Jan 10, 2007

Government: Self or Other?

By the people, for the people, of the people. Do you really believe that?

Recently, my dear Skywalker and I have been having some political discussions. Usually, our political discussions remain friendly, but occasionally I get upset and him and vice versa. It’s understandable—I guess I’d have to classify myself as a Democrat if I were to classify myself as something.

And Skywalker, when pressed, calls himself an Independent, with libertarian sympathies.

So yes, we are at odds politically. But the odd thing is, we espouse many of the same beliefs about what we think America needs.

We both believe that the destitute need help from those who have more than they need.

We both believe that unemployment is a real problem.

We both believe that we should have a very real sense of stewardship about our environment, and that we should live our lives in such a way that we do not waste or pollute our precious resources.

We both feel that religion and government should not encroach upon one another.

We both believe that the Great Depression was a social/economic event that required intervention on the part of the government, although we differ somewhat in opinion as to whether the New Deal was the best sort of intervention.

We both believe that women and minorities should have the same rights as everyone else in society.

We both believe that the American rate of consumption is out of control, and ought to be checked somehow.

We both hate health insurance companies.

We both like Mitt Romney.

So—any of you out there, read all these things. Republican, Democrat, Green Party, Libertarian party, American Communist party—

How many of these do you agree with? I’m willing to bet that a surprising number would agree with many of them.

The difference that Skywalker and I have is this—implementation. Skywalker believes that to give government control over any/all of these issues, is wrong. That the government would then be forcing someone to do something that he/she should be free to choose to do or not, of their own accord. Skywalker believes that, when government starts mandating such things as how much we give to the poor by enacting laws that take a certain percentage from our paycheck, for instance, nobody is blessed because they’re forced to give, and it’s inherently wrong because it encroaches upon the rights of a certain group of people—those who have more. And that those who have less need to be taken care of, yes, but that it should be done of the community’s own free will and choice and that a community can best know and meet its own needs anyway, without direct governmental oversight.

Basically, to Skywalker, government is an other. Government taking away from his paycheck means that someone else is taking away from his paycheck. To him, government is not a pure representation of the people/will. It’s sluggish and so changes don’t happen quickly enough to adequately represent the people’s current preferences, and politicians also push their own agendas (That's why government should be simple, it's slow and protecting the basics.)

As our founding fathers believed, proper government protects the people from tyranny (inasmuch as the government is not tyrannical). It provides law and order, and insures basic freedoms, but otherwise should mainly be in place to simply empower the people to become what they will. And occasionally it is all right for government to mandate a little social responsibility. For instance: environmental protections for future generations.

I see it a little differently. To me, government is self (me). I am a part of my government. I vote, I participate. If I want, I can write letters to my senator or congressman. I can make a big stink about something, and if it’s something truly wrong and important, I will find others who feel the same way, and we will inevitably make an impact on decisions made in congress and ultimately, in government.

We shape government. And so, when “government” takes from my paycheck, I believe that it’s not so much someone else taking my money. By accepting American Citizenship, I ( meaning, myself as a part of the voting population) have agreed to follow what the majority desires. And the majority has voted to give up a piece of pay in order to protect their futures/ alleviate the suffering of the homeless. I accept that majority vote, and so I willingly participate in it, even if I didn't agree personally with that particular mandate. I have an inherrent faith that the American people will eventually choose the thing that will make the most people happy. And so, most of the time, I will be happy with what is chosen as well.

Two different views. Neither is selfish or irresponsible. Just different— with the same desired results.

What are you? Do you think of government as self, other, or something in between? And how do you feel about the way that our current government is representing the American population?

What do you think we could do better? See, to me, that’s the clincher. When people complain about government, I usually don’t hear them say anything about what they think we could do to make it better. I think that it’s unproductive to complain unless we have an idea of how to improve. Complaints are to catch the attention of those who can change things.

So—you have my attention. What should we be doing differently?


Lucy Stern said...

I tend to agree with Skywalker...We have several generations of "entitlement" people who think that the governement is supposed to take care of them. There are many people who would rather just take from the government than work to earn their way...

I think that Democrats, that are in the church, think that the country can live on a kind of "law of consecration". The problem there is that it only works in a righteous society and we certainly don't have that. There is too much corpution for it to work. It didn't even work in the early days of the church. The Lord took it away and asked only for 10% from everyone....People who made more money pay more, just like they do with tithing. It is not fair to "make" the rich give to the poor. If they want to do that, then they can give of their own accord. I do believe that the "true" indigent people or those too sick to work need to be helped, but there are just too many people taking advantage of the system. There are many creative ways to help people without unlawfully taking from the rich to give to the poor.

I do not believe in a socialist system. I don't believe in socialized medicine. Years ago when I was a little girl, my parents did not have insurance. If I needed to go to the doctor, my parents paid at the time of the appointment or made arrangements with the doctor. We only went to the doctor when it was really necessary. Today many that have insurance run to the doctor at the drop of a hat and they show up at an emergency room for an ear infection....They take advantage of the system.

I also don't believe we should be paying for school and medical expenses for illegal aliens. Many of them get free medical care and our own legal citizens can't. Living in Texas, I see this way too often...

I go for the free market system! Sorry for the rant, but you asked..

I wish our country would run the welfare system more like the church does. We need to be as self sufficent as we can.

Jeremy said...

