Think about this. In the name of absolute, God-given personal liberty, someone erects a tent on your lawn and declares the right to live in it. You can’t move them without going to court (at best) and arguing constitutional law or using the threat of lethal force. Without an established government and written law about your situation, and without an official (paid) representative of that government, the cost of getting them to move could significantly diminish your wealth.
In the past few weeks, I have listened to a concerning number of people who have an absolute distrust of all levels of government. The conversations were with Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters. Two were registered libertarians, although one reported themselves to be left-leaning and the other right-leaning. I was already aware of the similar feelings of my Republican friends and, of course, the MAGA party, which has made government-bashing the foundation of its platform. Those of us dedicated to preserving our Republic must take note.
Many of my columns discuss the relationship between the size of government and the cost of government. It will continue to be a recurring theme. Today, I want to convince you, the reader, of two things. A society will always require a government of some type. Plus, the government we have is by far the only type of government that can give a degree of liberty to all its citizens. I aim to convince you to resist any “winner take all” political thinking by legislation, political rhetoric, or personal political philosophy.
All human recorded history details the actions of some form of government. Until the Axial age, which includes the ministry of Jesus, any government was, at least in part, a Theocracy. All law was said to originate in the name of a deity or God. As governments became separated from religion, citizens experimented with and philosophized about government. The power of the sword often corrupted the moral teachings of the church. Even the church was sometimes corrupt in its sanction of the government.
Except for the famous democracy of the Greeks, which was limited to a select number, most early governments were autocratic. The rule of the Caesars took over their Republic. The reforms of the Magna Carta in England still preserved the power of the aristocracy. The government established in the United States is called “the great experiment” because it balances power between citizens and government and the parts of the government. There are still rules and laws which restrict individual action, but we do not limit individual thought. Patrick Henry’s plea, “Give me liberty or give me death,” referred to liberty of thought, not action.
The “winner take all” political strategy suppresses the liberty of thought and action. The closest we have come in the United States to those types of suppressive measures by the government was the 1950’s McCarthy hearings. That entire undertaking became known as an example of un-American activity in a reverse of the thoughts it was trying to outlaw.
A person’s faults do not mean that they have no God-given worth. A person can rectify or compensate for them. The same is true about government. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about Bureaucratic Bumbling and correcting it in the same manner as we expect of people. Our liberty and our collective creativity give us an advantage over countries that restrain individual thought.
An autocratic government could be efficient, except that its unchangeable laws are corrupted by citizens who find a way not to obey them. Our form of government allows citizens to legally change the legal codes when enough citizens don’t want to follow them. The challenge for citizens? Learning more about issues. Finding trusted sources of information about subjects we don’t understand. Examining both sides of a fact-based argument. We don’t always get the outcome we want, but our liberty to persuade others remains.
The United States is still working toward “a more perfect union.” Accepting that any one person, political party, or political philosophy can achieve that is not realistic. We trust but correct our government, or we live with continuing disappointment.
Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at IdahoAuthor@outlook.com. She welcomes feedback.