Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fixing a Broken Govenment

In the opening lines of "To Reverse America’s Decline, We Have to Fix Congress’s Dysfunctional Incentives" by the Center for Collaborative Democracy, we read:

"The U.S. Congress has put America on the road to decline. Both Republican and Demo- cratic lawmakers encouraged U.S. financial institutions to employ the high-risk practices that have hobbled our economy. Both parties let our country become addicted to foreign oil, thus undermining our security while enriching nations intent on harming us. Both parties allowed our school children to be- come among the most poorly educated in the developed world. Both parties saddled our country with $100 trillion in Social Security and Medicare obligations that we cannot pos- sibly meet."
The reason I became a member of the Republican Party was because I believe in smaller government, lower taxes and freedom. I also believe in social responsibility, respect for the environment and a reasonable safety net for the people.  While I tend to lean Libertarian in most things I understand that right or wrong the reality of the situation as it is today is that we are a two party system.  If you want to make a difference you pick a party and try to not get swallowed up by the rhetoric.

That said, I have seen little evidence that either party has been able to deliver on any of the basic things that nearly every common person, liberal or conservative, expects from their government. Year over year we see our privacy invaded, our freedoms curtailed, and our taxes go up and nothing is done to help alleviate the mess we as ordinary people find ourselves in when it comes to planning for retirement, trying to educate our children, or getting basic health care without going into bankruptcy. It doesn't seem to matter who is in power. How can it be that in spite of our best efforts as voters we never seem to get what we want when it comes to our elected representatives?

Of course the hard line retort is well you deserve what you got after all you voted for them. This retort inspires many people to tune out of politics and stay away from the polls altogether and who can blame them? Would you continue to frequent a restaurant if the waiter consistently brought everything on the menu except the thing you asked for? I think that most Republicans understand that nothing good can come from Government and I agree with that perspective given our present circumstances.  Government is broken, let us try our best to limit the damage it can do.

But looking beyond that, what are we to do?  Anarchists believe that the best way is for no government at all to exist and to let people work things out for themselves.  However, most of us firmly believe that we need some sort of agency to protect our common interests and to prevent one person or group from trampling the interests of everyone else or there would be total chaos.  Or to put it another way we need to have some entity that will provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare (sound familiar).  Even Libertarians agree that we need to have some agency which will prevent one person or group from exercising force or deception upon other persons or groups.

I would assert that if our system of government were not broken then there would be less need to work so hard to limit it.  On the contrary if it were not broken it would limit itself because for government to grow beyond the means of the people it would have to fail to meet one of it's two primary objectives; to promote the general welfare.  Instead government would seek to find the most efficient means possible to promote the general welfare and provide for the common defense.  It would tread lightly upon the backs of the people.  Our current system does none of those things.

What about the other objective? To provide for the common defense.  What does it mean to provide for the common defense?  As individuals most of us understand that when you throw your weight around, speak in aggressive tones, and make unnecessary shows of force that you may intimidate some people for a time, but in the long run you create more trouble for yourself than you can ever hope to avoid.  Trouble follows trouble and when you adopt a strategy of projecting power, you will inevitably cause trouble.  And so, you must pour an ever increasing amount of resources into being able to back up your bluster with violence.  You also encourage those around you to grow stronger and more violent in the process.  This is a self defeating and extremely expensive strategy.

Before World War II most Americans adhered to a philosophy of isolationism.  They believed that we should avoid unnecessary entanglements.  In those days we had a solid industrial base, some of the best health care and education the world has ever seen and we had a thriving middle class filled with upwardly mobile people. We hadn't seen and attack upon our own soil by a foreign power since 1812.

Since World War II we have become the worlds police.  Our educational system has declined to roughly 22nd place, our medical system while very high tech and very good for wealthy foreigners, simply fails to meet the basic needs of the people.  Our middle class is virtually extinct and even the rich are looking to buy property in South America in order to have a safe place to go when the final vestiges of our society finally crumbles into dust.  When we travel we are treated like common criminals at the Airport where even a tube of toothpaste, or a pair of nail clippers is considered contraband if it is an ounce too large.  What do you suppose our great great great grandfathers would have to say about a trip through Airport security in the present age given that they probably rode a train out west with a side arm strapped to their hip. 

Yes, I believe we need a strong defense but I completely disagree with the mentality that says that the best defense is a good offense.  We need to make smarter choices in the way we spend our military dollars and we can no longer afford to project our power across the globe.  The incestuous relationship between defense contractors and our elected officials must be brought to an end or there will be no United States of America for our grand children to enjoy.

In keeping with the theme of avoiding unnecessary entanglements I also believe that we must not sacrifice the sovereignty of our nation.  Far too many people have bled and died to protect the Constitution and our system of government.  We know that the larger government gets the less in tune with individual concerns it seems to be.  In a bygone day, States were left to their own devices in most things, and the Federal government was small and by today's standards very limited in scope.  People were better represented.  How much worse will things be when we are subject to a single system of government that encompasses the globe?  We need to stand strong against this globalist mentality because it is taking us in the wrong direction.

We have quite a mess to clean up and we need to find better ways to elect people who truly represent our interests.  We need to understand and address the factors that cause most people to develop an attitude of apathy toward politics.  Blaming them for being lazy is not productive.  This apathy doesn't stem from an inherent worthlessness of the individual.  Rather, it stems (in nearly all cases) from a cycle of negative re-enforcement.  If you vote for people and the people you vote for continue to disappoint, when do you decide that voting is a waste of time?  This threshold is different for different people but it exists for everyone.  Above all else, we need representation that works.

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