An Ideal Government

There was an interesting discussion on the crisis (if you will) of democracy in the West this morning on The Diane Rehm Show. As per usual, I didn’t get to hear the program in its entirety because, you know – toddlers. But it brought forward some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for some time.

P1140675It seems to me that in the United States, at least, a fundamental disagreement regarding the appropriate role of government is bubbling to the surface. Yes, it’s about “big” vs. “small” government, but aside from those terms being too broad, I think they’re also too subjective. (One person’s “small” is another person’s “big,” isn’t it?) Rather, I view the breakout as one of attitude. How do we think of our ideal government? The following is surely too broad and too rough, but for a quick get-us-thinking post, I hope it will do.

Many people (and most of the press) function under the idea that government, when it works properly, exists to solve problems and spur progress. Under this paradigm, some of the marks of good government are action, innovation, and cooperation.

Other people (including some of the most famous talk radio hosts) function under the idea that government exists simply to establish a basic framework of freedoms, security, and infrastructure. Under this paradigm, the primary mark of good government is restraint.

Like I said, it’s overly broad. “Basic framework,” in particular, is open to a wide range of interpretations. But still, I think it’s important for us each to consider our own inclinations. Do I respond more favorably to the idea of a government that makes my life better or to one that I hardly have cause to notice?

I wish more political pundits would start at this basic question. I’m so tired of hearing one guy say that Washington is “broken” because politicians won’t work together to solve the nation’s problems – and then changing the channel to hear another guy praise a Washington “outsider” who wants to get government out of the business of doing any such thing.

Perhaps Washington isn’t broken because politicians aren’t working together. Perhaps it’s broken because citizens (and therefore politicians) don’t have a common concept of what government should be. Let’s acknowledge this. Let’s examine our own personal desires for our government. Let’s encourage others to do so as well. Because whatever is broken in Washington, it’s not going to get fixed when we don’t even take into consideration that we’re working from entirely different pages.

What do you think? What would your ideal government look like?

One thought on “An Ideal Government

  1. The problem with our government isn’t that it is too big or too small. The problem is with the people who choose it. Yes, the problem is with the people–we are getting what we voted for. The problem comes down to a ‘love deficit’. I don’t mean mush romantic love or everyone fornicating in the streets. What I mean is a strong civic love for our fellow citizens. Because we refuse to see the inherent worth in other people. Instead, in our society we see other people as tools to help us get what we want–more money, more power, sexual gratification, basically anything. How can a society that sees other people as tools possibly function?

    It can’t.

    Adam Smith did not consider “The Wealth of Nations” to be his most important work. Instead, he considered “A Theory of Moral Sentiments” to be the moral underpinning for the modern society. In his theory people needed to have sympathies for others in society. He did not mean the pity we commonly confuse with sympathy today. Instead, he meant an innate need that man has for other’s around him to be happy. In other words, to Smith the moral society was a society were everyone worked for the happiness of those around them and not just their own.

    How does this relate to our society? Well, in a society where people only exist to seek their own happiness, there is nobody working for anyone else’s happiness. Society becomes a collection of citizen islands seeking nothing other than what makes them most satisfied. But of course, if they don’t support the happiness of others, there is no one to support their happiness either.

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