the economy, which include the growing costs of government mismanagement and indebtedness, and this is helping cost to feed itself and so to outpace real income growth.

    The constitutions and charters of new governments normally contain regulatory processes and procedures that are intended to control unwanted or inappropriate growth of this new entity, ways and means to keep it in its designated place, to detect malfeasance and ineptitude in its operation, to allow citizens to provide negative feedback, to hold its members accountable, to remove its members from office, to repeal its laws, to appeal and overturn its judicial decisions, to hold its ethical excesses in check, and to to regulate or withhold its funding. The U.S. Constitution contains a few such provisions. Amendment 1 says that Congress shall make no law ...abridging the freedom ... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Article 1, Section 8 theoretically limits the legislative power to "laws which shall be "necessary and proper" for carrying into execution the foregoing powers..." But the only internal reference to necessity is not found until the 10th Amendment, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,"  In theory, this limits "necessity" to the exercise of delegated powers only - a law may be made only if the government is incapable of exercising its delegated powers without it. Meanwhile, the only internal reference to propriety is not found until the 9th Amendment, which states that "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."  In theory, this prohibits legislators from improperly infringing upon or abridging any of the rights of the people. If the government were also to take the Constitution's Preamble seriously, it would also be regarded as improper to render insecure "the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," which would in turn prohibit the current accumulation of debt, depletion of non-renewable resources and massive environmental damage, all of which are serious threats to posterity.

    But how are these provisions to be enforced? How are excesses regulated in any practical sense of the term? Aren't all of these provisions rather toothless in actual practice? Will court precedent slowly build an arsenal for the defense against abuse of the rights of the people, or will it gradually erode the meaning of whatever constitutional protections do exist?  So far this process has been entropic, not building much of anything. The First Amendment, for example, states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  But it wasn't long before court precedents were in place stating that, while religious beliefs must be protected, religious practices may be prohibited, which all hangs rather precariously on a non-existent distinction between the synonyms "practice" and "exercise." By the time we got to Oregon vs. Smith, the Supreme Court has added that religious freedom can be tolerated until it conflicts with a compelling government interest, which it construes to refer to just about any compulsive government obsession. Yes, one may file a petition for the redress of a grievance. That doesn't mean that it will be read or acted upon, at least without the prohibitive costs of five to ten years of patience and income to move your petition through the courts. In effect, there is no practical regulation of government operations short of the mass mobilization of an angry citizenry. All we have, in Father Berrigan's terms, is "ineffectual grievance machinery." The mechanisms of redress lag many decades behind the arrogation and accumulation of discretionary powers. To the end of mass mobilization, citizens can still use the free press to create bad publicity for bad laws and actors, but governments are also allowed their own immense propaganda arms, with no real checks on their free use of junk science, buzzwords, bafflegab and doublespeak, which the majority of majorities will accept with little question. Finally, as a carcinoma might defend itself from immunological functions, the civil service as a union of workers will seek to immunize its workers from accountability. The civil service is certainly a lot more about job security and self-service than it is about serving the public. The process by which a government employee can be fired for incompetence, or even malfeasance, is becoming increasingly exasperating and expensive. Forget about holding an employee accountable for a simple violation of a citizen's rights. Sometimes we just need to get shot to death accidently by the police, because the two on our door looked too much like a seven. That doesn't mean the shooter will lose his job. This carefully cultivated lack of accountability is the tumor's escape from the immunological function - it is a big part of the immune deficiency problem that lets the cancer take over.

    Governments, at a minimum, double the costs of any action. When money is cycled through a government "economy" its use becomes half as efficient. The two primary reasons for this are that bureaucrats work within monopolies, protected from the selective pressures of competition, and they work outside of market pressures and vulnerabilities, protected from the economic consequences of imperfect decisions. The potential loss of a lifetime of savings is a great incentive to sharpen one's pencil and tighten up the business plan. Meanwhile, an aversion to accountability is a reason to double the cost of a project by inflating safety margins to unnecessary degrees, as a cushion against blame, particularly where those costs are covered with "free money" from the taxpayers. People will not get their taxes back by collecting free government money or lunches: they will only help government grow with growing claims for still more goods and services. Alexis de Tocqueville's best known quote has it that "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." I think this was indeed the beginning of the end. Once resignation had set in and the people considered their taxes to be already collected and spent, then it became their job to lobby as special interests to get whatever they could of this money back, or to get their representatives to fight on their behalf for the biggest chunks of the pork. It no longer occurred to them that dollars cycled through the government "economy" in this way are spent in the least economical way. As the population thus clamored for more and better services to justify the costs, the pressures for further growth spiraled out of control.

    Where not specified, certain forces will often work against a policy of abandoning programs which fail to work. Admissions of failure come slowly because this invites accountability and redress. Further, both the abandonment of a program and the extraordinary success of a program might lead to a budget surplus. Agencies normally have no claims on their budget surpluses. Residuals can only be claimed by a bureau's budget expansion. This at least leaves bureaucrats motivated to maximize their residuals, but often this can be done more simply by minimizing the service or product they provide, as by qualifying fewer recipients. If government workers cannot claim higher salaries out of the surpluses, they can at least requisition more and better toys, better travel allowances, and more staff to spread the workload around.

