Can we agree that the most important government entity in our daily life SHOULD be our local government…meaning our city, county, and school district elected officials and employees? What other elected officials could possibly know us and our family’s local situation better?
Speed limits, property taxes, school policies, zoning, police & fire protection, building codes, snow plowing, trash collection, water & sewer service…the list goes on and on. By driving just a few miles, most of us can attend council and board meetings and talk directly with our local representatives on a first name basis.
Wouldn’t you agree that we spend 95% or more of our time conducting our daily life within 25 miles of our home? So why do most of us pay so little attention to local government matters, compared with our infatuation with national matters? I’ll bet most of us, myself included, split our political attention like this: 10-20% local vs. 80-90% national.
Historically, what do you think the local vs. national split of attention was for most Americans fifty and a hundred years ago? My personal hunch, doing no research, is 50% local vs. 50% national fifty years ago, and 70% local vs. 30% national a century ago.
OK, so maybe I’m shamelessly exaggerating the rate of the trend to bolster my point. Still, would anyone seriously deny that America’s public discourse today is trending towards greater and greater hype about the actions and policies of the federal government?
Why is this trend occurring? I think many would say that Cable/Satellite TV and the Internet are the causes. I would respond that these are certainly catalysts, but they are only technologies that deliver ideas to us. A better question is: What are the sources of these “bigger-government-is-better” ideas we are bombarded with every day?
My answer: Politicians and political activists who are unconstrained public policy setters. And also the like-minded members of academia and the dominant news media establishment who agree with and promote the “bigger-government-is-better” philosophy.
Coming out of this wellspring of unconstrained ideas about the necessity of big government, we hear famous statements like this:
- “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Barack Obama, 7/13/2012
- “It’s going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Nancy Pelosi, 3/9/2010
- “These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, [and] the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” Barney Frank, 9/11/2003
- “This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights…. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our nation has grown in size and stature, however…these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness…. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed…. All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1/11/1944
I believe it is now an undeniable reality that lofty unconstrained solutions to every societal issue aren’t affordable. To me it’s clear that not every problem can be solved, and not every worthwhile solution should attempt to be comprehensive. As with our household budget decisions, we must make tradeoffs. We must accept that we can’t afford massive national solutions to every issue.
How do we begin to stem the tide? How can each of us reboot our hard drive to establish the mindset needed to push back against the steadily creeping growth of big government reliance?
I assert that we should go back to first dealing with our local problems locally wherever possible, within our households or via our families and non-gov’t community organizations. We should resist the addictive urge to instantly look to the federal government to prevent or solve every issue for every person.
I also assert that we should stop our minds and our mouths short whenever the phrase “our leaders” tries to emerge. As in “our leaders in Washington.” Those words roll so easily off our tongues…but every time we say them, we implicitly buy into the big government mantra. They aren’t our leaders, they’re our elected representatives. Politicians and government employees, no matter how popular or effective, shouldn’t be viewed as a ruling elite class…they’re public servants. They literally work for us, the voters and taxpayers.
I will wrap up by offering a politically neutral idea, though it is certainly not philosophically neutral:
We frequently hear it said that “The President of the United States is the leader of the free world.” Well…unless you are a soldier or an employee in the federal executive branch, I invite you to repeat after me: “The U.S. President, no matter who it is, is not my ‘leader.’ He/she is the elected chief executive of the USA, and serves only by the consent of the voters.” This is not intended to be disrespectful towards the President – rather it is first and foremost intended to be respectful to ourselves and our natural unalienable rights. See my previous post.
If you are offended by the sentiment I have just expressed, I would venture to say that you probably lean towards the unconstrained philosophy of big government. You and I will probably have to agree to differ about the necessary and proper role of government. However, if you’re unsure about the proper size/charter of gov’t, I fervently hope you will continue to follow the constructive discussion here in this space.