In 1831, the town of Gonzales in the Mexican State of Texas received a brass cannon from Mexican authorities as protection against Comanche raiding parties. Then in 1835, newly appointed Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna dissolved the Mexican legislature and nullified the Mexican constitution of 1824, touching off rebellion in the Mexican States of San Louis Potosi, Zacatecas, Durango, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Yucatan, Tamaulipas, and Texas.
Alarmed at the unrest, the commander of Mexican troops in Texas sent 100 Mexican dragoons to Gonzales in October 1835 to confiscate their cannon. They were met by some 140 armed Texans, waving what has become known as the Gonzales flag – a white field with the black silhouette of a cannon over the words "Come And Take It." The battle that ensued was indecisive, with the Mexican forces finally retreating without the cannon. But the battle of Gonzales represented the first shots fired in the Texas Revolution, igniting a conflict that culminated at San Jacinto in April 1836 with Santa Anna's defeat and the emergence of Texas as a free and independent nation.
These two cannon stories treat the same subject from two different perspectives. The parable of the cannon polisher is meant to illustrate the necessity of government, while the history of the battle of Gonzales promotes the necessity of rebellion against government. Both views are valid. Governments are necessary, but it is equally necessary that they be controlled.
Milton Friedman stated the current case explicitly in a 1973 interview with Playboy Magazine: "I believe we need government to enforce the rules of the game.... We need a government to maintain a system of courts... We need a government to ensure the safety of its citizens – to provide police protection. But government is failing at a lot of these things that it ought to be doing because it’s involved in so many things it shouldn’t be doing."
Friedman hit the nail on the head. The problem is not government – the problem is that government is not doing its job. And it's not doing its job because it's doing things We The People never gave it authority to do.
The Constitution of the United States was crafted by men who were well aware of the atrocities of which a government is capable, having just fought and won a war against such government atrocities . They were equally cognizant of the need for an entity to oversee functions beyond the capabilities of the individual, such as national defense. They wrote, therefore, a document that was essentially a contract between the People and the creation of the People – a government. That document specifies the duties of the People's government in Article I section 8 and restricts the powers of the government in the last ten articles, the Bill of Rights.
There are those who are clamoring today to change the Constitution to rein in our out of control government. But the problem is not in the Constitution. The problem is that the Constitution is being ignored. Let's not waste time in attacking the wrong problem and, in the process, opening the contract to destructive amendment. We're far better served by simply enforcing the Constitution at the State level and forcing the federal government to follow it.
If a cannon misfires, you don't blame the cannon.