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On Government

2002-08-10

Category: politics

When choosing your elected officials you should find out the candidates' views on the nature of government. If a candidate thinks that government should be doing things that you think government should not be doing, there could be a problem. That is why I have written this piece.

Imagine that you need to move but your furniture is too heavy for you to handle yourself. Most likely you will call your friends and relatives to help. Naturally, you will be expected to help when another member of the group needs help. If you don't return the favor often enough, you may get booted out of the group.

In this example you can see how a group works together for mutual benefit. By pooling the resources of your group, you have helped one member of that group. By insuring the cooperation of all the members, each member has access to strengths needed for simple survival. This is the essence of a social structure.

As another example, say that there is need of new playground equipment in your small community. All the neighbors can get together and discuss various options for raising money. The obvious choice would be a fundraiser event so that people could voluntarily contribute to a good cause. Some people may be able to contribute more than others and that is fine. When finished, there would funding for the new playground. Again, people have pooled their resources and helped the community and the individuals within.

Obviously, bringing people together to work for the common good is a good thing. Can it be over done or done improperly? Of course.

Suppose a small town down the road admires your playground equipment and wants a set just like it. You could hardly complain if they held a similar fundraiser and bought such toys. What if, instead, they complained that it was unfair that you had playground equipment and they did not? What if they demanded that you and your community use your resources to pay for their new playground?

That would seem a little bit rude and unreasonable. It would be fine if some of your neighbors volunteered cash for the project but for the other town to demand such money is just wrong. You may not have the money for that. You may have had your money budgeted for something important. Do you want that money to go away just because some other town can't raise its own?

These scenarios are a little extreme; they must be in order to make the point. They represent what government should be and what it should not. Government should be about pooling resources for the good of the community and the individual, not about taking forcefully from one group to "balance out" another group. The best way to insure that this does not happen is to limit decision making to the lowest practical level.

What does that mean? It's simple really. If the issue applies to the community and just that community then the law should be made at the community level. If it involves a wider area, such as a county, then the county should pass the law. So also the state must legislate the state's own affairs. Only on matters where it involves the greater majority of the nation should the federal government be passing laws.

There are a few exceptions to this. The enforcement of the Constitution is a federal issue. Keeping peace between states is a federal issue. Dealing with foreign powers is likewise an issue for federal governance.

Similarly, the enforcement of each state's own constitution is a state issue, for that state only, and should affect the local laws. County supersedes city, which supercedes precinct and so forth as needed. The jurisdictional order is specifically why laws should not be passed at any given level unless absolutely required there.

When terrible things happen there is often an outcry calling for something to be done. Politicians like to show that they are both sympathetic and up to the task. They propose laws to prevent the tragedy from happening again. They react quickly to show that they understand the public and that they want to help.

Too often, the bad occurrence was a one-time event and the need for such swift legislation is shown to be non-existent. Riding a wave of shock and anger, a law has been created which may not have been the best law for the situation. An "obvious" cause for the tragedy may turn out to have been incidental, but reactionary laws now limit this cause when the true cause is still untouched.

Another reason for limiting the level at which laws are passed is the matter of detail. At the federal level, we have a little under five hundred and fifty lawmakers. It is the job of these persons to make laws to affect two hundred and fifty million people! Can we believe that these few can pay attention to the day-to-day details of so many lives? Can they be expected to concentrate on your breakfast and lunch as well as everyone else's? We are better off if those in Washington see to the larger matters that affect the nation as a whole: the common defense, Constitutional law, and printing of the common currency. The details can be better handled by those who have time for such things.

Who has time to handle the details of your life? I suggest that you would. You can best decide how to handle your affairs. As long as you are not harming others, it is the business of nobody else. You can decide what you want to wear and eat and say or read. If you or your neighbor should need help, you are welcome to work together like civilized people.

Cooperation is a brilliant thing. We accomplish so much when we cooperate. When we pull together we can get things done. Does that mean that a large government should come in and force you to help? No, not really. Justification for such an action is almost impossible. I would hope that you could learn that mutual advantage comes from helping each other. After all, the world is a mighty crowded place to be alone.


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