    The founding of government agency budgets upon the amounts which were allocated in the previous year normally has a ratchet effect that ensures all growth and no shrinkage. More rational approaches would make all government entities ad hoc, existing only to meet real and current needs, with their values and merits to be assessed in only those terms. The baseline budget would reset at zero each year, and the actual effectiveness of the prior year's allocations would need to be reassessed. The paradigm of healthy biological, ecological and even economic systems is the steady-state economy. Growth and decay are found in equal measures in all of the healthiest systems, or at least in those with any long-term prospects for sustainable success. It is well-known, at least by people who think, that sustained and increasing rates of growth in any finite system will ultimately lead to a crash or collapse of that system. What is it that would cause a state to abandon the idea that its growth, measured quantitatively, is the measure of its success? Logically, if a state exists in order to solve problems, then its long-term record of growth is in fact a measure of the growth of its problems, and of its failure to solve them. This is not a good reason to continue to do the same things.

    There is in government little attempt to find an optimal scale for the production of goods and services, as business entities must do in a free market. A government's population base is of a set size, so that population tends to drive its sense of scale. It is frequently reluctant to break itself up into smaller districts, which might optimize something like schools, or to form coalitions with other governments, which might optimize something like utilities. Thus, it often runs at inappropriate and extremely inefficient scales of operation. These are, quite literally, needlessly taxing. Better notions of efficiency and effectiveness in budget allocation could shrink government budgets considerably, but this requires an eye that studies the problem from further outside the system than an entity like the federal OMB is able to do. Such inefficiencies can enlarge an organ far beyond its optimum, simply through unnecessary stress, and then overreaction to the stress can set the organ on a path to hypertrophy.

    With a great diversity of bureaus and projects each competing for shares of the overall government budget, one would almost expect a set of market forces to drive the system towards an optimum allocation of resources. But sometimes this requires a bigger picture and a sense of long-range consequences that none of the smaller pieces of the puzzle have or can grasp. Let's say that five million dollars are available to reclaim an old uranium mine way out in the desert. The mine tunnels have now become bat caves. The tailings in aggregate have a high level of background radiation, but it is only a small bit at a time that will find its way through the watershed to the sea, triggering fatal malignant tumors in five people and thirty fish over the next thousand years. Whose job is it to compare the cost-benefit analysis of this remediation to the one which takes the same five-million taxpayer dollars and saves fifty lives with a new medical procedure and funds a hatchery that gives life to a million fish? The effect of trying to please all of the factions, minorities, classes, special interests and special classes of victims that are formed and lined up to claim special benefits and privileges leads to enormous levels of waste. We begin to budget for worst case scenarios and worst common denominators. No child may be left behind, even when the funds for ten gifted children need to be diverted to teach the alphabet to one child with irreparable brain damage. Forget that one of those gifted kids might have become the neurologist that found a new way to repair brain damage. I used to help take care of a couple of dear friends who were rendered quadriplegic by accidents, and in those circles I came to know many people with severe disabilities. I have a lot of sympathy related to the inconvenience involved in disability. As a building designer I paid close attention to the actual minimum design needs for accessibility. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was published, I was dismayed, but not surprised, at the ridiculous overkill approach. These regulations have accomplished little more than create resentment against disabled people for "causing" a 10-15% increases in unnecessary building costs as regulatory compliance costs. All sense of proportion has been lost. Reasonable accommodation would have cost a third as much. Wheelchairs were designed around the limitations set by 2-foot-wide doors. New requirements for 3-foot-wide doors set far too high a premium on the opportunity to design wider wheelchairs, or for one percent of the population to pass through doorways at something closer to highway speeds. But at least there is much growth here in construction costs, and in the job descriptions of code enforcement officials, and so there is corresponding growth in government revenues.

    Dysplasia, the enlargement of an organ or tissue by the proliferation of cells of an abnormal type, is commonly the next phase in the development of cancer. Once growth replaces health as the dominant paradigm, other characteristics of pathological processes soon follow. Normality must be understood here functionally, as relative to proper cell specialization or differentiation, and abnormality as a process of de-differentiation and gains of function that are maladaptive to the micro-environment. Tumor suppressors are transcription factors that are activated by signs of abnormality, by extreme cellular stress and by signals indicating DNA damage. They kill their own cells when found to be developing in unhealthy ways. But the growth paradigm is blind to the long term and big picture - it works against selection and death since these are short-term threats to gross size and quantity. In terms of quantity, all cells are equal. Selection is just being non-egalitarian, elitist and judgmental.

    Because government feeds so completely on rampant economic growth in the economy at large, it finds much use in resisting efforts to educate the population against parasitic population growth. It wants more mouths to feed, more hands to produce, though the quality of life be damned. This applies to the growth of its rules as well. Instead of simple growth, mission creep becomes self-sustaining, as though it were now a drive. Laws are made with intentionally loose rules of construction built into their texts. Standards are left vague enough that those who are charged with their enforcement no longer need findings of fact to sway an approval body: all they may need is the right innuendo. The rules become less specific as their functions expand, even while becoming more complicated. Enforcement opportunities allow more arbitrariness, more capriciousness. Because this behavior tends to attract undesired consequences, efforts are stepped up to shield those who would exercise these new freedoms and arrogated powers from accountability, under the rubric, of course, of shielding the public from liability. The modes of operation of government agencies become increasingly protected from the selective pressures of a healthy immune system, the pressures of protest, redress, accountability, correction and punishment.

