Writing Center
Spring 2010 Edition

The Nature of Government: Healthier Perceptions

Ben Wilde
Argumentative 1010 2nd Place
Professor: Corser

The notion that government can be small is a misconception. Humanity is always governed by persons like parents, kings and Popes; or by organizations such as massive corporations, religious groups, militaries, mobs etc. that we should more correctly call governments. Government is not only people who we elect to run countries, it is the powers that be, no matter how they came to be. The idea that we can shrink government is only applicable to democratically elected governments.

We cannot shrink the amount of governance that is needed to fill the void created by each individual who is not perfectly responsible. As with a child, each individual can only free them self from needing constant supervision by supervising them self. There are parents, teachers, social workers, sports coaches and a slew of various other forms of government that must exist in some combination or another until a child is self-governing.

It is the soap box cry of anarchists and power mongers, disguised as defenders of our liberty, that we can have a small government working for an enlightened, responsible, self governing people. These beautiful pros only serve to blind citizens to the reality that the human condition is nowhere close to being capable of responsible self-governance. In most cases such dogma serves only to protect the de facto governments that exist in the absence of a sufficiently large and empowered democratically elected government. The cries of libertarians and small government tycoons cause the well intentioned idealist in each of us to quickly inflate and act as a bubble of illusory protection against reality. Thomas Jefferson spoke well when he described the difficulties of maintaining good government as a "tempestuous sea of liberty," (Thomas Jefferson)

Responsible citizens are obligated to take part in the arduous process of democratically electing government and then using their votes to check that governing power. Any other course will lead to the rise of powerful non-democratically elected entities, in the case of having small government, or a powerful democratically elected government that no longer serves the greater good of the majority of the people.

In many countries there is a sufficiently large enough percent of the population that understands their civil duties and that their own freedom depends on active democratic engagement. There is a broad consensus among the people of these countries that they can elect and maintain a big enough government to keep all of the other powerful organizations in check. This is the only way to prevent the people of any nation from being governed by powers that they do not elect. Karl Marx observed that at its core "capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him." (Marx) At the heart of capitalism is the need to control the people in order to build more capital. This must be kept at bay by the sufficiently large democratically elected government. The Wal-Marts and Exxon Mobils of our day, by their very nature, seek to control the people.

Only in the last two centuries have we seen the great and arguably successful experiment of separating church government from the peoples elected government. History is littered with tragic tales of whole civilizations ruled by "God" and robbed of their basic human rights. Only when a rebellious group of intellectuals got together and formed the U.S. constitution, did humans see for the first time the importance of having an elected government in place to ensure protections against theocratic oppression. Socialism is the most accurate word to describe the appropriate size of a healthy government; however, the type of socialism employed is critical. Lenin's socialism (more often called communism) was completely void of the democratic principal that is necessary for ensured individual liberty. Although Lenin understood the concept that good government must hold at bay bad government-esque groups, he did not acknowledge the loss of human rights that would sooner or later occur as a result of abolishing democracy. Today the United States operates with a more mild form of socialism. Socialism in the U.S. has a strong democratic side as well as large government agencies that work to shield its citizens from the powerful interests of religious and corporate groups. That being said, the large body of conservative groups that wield large control over politics and the media prevent an efficient application of truly democratic socialism.

In 1949 Albert Einstein concluded that there is "only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy…" (Why Socialism?) He went on to describe a government that would have the power to prevent harm from capitalism without losing the democratic voice of the people.

There is no need to distract our selves with ideas of small government. We will benefit the most by working to be more responsible citizens who ceaselessly strive to maintain our liberties by building and maintaining a large central government that protects the people from competing government entities, who if left unchecked, will rise to power.

Thomas Jefferson, www.brainyquote.com, Oct. 28, 2009
Karl Marx, Capital Volume I, Chapter 10, 1867 http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch10.htm#4a Why Socialism, Albert Einstein, Monthly Review, New York, May, 1949 http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Einstein.htm