Government that “Works”?

The White House

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

In President Obama’s inaugural speech he mentions that the “stale arguments” about the size of government are obsolete. From his perspective, it’s not the size of government– but whether government “works” that matters. Well, if you are anything like me a red flag immediately went off when he said this. How is government supposed to work? This frankly is the fundamental question, which distinguishes the two major parties from each other.

Liberal Democrats believe government should be about securing certain desirable results through social engineering such as affordable housing, living wages, universal heath care and racial quotas to name a few. They believe it is the government’s job to make sure that everyone has certain material comforts even if these comforts come at the expense of others (taxes).

On the other hand, conservative Republicans believe the Federal government must be limited to those things explicitly enumerated in the constitution. Any attempt to manipulate results requires too much interference by the government in the everyday lives of ordinary people. To that end, government’s major role should be to keep order; protect us from enemies foreign and domestic and ensure access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Conservatives argue that the process to acquire the necessities or comforts of life is just as important as the results themselves. It is maintained that any attempt to manipulate results so that everyone, at least for appearance sake, is equal always comes with unintended consequences. Equality in process is optimal not equality in results. No one can guarantee results there are too many variables that make this idea untenable.

Therefore government works for the conservative when government is not trying to redistribute wealth via burdensome taxation. Government works when it allows the free market to determine the cost of goods, services and labor. Government works when it encourages self-sufficiency and promotes the work ethic among Citizens. Government works when charity is the prime responsibility of its citizenry, not the government. Government works when it promotes the rule of law. This is limited government.

For the liberal government works when, according to president Obama, it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, [and] a retirement that is dignified. I must ask the question where in the constitution is this a mandate of government? Where it is written that any of these lofty goals are a measure of whether government works?

I would say that these things may be implied that when government focuses on what it is supposed to do and gets out of the peoples’ way. Then individuals, on their own, will find wages they can live on, care they can afford and retirement that meets their needs. We understand this to be the liberty to succeed as well as fail.

What President Obama does not understand is that these arguments about big and small government are as old as civilization. Thomas Jefferson once said, “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”

History tells us we should not trust our government but be vigilant to assure ourselves that government does not grow so big that it believes that the people should serve it as apposed to the government serving the people. We have been warned before, “that government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” (Gerald Ford) Or as Ronald Reagan said, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

It is clear that President Obama is only interested in bipartisanship when we agree with his position. Government works when it gets out of our way. Mr. President I suggest you take this to heart.

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