    Elected and appointed boards and commissions, in addition to attracting some able-minded members, seem also to attract the micro-managers and the meddlers, the busybodies without projects of their own to keep them out of mischief. This is like putting art critics in charge of art, and it tends to place the amateurs on an unequal footing above the professionals. Entrenched positions involving the interpretation and enforcement of codes and ordinances, particularly where there is limited accountability, are especially attractive to the passive-aggressive personality types, who can just hide behind rules and take satisfaction in telling others what they may not be permitted to do. And, finally, let’s face it: the pay scale in the public sector does not tend to attract the finest of minds to begin with. Somebody doing planning or design in the private sector is normally concerned with creating some sort of profitable project. Somebody in the public sector with the words planning or design in his job title is normally working at trying to find documented reasons to prevent that private sector person from creating profitable projects. Success in this adversarial stance helps to justify the public position in ways that facilitation and cooperation do not. And, since this adds to project costs, it contributes to the gross "economy."

    Take building code enforcement, for example. The bureaucrat’s habit of mandating professional studies and certifications, even in situations where common sense, grammar-school arithmetic or simple thought experiments would provide ample justification for a particular design, amounts to a unfunded mandate on the private sector and adds large sums of money to unnecessary project costs. These unnecessary expenditures, when totaled across a bureaucrat’s domain, can easily exceed the bureaucrat’s salary by an order of magnitude. This should start registering somewhere on somebody’s books if the true costs of government are ever to be made widely known. Such requirements for studies and certifications have always been encouraged at least tacitly by the guild monopolies of architects, engineers, surveyors, lawyers, accountants, appraisers, etc., but now concerted lobbying efforts by these monopolies have led to a lot of these requirements being mandated by state law. Even here, the laws might only read that an official may require a particular study or stamp. The tendency of the official of course will be to interpret may as shall because this increases his sense of power and authority and decreases his sense of liability and accountability. For the large numbers of bureaucrats with passive-aggressive personality disorders, this may is a gate to heaven. Since state law is so difficult to change, it is up to local pressure on local government to prevent this, and such change is very expensive to organize.

    The bureaucrat usually starts out behaving like other self-interested humans, simply seeking to maximize his utility. But he does not operate in a free market economy. He operates within a monopoly, without serious competition and its selective pressures, and he is protected at least to some abnormal extent from accountability. But once the job descriptions start to include vague, ambiguous and ambivalent directives and laws, abilities to arrogate new powers, such as those that exploit the confusion between may and shall, such positions start to become very attractive to people with certain personality traits and types that mimic hyperplasia and dysplasia in early phase cancer cells. When a person is sworn in as a new member of a city council, or appointed to a review commission, or given a government job, one of the most carefully emphasized portions of his introductory packet is the information he receives on limiting public liability. But in effect, this amounts to limiting public accountability, ways to get beyond the reach of those pesky petitions from the public for the redress of grievances, and of course beyond the consequences of incompetent action. The most common and frustrating of these is the activist version of the passive-aggressive personality disorder mentioned above, but there are other flawed traits and temperaments ready to seize on the opportunities provided by the organs of government. 

    In theory, the concept of "the rule of law" turns over the responsibilities of judgment to an objective standard, ruling out special treatment and ensuring fairness and equality in the application of the society's goals and objectives. In practice, the rule of law turns over the responsibilities of judgment to something that isn't alive, to something that has no sense. In practice, the rule of law turns over responsibility, and accountability, in effect putting nobody in charge and letting decisions become automatic. Fewer people can now be blamed for bad decisions. In effect, the rule of law makes lawyers the rulers. What this does is attract those people to whom this is attractive, people who want to borrow or take hold of greater power than that which they have as individuals. This want of greater power is understandable of course, especially in the light of Nietzsche's observations of our nature, but when half of power's attraction is in the lack of associated accountability, it becomes a lot more problematic. Power in responsible hands is not the problem with power.

    When citizens are not sufficiently vigilant, the arrogation of a power is no different in practice from the delegation of a power. Concrete that is stolen sets up just as hard as concrete legally purchased. The police power is granted to the constituted government primarily to respond to crises and threats to the peace in ways that everyday citizens cannot be expected to respond. It stands in defense of the public, to protect and serve. But the particularly offensive stances and preemptory actions now taken by police forces across the country speak of a perversion of this directive, a degree of mission creep that is not simply growing in size, but growing and producing new purposes and functions, new excuses to grow even further. This is aggressive growth, and its attitude is assertive and belligerent. Why this degree of aggressiveness and intimidation? You see this with increasing frequency in police forces now: "Click it or ticket!" "Respect my authority!"  "Because I said so!" Might it be that the frustrated spirits of all of those Nazis that American soldiers killed in WWII just had to reincarnate somewhere? Or is this simply a manifestation of a broader human trait, analogous to an oncogene, that takes opportunistic advantage of peer pressure and our need for social acceptance to get swept up and along in something larger, more powerful, more exhilarating than than the modest, subservient lives that small beta and gamma selves are capable of? This is the trait that was recently named the Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. It is the power of runaway conformity and obedience to escape the bounds of reason and proportion, to pervert more innocent origins and at least temporarily escape the limits to growth.

