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As Long as We Remember...

January 18, 2011

Government Good or Bad?

Shawn Burns

At what point does government become a hindrance, and to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as opposed to being a means to ensuring those rights? When is government good government versus bad government?


Regardless of party affiliation, people are not against government programs. People are against government programs that take a nickel away from the programs they support. “Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. It’s pretty clear how Jefferson feels about government programs.


In fact, Jefferson drives his point home when he wrote in a letter to Charles Yancey: “I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”


Why is something such as the healthcare legislation so divisive? How is it possible for us to be so completely divided as a country? Is that a failure of government? Or is that a failure of “We the people?”


Social Security, welfare programs and gun rights are all issues that create strong emotions from everyone.


From its inception, our government has evoked strong emotions and debate as to the role it should play in our lives. Should we have a strong centralized government or should the states maintain a stronger role in our lives? That question pre-dates even the signing of the Constitution. And an adequate answer has yet to be reached to satisfy all interested parties.


William Penn wrote long ago, “Let the people think they govern, and they will be governed.”


Do we have any real power or control over those we elect to govern? Or is it a case of the blind leading the blind? Or worse, are we living under the illusion that we have any control at all over those we have chosen to run our government.


“The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote. At what stage of decay do we find ourselves at this point of the great experiment of our United States of America? Are we toddlers? Are we rebellious and awkward teens? Are we bitter and burned-out middle-agers? Or are we just old-timers trying to make peace with things before we check out?


Why are so many people so apathetic in regards to government? Being disengaged from our political process not only hurts the individual, it negatively affects our country as a whole. Being actively engaged in our political process is one of the best ways to show patriotism. Being engaged in our government is our way as citizens to provide another layer of checks and balances. Thomas Jefferson said “(t)hat government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”


The question remains: When does government become bad? When is government good? And how can we work together to reach common ground with the goal of preserving and protecting our rights and liberties under the Constitution?


“That the government, though not absolutely perfect, is one of the best in the world, I have little doubt,” said George Washington. Even with all of our problems, issues and complaints, I have to agree with Washington’s statement that we do still have the best form of government on the planet.


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