Sen. Sasse: “Government is Another Word for Coercion”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said government is “another word for coercion” & that Washington is not the center of the world.

During an event focused on religious freedom, Sasse stressed that Americans do not get their rights from the government. He told the audience that America’s founding was a “grand claim” that said people are “created with dignity” and government is a “shared project” to secure individual rights.

“If you believe that about people then government exists as a shared project to protect people from violence so they can go live full lives trying to glorify God, trying to benefit their neighbors so that they can work, so that they can build families, so that they can have friendships, so that they can support Husker football,” he said at a symposium on “Religious Freedom and the Common Good” held by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

“So the local textured community places where you live, that’s the center of the world. Washington isn’t the center of the world,” he added.

Sasse, a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, was referring to former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who said, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

Sasse argued that some of President Obama’s post-election statements showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the “American experiment.”

Sasse interpreted part of Obama’s comments in Greece as the belief that every community must participate in the government.

“Now I happen to think that’s an important thing to do but that’s nowhere near the central thing that America is about. What that really is is a claim that government is the center of things and what’s really important is for everybody to have enough of your hand on a level of power to make your life meaningful because it’s connected to power lovers in Washington, D.C. That fundamentally misunderstands the American experiment,” Sasse said.

During the symposium, Sasse was asked for his opinion of state non-discrimination laws.

“It should not be the ambition of the government to have everyone get to a place where we think exactly the same way. We should have lots of important debates about what the role of government is around public accommodation, around public investments, what do we spend money on and what do we explicitly prohibit in the interests of justice? And at the same time recognize it is not the government’s goal to get to a place where there is uniformity of belief about a broad range of questions of things that are cultural well upstream from politics,” Sasse said.

“We should recognize the folly of and I won’t name the particular politician who said this five years ago but the folly of saying things like ‘government is just another word for things we choose to do together.’ No it isn’t. Government is another word for coercion and there are places to coerce and to compel things but community is another word for things we choose to do together and the American experiment is about voluntarism,” he added.

Sasse, who was a vocal critic of President-elect Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, joked about Trump calling him a “gym rat.”

“He was frustrated with me for a while and began referring to me as a gym rat because he said I didn’t look like I was up to snuff for being a U.S. senator and what he doesn’t know about me is I am the son of a football and wrestling coach and in Nebraska there is really no higher praise you can give somebody than calling them a gym rat so I have just decided to fully embrace this,” he said.

Photo Credit: Ververidis Vasilis /


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