    In sum, the dysplastic phase of government growth is more than the simple, opportunistic, hyperplastic growth of its mission - it is a complication, a perversion or a twisting of the original mission, and this relies on the regaining of functions that were forgone or initially prohibited in the original specification of powers and the reservation of rights laid down in its constitution or charter. To continue in this it must shield itself from selective pressures, it must block attempts to restore accountability. It must defeat the immunological response.

    With Cancer in Situ, a typical third phase of malignancy, the lesion or tumor has become in effect an organ with no functions other than to feed itself, to serve its own existence, to avoid or resist detection by the immune system, to protect itself from attack and to grow against its boundaries. Although it doesn't have much internal structure as an organ, and in particular, it lacks its own nervous system, it nevertheless is able to "learn" and employ stratagems by virtue of behaviors encoded in and enabled by its oncogenes. The fact that it is not sentient does not mean that there is no learning process. What works survives, what fails to work dies off. When you think about it, most of the behavior of organisms is unconscious as well. Again, there is no "evil purpose" here, only bad results from something similar to blind ambition. Also once again, the cell does not owe the organism its life, since the cell is the basis of life. It serves the organism because organisms evolved in ways that serve cellular life, and cellular life depends on the organism's healthy functioning. The treason of bad public servants is to their fellow human beings, not to the government.

    The abilities of a tumor to send false signals to defeat an organism's immunological and regulatory functions, to avoid the development of nerve tissue connections and functions, and to create new pathways for nourishment into its self-serving interior (angiogenesis), are clearly analogous to a government's ability to create and disseminate misinformation that serves to keep its growth and progression unchallenged. This misinformation includes the ability to provide no information, the ability to withhold, conceal and classify information, or the ability to avoid calling attention to itself and its activities.

    In the body politic it is easy to use the limitations of the public attention span to skew voters away from rational and responsive behavior. Mob psychology, the study of "popular delusions and the madness of crowds" was already a science to the ruling classes long before Machiavelli and Sunzi came along. Fiscal illusion, with regard to both the costs and the benefits of government, or its specific programs, is appallingly easy to create. The costs of government are readily buried in all of those forms of taxation that are not explicit surcharges at the point of sale, or annual exactions such as property taxes. For the good of the consumer, these explicit exactions are the good taxes because they maintain vigilance, and appropriate indignation, and this helps to keep the regulatory function lively. They strike a nerve. But because the payment of explicit taxes leads to greater awareness, governments have learned to coat or numb the experience - with fractionalization, easy payment plans, withholding taxes, burial in escrow costs, etc. It is startling to see how much of a dollar spent on bread is spent on nothing related to bread. Corporations, for example, don't really pay taxes - these are simply wrapped up into wholesale prices, which are further marked up by the retailer. Value added taxes have the same stealth capabilities. Regulatory compliance costs, government costs as unfunded mandates, are almost always ignored in the computation of such markers as "tax freedom day."

    Both 1984 and Brave New World showed the disinformational devices of mottos, slogans and sound bites naked enough, but even the broad awareness that these books created failed somehow to diminish the effectiveness of the repetition of words. Dishonest accounting practices, such as representing the oft-raided "Social Security Trust Find" as an "unfunded liability" instead of a "debt," tend to keep the public scrutiny at much lower levels that it should be by misdirecting public attention. When you add unfunded mandates to the debt column the real obligations look four times as large. This is fraud; the lawmakers are doing things that people in the private sector would be imprisoned for. The various strings attached to public funding for scientific research ensure that at least some people who call themselves scientists will be puppets and mouthpieces for the public policy and will speak in the deceptive lingo of junk and pseudo science to a populace unschooled in logic. A government can also make clever twists in the public's interpretations of its own charter. The U.S. government seems to have itself and most of its citizens convinced that the Constitution is some kind of contract between the government and the people under its authority, that the Constitution is the source of the people's rights, and that the government is ultimately the guardian of that Constitution. The law now reads that it is possible for artificial entities, like corporations and governments, to have rights equal to and sometimes greater than those of living individuals with consciences. A freedom is something that a government lets you do. Wealth is something that a government lets you keep. That is all nonsense. The people, exercising their natural rights and sovereignty, are the source of the Constitution, which permits the government to exist for specific and limited purposes, subject to the protection of their rights, and the Constitution, if anything, is primarily a nuisance and an obstacle to the government, a thing to be worked around in the process of metastasis. If a government can succeed in confusing the distinction between a privilege and a right, this ability can allow it to ask for the surrender of a right in exchange for a privilege, as though these were now of the same medium of exchange. Confusion about the nature of rights also leads to dangerous assumptions that rights not explicitly asserted or claimed are to be considered waived.

    Control of the public mood is an important subset of all of this. A general numbness or apathy would be the ideal goal of a tumorous entity that wanted to evade an immunological response. Eternal vigilance is easily sedated, particularly when a government is allowed a big-budget propaganda arm. With this it can get its citizens to adopt proverbs like "you can't fight city hall" and "there's nothing certain but death and taxes." This in turn leads to inappropriate and dangerous levels of passivity and serenity about our state of affairs: "Let it be." "God is just working out his plan for us." "Accept the things we cannot change."  "Democracy may have its flaws, but it's the best that's available." "I can't vote with my lifestyle, only at the ballot box, and this barely counts." On one hand it makes the people believe that they are in charge and on the other hand, that they can do nothing. This paralysis and resignation, this loss of a will to live  and fight to live is perfectly analogous to a suppressed immunological response.

