Wednesday, April 11, 2012
How Much Government Is Enough?
Why do we need government, and what role should it play in our lives? Your answer to that will likely determine how you feel about your government, the US for me, and your response to those who are seeking a place within government, from the President down to the local dog catcher.
I believe most people probably recognize the need for some kind of government. But there seems little agreement after that. Should government be small and limited in scope, or is a big government that is involved in every area of life to be preferred? Should our government protect us from harm; from each other; regulate morality; manage health care and welfare; protect the environment; intercede in conflicts in other countries; be involved in international relief efforts; etc?
And of course I have my own opinion about all this. I do believe that the primary role of any government is the protection of its people. There are some ways that this is done that are pretty obvious; protection from outside invaders or aggressors and from criminal activity within our borders. While there are certainly some who would like to see our military and police forces eliminated, I doubt they would actually like to live with the result.
Once I get beyond these two things the role of government in protecting me becomes a bit more challenging. Should the government be involved in regulating our industries? In keeping banks from robbing us blind? Preventing retailers from engaging in deceptive practices? Keeping industrial plants from destroying the environment? I do indeed want there to be some control over these things, but not to the point that it becomes difficult and extremely expensive for them to do business. After all, I know who pays the price for that, twice over; in my tax burden and in the resultant cost of services. In generally I agree that the government should be involved here, but probably not to as great an extent as the US is.
One of the challenging issues for me is the ‘social safety net’ that we provide to our citizens and other residents. In principal I agree that we should care for the most vulnerable among us; those who for one reason or another cannot take care of themselves. But I believe we have gone way overboard with this and have created a growing social class that expects to be supported from the government dole. I find that really hard to accept. Why should I work to support someone else who feels entitled to a living off the efforts of folks like myself without contributing anything to society. I do believe we are long overdue for welfare reform. Yes, support the helpless. But as for the others, if they are unwilling to get out and work and contribute to society, then let them starve.
Another hot button topic for me concerns government attempts at regulating morality. There is a lot that goes on in our world that I find distasteful and even morally repugnant. But if it is not hurting anyone else, why should our government get involved to regulate those practices? Not only does that seem to be outside of the government’s mandate, but it also seems like a slippery slope that could lead to something like Islam’s Shari Law, currently imposed in some countries. It might be OK so long as I agreed with all of the morality laws; but what if I don’t? And what if those laws were contrary to my own moral standard?
In regards to foreign affairs, I believe that as wealthy and strong as the US is, that there is also a moral obligation to offer assistance to others in our world who are less fortunate than we are. I am all in favor of offering assistance to victims of famine, earthquakes and other natural disasters. I applaud efforts to work cooperatively with other nations for the good of all. I am less enthused about getting involved in places where we are not wanted and are unwelcome, just because we can.
There are so many other areas that our government likes to get involved in; sometimes to the good, and more often not. In general my rule of thumb, apart from issue of protecting the citizenry, is less is better. And when it comes time to vote for president, and others, this year, that will be my guiding principal. While I care about a candidate’s character, I care more about their philosophy of government. What is their vision for the role of government in my life and in our nation as a whole? Do they have a track record that supports a government focused on its primary purpose rather than expanding its influence? Are they willing to accept that more government is not the answer to all the ills of the world, or our country?