By Chris McClure, Contributing Editor
I have long believed that the “least” government is the “best” government. Any ideal, though, is a standard toward which to strive, but which, in reality, is often unachievable. When it comes to the very concept of government, we must recognize that it covers many things and many broad concepts that cross multiple boundaries. Essentially, it is structure that embodies principles for the conduct of relationships between individuals.
Reading back over that paragraph, I wonder what “can of worms” I have dived into! It’s no wonder we often feel there is government overreach or, sometimes, a failure of government to do their job. I suspect the entire concept was much easier when this country was young because there was a reasonably common moral basis understood by all as the overriding principle upon which the government was founded – a Judeo-Christian belief in a higher being. However, even that thought is as slippery as a cow’s ear in a load-out chute coming off of wheat pasture, otherwise we wouldn’t have had rum runners, slavers and privateers who founded dynasties lasting even to today.
I suppose, we sometimes come together long enough as a people to define and codify certain aspects of our behavior upon which a sufficient consensus can agree that we establish laws to guide us. Many of those laws are still as slippery as that cow’s ear because the lawyers who write them always leave loopholes to accommodate those whose pay builds their summer homes in the Hamptons where they entertain each other with stories of how they slipped another one by “We the People” without so much as a whimper.
We need laws. We need government. We need rules by which to play the game that provides a reasonably level playing field for those willing to step out onto it. Without such, it is strictly an effort at surviving where the strong get stronger and the weak are exploited. I suppose that is the case anyway; it’s just a matter of where the line is drawn as to who falls into the “strong” category and who falls into “weak.”
We fight for position – wherever we are, whatever “category” we fall into. If we are at the bottom rungs of society, we fight for the crumbs. As we rise through the various economic and social levels, we fight for bigger crumbs until we finally get a decent slice of the ever-expanding pie that is the product of this amazing machine we call the United States of America.
It is the constant battle between the various strata that causes us heartburn as we strive, first, to hold on to our piece of the pie and, second, to get a little bit bigger piece. We want protection from those who would take part of our share while striving to break what we perceive as the unfair advantage someone else holds over us (such as the meatpacking industry, perhaps?). That struggle – between holding what is ours while growing it bigger – is what has created the monstrosity that we now face in the form of government.
Wouldn’t it be simple if we just had a 10-line set of laws to live by? One of the first sets of laws could be boiled down to simply this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Then someone comes along and says, “Just who is my neighbor?” Then someone else asks, “Just what does it mean to ‘love’ them?”
That’s when we start adding definitions and explanations, and creating a judicial system, which causes further expansion of the law as a response to their decisions.
It would certainly be simpler if there weren’t so many people with competing goals and aspirations.
Do we need government? Yes. Just like traffic laws, though, we all believe the rules are for the other guy – not ourselves. We follow them in order to avoid the penalties, or we don’t follow them either from ignorance, or in full knowledge of the penalties that we are willing to absorb if “caught.”
Like most other human endeavors, we “like” government when it helps “our cause” and we “hate” government when it seems to hinder “our cause” – whatever it might be. It could be in regard to immigration – we need cheap labor, but we don’t want them coming across the border without our permission. We want “free” markets, but if the price moves against us we claim collusion or monopolistic behavior or that the pricing mechanism is broken. (I think there is supporting evidence for all of the above – including that it is working correctly.) Clean water is important, but the regulations are onerous. It is dangerous for truck drivers to drive 12 hours straight, but the cattle need to get there as quickly as possible. The list goes on and on.
When I think about the current state of our government I see an old broken-down set of pens in my mind. The best solution might be a bulldozer.