    Metastasis, the last phase of cancer, is the process of diversification of mutated cells and the colonization of other receptive parts of the organism by these de-specialized, re-empowered cells. When unregulated growth takes its first steps into metastasis, the mutated offspring of the carcinoma will take or make every opportunity to push its envelope outward into neighboring tissues, to invade other aspects of society and social life. It is in this move that it makes the final leg of its transition from benign to malignant. Here it must make use of its de-differentiation, which confers a greater ability to adapt to different environments, an ability to ignore the importance of differences, specializations, limits, specifications and specific adaptations. When these invasions become ubiquitous, familiar and habitual, the organism begins to wear down, to lose its fight. Similarly, an insufficiently regulated government entity will seize upon every opportunity to expand its domain, and will show off its current size as evidence of the futility of resistance. The all-time high score at whack-a-mole is still a finite number - even that player had to give up eventually.

    For a metastatic "seed" to get a new foothold it helps if it can appear unthreatening or benign to the immune system. These footholds are often established by innocuous sounding sayings and innocent looking pieces of boilerplate verbiage that get spread around or shared indiscriminately between governments. Frequently new footholds are created by court precedents, additions to the common law that don't get read aloud and voted upon. They build little by little. In the U.S. Constitution, phrases like "shall not abridge," "shall not be infringed," "shall make no law," and "shall not be violated" are serious statements. It doesn't say that it's a little bit naughty to abridge a right. It says to stay the hell away from that right. But little by little the courts have taken big chunks of most of those rights away. How effective can a militia be against a malignant government if it can arm itself only with the arms that that enemy allows it to keep and bear?

    The most destructive example of a metastatic oncogene sits comfortably enthroned right in the main body of the U.S, Constitution, in Article 1, Section 8, in these harmless sounding words: "the Congress shall have power ... to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the indian tribes." The commerce clause is invariably taken as the grant of an infinite power to regulate, to micromanage, to meddle in all things commercial, and so to meddle in all things economic. If the smallest piece of some commercial product ever crossed a state or national border, or even got itself transported across an indian reservation within a state, that product is now and forever the business of the government. This has been called the herpes theory of commerce. We can now pay for some farm bureaucrat to drive around in his Mercedes and tell everybody what the proper size of apricots shall henceforth be. Had the Constitution said "facilitate" instead of "regulate," we might all be living in a very different world, with a lot more disposable income.

    Like the self-serving tumor, government entities grow opportunistically. It is easy for them to create opportunities to grow. To get a big boost in growth it is often sufficient just to name a new enemy, or to pass a law against doing something that people like to do. Wars on anything are easily sold, especially when a distraction from domestic problems is needed. The war on drugs was particularly effective in allowing the government to expand, to extend its reach into general social behavior - it was merely ineffective in everything else, as if that were its real purpose. The early 20th century American experiment in prohibition taught the simple, vivid lesson that prohibition organizes crime. Organized crime justifies new expansions of the police power. Which is scarier - that the government was too stupid to learn this simple lesson, or that it was smart enough to seize the advantage? Within a term of office, the rationale for a law is forgotten and the law is simply the law, on the books forever. Within a generation, the origins of an incremental increase in discretionary power created by that law is long forgotten. When the growth is gradual, and its incremental orders of magnitude are still longer than a generation in development, the change is likely to go unnoticed by the proverbial frog in the pot. The marijuana laws began deceptively as a handy way to deport Mexican laborers during the depression, But within twenty years all of the lies in Reefer Madness had suddenly come true in the public "mind." The loss to the nation of one of the world's most useful agricultural crops paled in importance to the government's justifying its own expanded existence. Nobody ever bothered to read the experimental report that suggested LSD caused chromosome damage. If they had, they would have seen that enough acid was used to get 8000 humans high, injected directly into the uterus of a rat that was three days pregnant. But this helped to create a law that indirectly suppressed a major source of dissent against a large military buildup for an unconstitutional "police action" in southeast Asia. The people ate it up, to a point. But once that point had been passed, note carefully that the government did not even begin to return to its former size. It just kept growing, even in its military spending. There was talk for some time afterwards of a "peace dividend," welcome rebates to the people from a reduction in military expenditures. But then the U.S. was able to make some new enemies. Even severe checks and balances on power do not lead to checks on growth,

    The interventionist economic theories of John Maynard Keynes were a godsend to metastatic political processes around the world. These tried to justify expanded government spending as a source of economic health. There was a wonderful hoax book published in the 60's called The Report From Iron Mountain that proposed that the public money spent on war was a Keynesian flywheel (a stable floor of economic activity) that kept the economy healthy, spinning and growing, and in a way that was much preferable to any money spent on peace, health, education, housing and infrastructure, because to solve all of the problems involved in the peaceful applications wasn't nearly expensive enough. The book's popularity was largely due to the theory's extreme plausibility. In fact, with budget appropriations, it's the noisiest wheel that gets the grease, while the quiet needs, without lobbyists but just as real, tend to get ignored. Being capable of a great deal of noise indeed, the military has a ridiculously disproportionate percentage of the U.S. budget, as well as the lowest efficiency in terms of the public utility. But it perpetuates itself because it helps us to make so many new enemies that profit government growth.

