“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and the only way we will get it done is if everybody, Democrats and Republicans, find a way to put country ahead of party.” ‘Transcript of President Barack Obama’s speech at Johnson Controls Inc.’ as reported by the Holland Sentinel, August 11, 2011.
To President Obama, government and country are the same. If we are to get out of the economic mess the progressive/socialist wing of the Democratic Party got us in, he believes government must do more. Since he’s the head of our government, Obama argues that more power should be given to him and his allies to do more of what they’ve tried. The fundamental problem with his philosophy is his myopic view of the world. Governments are institutions of society. Government is not society.
Societies comprise of many things. We have religious institutions, business sectors, charitable organizations, families, artistic groups, health care groups, advocacy groups, volunteers, friends, neighbors, and investors. All of these things work together and at odds creating a culture and a society. Government also has a role. However, we have mingled the goals of our voluntary associations, which work quite well, with the mandatory associations as defined by government.
That is our problem.
It isn’t that government is doing too little. It’s that government is trying to do too much to ‘fix’ everyone and everything. The president is very right about one thing. We do need to put our country first, but not in a sense that he means. We need to extract government from each and every other institution as we know it.
That doesn’t mean we believe in anarchy. We aren’t nihilists as the Democratic Party-run press suggests. We believe that certain institutions are better at doing things than government is. Government was created to police our actions to make sure the strong don’t injure the weak. If they do, government is empowered to administer justice. Government was endowed with power to create things that enable other institutions to do their work. Governments build roads and water lines, sewers and parks. These are all common goods that can be shared regardless of social group. That is the necessary and proper role of government.
Governments should not be in the business of deciding what economic enterprise fails or succeeds. Governments should not decide what charities should be funded or not. Government should not be organizing our lives and our private decisions, unless those decisions directly harm others. But we have allowed the social contract with the government become bloated and meddlesome.
That is what is gumming up our economy and society.
As we watch the UK burn, it reminds us of what happens when government becomes a country. It becomes a dog eat dog enterprise of the group in power making decisions, fundamental private decisions, about everyone’s lives. People then become dissatisfied, by everything. Their lives are not their own. So, they lash out and the government, fearing to act, becomes frozen in time and space. Since they have abandoned their legitimate role, policing and administering real justice, and have become the private citizens’ conscience, nanny, keeper, they don’t know what to do. Do they administer justice or do they placate the masses? Do they stop the violence or will that only make things worse?
Obama did us a great service because his presidency has forced us to consider these ideas. Do we want to go the bankrupt way of Greece or Italy? Do we destroy all our other institutions and turn to only government as our aid? Or, do we stop, take stock, and realize that we must put country first. We must rein in the machine of state and allow our country to work together for its common good.
As long as all power in society flows from the monopoly on power that government enjoys, those who are outside the process will be unhappy. But, if we put country first, put government in its place, and voluntarily work to fix our problems, this fragmentation of the political discourse will dissolve. Instead we will have a government that works, an economy that works, and a society that allows us all to become so much more.
Put country, before government, and we will succeed.
Crossposted at Looktruenorth.com