Government of the People, By the People, For the People?February 10, 2010 Leave a comment
I’ve been thinking a lot about why people love to hate government, and why I just can’t bring myself to hate it, too. I hold tightly to the notion of government “of the people, by the people and for the people” and want to hold it accountable to serving its role to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
To the people who say (as I heard recently on the news) “I want government out of my life and out of my pocket!”, I say, see how far you get without roads, bridges, schools, water, sewer, fire and police forces, courts, public transit, public parks, libraries, and the like. To those who say (as I also heard recently) “I was raised that if you see something that needs to be done you just do it. No whining. No waiting for government. You just do it.” I have a few questions. Does that include paving a pothole? Educating a neighbor with special needs? Making books available to children and adults doing research? Building an extension to a road or transit system? Ensuring that the air and waterways are not polluted? Providing shelter, health care and other safety net supports for people in need? Making sure that everyone does their part to avert a climate disaster? You get my point. As a tax payer, I’m getting a pretty good deal for what I pay. It would take more than 80 years of paying our property taxes to exceed just the cost of educating three sons in private schools!
This is not to say that I’m a misty-eyed enthusiast for all things governmental. I’m well acquainted with the glaring excesses and failings of our government, like the Tuskegee experiments (where black men were denied syphilis treatment in the name of science); coup and assassination attempts on foreign leaders; surveillance, harassment and murder of domestic political activists; systematic investment in exclusionary white suburbs and the creation of a white middle class; and more recently, “systematically misrepresenting the threat” posed by Iraq’s weapons programs to justify a preemptive war. I could go on, but I won’t. I just think that the alternative to bad government is not less government, but accountable government. I think it’s time to re-take and re-tell the story about what government is about and what it can do at its best. My biggest question is what will it take for the voting public to get fired up about that?!