    In de-differentiating, modern governments are becoming all things to all people. They will even guide you through your activities in the bedroom. They can make new criminals simply by making new crimes, out of things that people cannot resist doing. They can make the people afraid and then sell them some security. They got these great ideas from the Christian churches. After getting permission to meddle in the economy they can now take credit for the economy. That helps make your money ultimately theirs. They can be in two opposite places at once and play both sides against each other, but left wing or right, it's still the same chicken. It's easy to play the third thing as a trick when the audience is convinced that there are only two things. They can hide their sources of revenue from the very people who pay them. Elected officials are simply giving the people what they want, what they have asked for, and what they are told that they need. The free lunch is fast food at hidden gourmet prices, payed for out of last year's tax revenues.

    We really could have used a more careful delineation and enumeration of rights and powers, to more strictly limit the function of government entities, to keep these organs, tissues and cells in their proper places. Unfortunately, the time to have done this is long past. Thomas Jefferson had this to say on the timing: "It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.  (Notes on the State of Virginia Query XVII, 1782)

    Curing the Cancer. As with cancer, the prognosis is in part a function of how far the pathology has progressed, how large it has become, how broadly it has metastasized and how much cure the organism is still able to withstand in its diminished state of health. Most cancer cures come from without and rely of the tumor's lack of internal organization and its inability to mobilize a directed response. Unfortunately, this is not the case with human government. The analogy breaks down entirely in this respect: modern government has developed a far better immune system than the larger organism of society. Government would not take its medicine even if it were the patient and not the disease, as long as it was still in denial about the disease. You can see this simply from attempts to get it to own its past mistakes. Prevention would be easier, but this needs to be written into the original code, like non-defective genes in cancer resistant cells.

    After developing this extended analogy, this question remains: Does this understanding do us any good? Does it suggest a cure? If so, the cure certainly lies in restoring the regulatory function to something more or less outside of the government itself, to the people, and giving this function a lot more power over government to constrain the creeping arrogation of powers beyond a better set of limits - limits that need to be better articulated in future constitutions and charters. At the same time, it must find a way to decrease what people want, expect and demand from their governments. Centuries ago we made a wise decision to drive a wedge between church and state. Our next great task may be to find a better way to separate bank and state. The present system has proven itself impotent in resisting pressures to grow and metastasize. Internal and inter-branch checks and balances on power have not led to checks on growth - if anything, they have led to a silent collusion between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The government prosecutor will not prosecute the government. There is no pruning mechanism to check the wild propagation of laws, or enough sunset clauses to let obsolete laws expire on their own, There are too many ratchets to keep us from going backwards - the government went activist in the 30's and stayed there, went regulatory in the 60's and stayed there. Redress is too expensive in both money and in time.  Limited liability laws and civil service tenure protect bad actors. The scope of government activity has reached into every aspect of life. The state will never let go of the idea that growth measured quantitatively is the measure of success, even though growth is not a prerequisite of life in artificial entities. The government cannot feel humility, or negative feedback, except as a threat, to which it reacts with its arsenal of arrogated powers. It neither knows nor respects its limits. It does not know when and where to stop. The Constitution has no practical enforcement provisions whatsoever. It does not even claim that it is written in English instead of lawyer doublespeak. The body politic needs a far more aggressive immune system, but that developed by the tumor itself is already much too strong for the organism to put a new one in place. I am not so unhinged from reality as to think that any of the following suggestions have any potential broad applications, within the status quo at least. My own view of the status quo sees somewhere around 85% tumor and a prognosis of eventual death, without much hope of a cure.  Radical surgery would only kill the patient at this point. I suspect that this government must eventually collapse by the very "economy" that it sacrificed all other values to inflate, simply because its own growth was tied to this inflation. This bankruptcy is both economic and ethical. But my time horizons are broader than most. I can see that something will need to be designed to replace the present systems after they collapse, and so these offerings are made as future lessons of history, just as extinctions are the lessons of history to the gene pool. The constructs below are thus suggestions for the science fiction writer, and for governments that are not yet constituted or chartered. In this, they are not so unrealistic, but they do assume that anybody considering them has very recently learned some very hard lessons about optimistic approaches to human self-government.

    With respect to the chartered powers that are delegated to a government, and the rights that are reserved by the people, it should be understood by now that this needs to be done with a lot more clarity and specificity than was done in the constitution of the U.S. or any of its states. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, in conjunction with the Necessary-and-Proper and Posterity Clauses have proven themselves too easy for the cowardly courts to ignore. The enumeration of powers granted should also include an equally important enumeration of powers specifically prohibited. The enumeration of rights reserved should found the right of the people to create new rights on constitutional principles and natural law instead of ill-founded metaphysical and religious theories. There might even be a third enumeration of items, perhaps termed a Bill of Responsibilities, acknowledging that duty is the reciprocal of right and defining public responsibility entirely in terms of respect for the rights of others. Such an enumeration could form the ethical foundation and justification for the use of the police power, while at the same time setting its limits. There should be no crime, for example, where there are no victims, and the rationale for punishment could begin to more towards restitution. In conjunction with this, the principle of subsidiary function, the devolution of government towards the most practical grassroots level, should be implemented. The government monopoly should be broken up wherever possible. No social task should be delegated to entities larger than necessary to do the job. Government growth cannot be permitted to destroy, replace or in any way undermine the civil and social institutions, such as charities and voluntary organizations, that help to keep the society healthy and its people self-reliant.

