As we savor a great victory and look forward to the future, this is a good time to reflect on the purpose of government. Exactly why do we have a government, what does it do, and what is it supposed to do?
You would get a wide range of eye-opening answers to these questions depending on whom you asked. A welfare recipient might answer that the government is where I get my check. A government employee might answer that government exists to provide this or that service – firefighter: to prevent fires; policeman: to prevent crime. A veteran might answer that it’s to protect the country from foreign invasion, while a taxpayer will probably grumble that it’s to take his money and waste it. Anyway, you get the idea. The answers will most likely be dependent on their narrow parochial interests.
However, I’m asking these questions on a deep philosophical level much like the one our Founding Fathers were on when they decided the time had come to separate themselves from British rule, and later when they sought to avoid historical mistakes as they struggled to define an entirely unique government form that satisfied the interests of its member states.
In its purest form, government exists to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to defend those who are defenseless. It does these things by establishing a set of rules that allow civilization to move from the era where the strongest set the rules to suit their whims to the era where everyone is guaranteed some form of protection to allow for the development of a higher-ordered society. Government is the reason we are no longer cave dwellers and enjoy the highest standard of living in history.
The prosecutor and the coroner speak for the murder victim who can’t speak for himself. The military defends us against foreign powers organized to overwhelm and subjugate us as individuals. As for those who can’t protect themselves, consider the little old lady walking home at night on a seemingly deserted city street, or the child who is exposed to physical and/or sexual abuse, or the unborn baby screaming in silence as the abortionist’s tools invade his mother’s womb to snatch away his life because his existence is inconvenient.
In reality, governments exist that concentrate power in the hands of a privileged few, dole out favors to protect this concentrated power, and generally resemble a form of organized cave dwellers where brute strength has been replaced with cunning in the climb to the top. As the Left never learns, Utopia only exists in the mind, and I suggest they buy a copy of Sim City where they can more fully indulge in their Utopian fantasies without distorting any of our realities.
It is this tug between what government ought to be and what government is that we must remember as we choose our destiny in the form of elected leaders. Will we ever achieve the pure, noble form? No, of course not, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving for it because when we give up, we’re certain to get the reality version with a vengeance. Citizens want government to prevent injustice, but the definition of injustice starts to get perverted into any slight real or imagined.
For our government to function properly, we citizens must remember the crucial assumption made by the Founding Fathers when constructing our Constitution. That assumption was and still is that we citizens exhibit a sense of responsibility for our actions, attitudes, and civic duty. We educate ourselves on the issues – this means more than seeing a political commercial and deciding one candidate looks better than the other. We defend our country at every opportunity both in war and in peace – we fight when called upon, and we don’t apologize or bow down to foreign leaders. We vote at every opportunity and participate in the governing process – you can’t grumble if you don’t participate. And, we pass these values on to our children so they can enjoy the blessings of liberty.
Finally, we must remember what government is not. Government does not exist to provide us with a check, insure trouble never touches our lives, pay our medical bills or any other expense we deem as a need and not a want, or create new rights to be satisfied by those who continue to labor under the illusion that government has a higher purpose.
The average citizen may read this and decide it’s all too hard and they’re too far gone with too much work ahead of them. Given our present societal norms, that attitude may be expected. However, remember that a group of concerned citizens decided in 2009 that they were up to the challenge and began to educate themselves. They didn’t see this as an overwhelming burden, and they didn’t try to do it all in one weekend. They broke the task into more manageable subtasks, changed their reading lists, organized rallies with other like-minded individuals to exchange information and share ideas, and along the way created a powerful movement poised to change the political landscape in the upcoming midterm elections.
If ever there was a cause for optimism in this day and age, one need only to consider the Tea Party movement. Average citizens deciding they’ve had enough, educating and organizing themselves, and participating in the electoral process. Sure, they’re rough and unpolished, and some will come with baggage along with their desire to do right, but time will sort out the opportunists from the motivated. Besides, the polished professionals are driving us over the cliff and this bunch can’t do any worse than that. Heck, they may do better.
I disagree with David Deming’s assessment. I remember how Ronald Reagan pulled us out of the doldrums. I remember Yogi Berra saying “It ain’t over till it’s over.” I’ve seen coaches rally teams from seemingly insurmountable odds to win a game. I’ve studied historical battles won over the longest of odds, and great powers laid low by those not given a chance. I saw a ragtag American hockey team defeat the powerful Soviet team to win the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics and watched Americans take heart. And we’ve all just witnessed a great electoral victory where determined Americans voted to retake their country from elitist progressives more interested in their well being than ours.
We’re Americans. We don’t give up. We cherish our freedoms. The though of subjugation abhors us. We will regain our place in the world if we remember who we are, why we’re here, and the basic purpose of our government. Our best days are not behind us. Don’t fall victim to pessimism. Don’t give up the ship!