As you probably know I agree with Skywalker on this one :-)

I believe government is a necessary evil...a social compact in which we all sacrifice some of our rights in return for some security. Participants in any govenrment willingly or unwillingly give up their right to use force to ensure our own safety and turn that right over to the government. A good restricted government then in turn provides an environment where people can safely interact with each other with the knowledge that a government military keeps society free from outside peril. Government police/justice systems will be available to capture and punish those who would violate our remaining rights and a government legal system will be available to moderate disputes between people who feel their rights have been violated.

When government decides to take on more responsibility than these problems arrise. Government only has power to act because of the ability it has to use force which its citizens have given it. When the government (or "we the people") decides to provide welfare to the poor or subsidies for oil companies the only way it can get money to do these things is by focefully taking it from its citizens either directly through taxes or indirectly through fees, bonding or other means. In the end the government does nothing unless it is at the point of a gun. Since I'm a non violent person I can't support government doing things like this.

People should support and build up the poor because it is in their best interest to live in a universally prosperous society...not because they have been forced by their liberal neighbors at the point of the government's guns to do so.

Sorry...I love this topic and I sometimes get too wordy :-)

NoSurfGirl said...

No-- thanks for the rant. I like friendly ranting. And I also love this topic, Jeremy, so thanks for posting. I'll definitely be digesting these posts and somehow assimilating them into my own view of government (lol).

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those people with no solid, difinitive view on governemnt. I have opinions on certain topics. I like various things about one party or another. Gee, there are even things about communism that I admire. When it comes down to "how ought governemnt be" I'm more of a "well, it seems what we've got right now is working pretty well as I have a roof over my head, I'm not suffering from unreasonable taxes, the utilities are working, and I'm not fearing for my life and so long as I'm happy and content in my little life I'm content with the government and the day that changes I'll join a coup." Or something like that. It's yet another something I need to think about more.

Thanks for bringing the topic up!

Anonymous said...

We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view.


I'm a Democrat, more or less-although I've never voted straight party ticket, and probably never will. However, when pressed I'll say I'm a Dem-albeit a blue dog. That being said, I'm not a fence sitter which implies unset principles. I have firm principles and philosophy which guides me politically, its just I end where I do-moderate leaning left.

As far as poverty and the government's attempts to alleviate it-there's two basic types of poverty, generational and situational. I think Lucy is more or less talking generational. The welfare program should be administered by the states-with minimal oversight by the federal government--usda etc).

Personally, welfare isn't a hot button issue with me. I believe there needs to be an umbrella, in a perfect world, this would be solved by private charities helping the poor get on their feet, or providing generational poor what they need so their kids don't starve-and are at least given a chance to escape the chains. All men are created equal, ya know.

As far as government assistance is now, I think the reforms made in the '80s and '90s made some progress. Now, if we could get that dreadful "No Child Left Behind" scrapped....

As far as health insurance-I think the system needs an overhaul, but I don't think socialized medicine is the way to go. But we do need cheap, affordable, comprehensive health insurance provided to all.

I'm still undecided on Mitt.

As far as illegal immigration goes, I think that all kids no matter what their citizen status is need a public education. An education is a public good, one that has values that transcend tangible ones, and a democracy requires an educated population. Even if we're educating kids here and they go back to Mexico or El Salvador or China, we still profit.

Anyway, I believe in a free market, but the lessons learned in the late 19th and early 20th century still resonate with me. The reforms made on business during the industrial revolution were necessary, and still need to be looked at and followed. A free market run wild isn't necessarily a wonderful thing. I do think that the free market can be used in innovative ways, like in environmental regulation and protection. As far as environmental regulation and protection, a bottom up approach with top supervision and oversight is crucial.

What gets me is how much our money is given for department of defense and department of homeland security. I know we can have a more effective military and spend much less money on it. We need government accountability. Its crucial, its mandatory, its one of the biggest things I hope to see is more government oversight how money is spent.

When I look at laws and issues, the first thing I think, well, will that work? What's the best solution that s practical?

Belladonna said...

I just have to say I'm clinging to the wall here to hold me up in a wild state of vertigo. I checked out your blogs for the first time today, tracking back form a comment you left on one of my Mind-Muffins posts. I started with "Tales of Ninth-Grade Molly" and from that assumed I was reading the work of a Beehive aged girl or there abouts...

Fine, go for it, but not my cup of postum.

Then a couple more clicks bring me here to the words of more mature woman who can both think and articlate.

HUH? I got pretty confused ....

NoSurfGirl said...


I know. It's confusing. Let me enlighten you-- tales of a ninth grade molly is my fiction-blog.

I'm trying, for better or for worse, to write angsty teenage girl fiction. I love the princess diaries (books) and thought it would be fun, after the manner of this series, to do a blogfict thing.

Does that clear things up? S'ok if it's not your cup of postum. Tee hee.

texasblu said...

I'm a swing vote myself. I am not a democrat by any means. There are too many things about their platform that I disagree with. I am not Republican either - I have issues there. I think I am closest to the constitutional party, but I've looked at their platform, and there are a few things I raise my eyebrow at. Basically, I vote for the PERSON, not the PARTY.

Mostly, I want to be informed, and I want to know the truth, and I have had enough experience with the main stream media to know not to rely on it. (My husband worked for abc news and I have friends that had bald faced lies written about them in the papers).

I liked what Lucy said - I agree with all of it. It is late, and my 3 yr. old won't sleep. Which is why I'm trying to answer this in a fog - time to put the keyboard up and rant another day! Great thinking question! :0)

NoSurfGirl said...


I think that's a good way to be.

About the media-- I've had some lies told about me, too.

Which is why I don't buy a newspaper, and I still get a little ticked at the poor people who call me every so often to try to sell me one.