    Even more important is the institution of an extremely powerful regulatory or immune function. There are some good examples of regulatory and immune functions that work on smaller scales. Within the present system we still have the free press and free speech. In spite of what the judges will tell you, the trial-specific nullification of law is still the right and prerogative of jurors. Sometimes a judge will allow a useful defense argument that sets a good precedent. There are laws like the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, if people would use them. There are initiatives, petitions and recall elections. Some government agencies have useful accounting offices and accountability committees. Probably the best common example of the kind of solution we need is the Internal Affairs Division in some police forces. This is almost like having an additional branch of that government, endowed with a lot of power to regulate, nullify, negate or undo a government action, but one that is granted no power whatsoever to violate the constitution or the people who wrote it. It only exists to regulate public misconduct. Outside of the current system, the Catholic Church offers another piece of the puzzle in its office of Advocatus Diaboli, or Devil's Advocate. This is a member of the organization who is set apart and charged with seeing and presenting the other side of the issue at hand, usually the arguments for a nominee's sainthood. Something like this could be used to ensure that all sides of necessity, propriety and posterity issues are seen and heard.

    Most promising of all, however, is a little-known magistrate's office that was incorporated into the constitution of the Roman Empire, the office of Censor within the Council of Censors. Besides being charged with all things pertaining to the Roman Census, the Censor had the ability to regulate the public entity's ethical behavior. He could remove a Senator from office for official misconduct and punish corrupt government officials for malfeasance and dereliction of duty. He could even overturn acquittals and punish officials who had escaped prosecution by pulling political strings. It is unfortunate for our purposes here that the term Censor has come to refer to an arrogant busybody enforcing a legislated morality on behalf of a government against its people. The primary author of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, tried hard to make it clear that "the censorial power is in the people over the government, not in the government over the people."

    To this end, the State of Pennsylvania established a Council of Censors from 1776-1790 in its State constitution "in order that the public officers of this commonwealth be held responsible, accountable and culpable for violation of the Contract {Constitution} with we the people ... . Their duty shall be to inquire whether the constitution has been preserved inviolate in every part; and whether the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of government have performed their duty as guardians of the people, or assumed to themselves greater powers than they are entitled by the Constitutions. They are also to enquire whether the public taxes have been justly laid and collected in all parts of this commonwealth and in what manner the public monies have been disposed of. They shall determine whether the laws have been duly executed. For these purposes they shall have the power to send for persons, papers, records and hold hearings for questioning witnesses summoned before their committee. They shall have authority to pass public censures, to order impeachments and to recommend to the legislatures the repealing of such laws as appear to them to have been enacted contrary to the principles of the Constitutions. The said Council of Censors shall also have the sole and exclusive power of calling a Constitutional Convention to meet within two years after their sitting if there appear to them to be an absolute necessity of amending any Article of the Pennsylvania Constitution which may be defective according to the principles of freedom, explaining such as may be thought not clearly expressed and adding such as are necessary for the preservation of the rights and happiness of the people." The Constitution of the State of Vermont contained similar provisions and nearly the same wording from 1777 to 1870. Both Pennsylvania and Maryland have more recently had "Boards of Censors," both of which carry the more commonly known job description of meddling their in citizen's lives on behalf of the half-established state religion.

    I believe it is the institution, or the constitution, of an entirely separate fourth branch of government, a Council of Censors, that an Oncological Model of modern government suggests as a remedy for metastatic growth, and herewith a complete reboot of the immunological and regulatory functions in the body politic. It is probably far too late to save any government that has metastasized as far and completely as that of the U.S. and most of its States, counties and municipalities. These people will see their government collapse in ethical and economic bankruptcy, and take the debt-ridden economy down with it, long before instituting a change of this magnitude. Those with more distant vision still have a short time to put their affairs in order. Some may think to bury their scrolls in dry, desert caves. But it is a fact of life that governments collapse every now and then, and then new governments get erected in their place, created by new constitutions and charters. That is the proper time to institute a change such as this, and may be the only useful time to even try, aside from drafting an occasional "municipal home rule charter." The lessons of history must be raw and still bleeding. Neither should one want to design a new government in a climate of full of hope for a brighter tomorrow, or trust in an older-but-wiser people. Every bit of hard-earned suspicion that can be held towards the ethically inferior nature of human self-government should be brought to bear on this effort. It ought to be like designing the viper exhibit at the new zoo. This will be a most wondrous thing for the good of the zoo as a whole, but you will want to keep a close eye on these reptiles and not let them go wandering off beyond the places assigned to them. Furthermore, I think that the model suggests an extremely powerful fourth branch of government, since its sole purpose is the protection of the people and the constitution and its only powers are established to undo the powers of government. It might safely be acknowledged as the equal of the other three branches combined. Its members should be elected by a direct vote of the people and they should answer only to the people, although I personally would suggest that they be elected by a still narrower body of electors whose sole qualification is an ability to demonstrate at least a basic working knowledge of the Constitution, so that they may not be in such a hurry to vote away powers and rights in response to buzzwords and sound bites. Such a body would solve many deficiencies in the current society, such as instituting that elusive "eternal vigilance" that is said to be the price of liberty.

    The Council of Censors should have no positive powers of government whatsoever. Its sole purpose and function should be to act against the government and its representatives directly on behalf of the people and in defense of the Constitution or local government charter. The Council of Censors should have no powers whatsoever against citizens, except in their capacity as agents of the government. The enumeration of its several negative powers might give this Council: 1) The power to enforce the constitution or charter, and in particular, the limitation of government actions to those necessary to the function of enumerated powers, and the limitation of government actions to those proper to the security of the rights of citizens and guests of the country, whether enumerated or not. 2) The power to veto amendments to the constitution. 3)The power to declare unconstitutional and thus to annul or abrogate the products of the legislature, the acts of the executive branch, its bureaucrats and public officials, and the decisions and precedents of the judicial branch. 4) The power to intervene in any government action on behalf of the commons and of posterity. 5) The power to impeach, bring civil and criminal actions against and expedite the recall of elected public officials. 6) The power to demand, facilitate and hold referendums and recall elections. 7) The power to impeach judges at every level of the judiciary and to decide for non-renewal. 8) The power to suspend the activities of appointed public officers and to reduce them permanently to a private station. 9) The power to act or demand action without delay on petitions for the redress of grievances, both individual and collective. 10) The power to act as ombudsman in any and all bureaucratic processes. 11) The power to redefine, expedite and enforce due process at all levels of government. 12) The power to deny sovereign immunity, to deprive the government and its employees of immunity for damages to individuals, groups and the commons, and to levy fines against budgets, salaries and pensions to restore and make whole the victims of rights violations. 13) The power to override, reverse or modify declarations of war and the implementation of force by the military, the several militias and the police. 14) The power to act as advocatus diaboli on the floor of the legislative body and to preempt legislation on constitutional grounds before it becomes law. 15) The power to act at will as amicus curaie in the courts. 16) The power to supervise and intervene in the conducting of grand juries. 17) The power to downsize any branch or agency of the government. And 18) The power to overturn judicial decisions of the civil and criminal courts in the light of mitigating circumstances.

    Within the Council of Censors there would also be a Ministry of Information with the goal of maintaining an open and honest dialog between the government and the people. This ministry would be granted: 1) The power to question and correct government misinformation and bad science and to ensure that all pertinent sides of arguments are heard and not suppressed. 2) The power to declassify any information held in secret by the government and to redefine standards for the classification of information in terms of national security. 3) The power to ensure and enforce the free flow of information, the freedom of the press, the freedom of the airwaves, and the freedom of speech. 4) The power to publish complaints and grievances against the government and its personnel. 5) The power to review, remove or expunge unfavorable entries in the public records and dossiers of private citizens, groups and corporations. 6) The power to require responsible, honest and public accounting for all expenditures of public funds and to demand full-disclosure cost-benefit analyses of government programs prior to their enactment, including analyses of the costs of all resource and capital depletion and the costs of their renewal.

    Within the Council of Censors there would also be a Ministry of Economics with the goal of maintaining a sustainable, debt-free economy. This would be given: 1) The power to enforce balanced budgets and the timely payback of all public debts. 2) The power to require the revision of economic models used to measure economic success. 3) The power to stay the hand of the government it its management and insuring of private risk. 4) The power to require honest accounting and appropriate names for assets and liabilities. 5) The power to  make and keep visible to the people all of the true costs of government, including embedded corporate tax costs, import duties, regulatory compliance costs,  licensing fees, and mandated insurance. 6) The power to concentrate regulatory compliance costs on the taxation of undesired economic byproducts such as waste, pollution, overconsumption and planned obsolescence. 7) The power to prevent the subsidization of the production of non-renewable, scarce and strategic resources so that the laws of supply and demand can return to their natural regulatory functions. 8) The power to prioritize laissez-faire, free-market economics and promote economic diversification over Keynesian policies of enhanced government spending as an inertial flywheel to be used for economic stability. 9) The power to intervene in the artificial stimulation of the economy by the government wherever this represents an expense to the taxpayers.

    There might only be a handful of provisions needed to provide adequate safeguards against potential problems and abuses. Among these would be: 1) The Censors need not be made the sole or final word on the question of necessity - this could be shared by the legislature. 2)  The Censors need not be made the sole or final word on the question of propriety - this could be shared by the courts, and certain decisions of the Censors could be made appealable to the courts. 3) Pension and retirement programs and funds for civil servants would need to be made more perfectly mobile so that even the most tenured official could be more easily removed from office. 4) A system would need to be in place to prevent unsubstantiated, frivolous and fraudulent complaints by citizens against the government, which could be as simple as a loser-pays system, requiring a filing fee that is refundable to the successful plaintiff. And 5) The system would need to establish a burden of proof and rules of evidence to be borne by the plaintiff.

    Finally, maybe a gifted wordsmith somewhere can come up with an alternative term for the word government, one which has more connotations of service and utility and less of control and power over others. It was a big mistake to allow present governments to use the word Rights to refer to their delegated powers. It was a big mistake to allow them to use the word Sovereignty to refer to the domains and dominions and decision-making abilities that we entrusted them with. At least in theory, the government  does not set up a ruling class anymore, but a class of public servants. Authority, in the long run, is for authors, and even that ought to be better constrained to the author's specific area of expertise.