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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • The role of government

  • A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion with several friends on the topic of Obamacare. A majority of the group decried the fact that the federal government was, once again, intruding on the personal lives of citizens. Another voice spoke out and asked if each person was willing to give back his social security check or his KP...
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  • A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion with several friends on the topic of Obamacare. A majority of the group decried the fact that the federal government was, once again, intruding on the personal lives of citizens. Another voice spoke out and asked if each person was willing to give back his social security check or his KPERS pension money. Right there we have the basic question of what is the proper role of government in our democratic society.
    The United States was born out of our attack against the tyrannical rule of the King of Great Britain. The familiarity of the Declaration of Independence rings out every July 4th. States under the Articles of Confederation proved too weak to govern effectively.
    However, the fear of a strong national government that violated individual rights was still on the minds of American citizens. How could the citizens keep the all-consuming national government in check? The answer was to add on the First Ten Amendments known as the Bill of Rights to keep the national government in check. There would be no infringement on the rights of freedom of speech, press and religion. All powers not given to the federal government would be retained by the states.
    So what has happened since the beginning of our country? Until the Civil War, the U.S. followed that formula fairly well. With the advent of the Civil War, the powers of government were expanded drastically. The same was true with the other wars our nation has fought in. World War II stretched the powers of government even further. Also the infringement on individual rights was often sanctioned in the interests of prosecuting the war successfully. Two of our strongest Presidents had a great influence on each period of history. Lincoln once said, “Government should not do for the citizen what collectively they can do for themselves.” The Civil War tested that principle in the goal of preserving the Union.
    Franklin Roosevelt was faced with more difficult challenges, which included a world-wide war and an economic depression. The Constitution was formed only after the security and stability of our nation was threatened. To preserve the freedom of America, both crises had to be met with a strong and active national government.
    The tensions between the national goals and individual rights were never more evident during the FDR era.
    Franklin Roosevelt did something else besides successfully concluding World War II. To help the nation out of the Great Depression, he instituted domestic programs such as the FDIC to insure bank deposits, the Farm program to help farmers, and the Social Security Act to help those who are retired and those who are disabled. So in a multitude of social programs, FDR changed the scope of government. Defending the nation militarily had been the major priority. Now the priority included one of directing social programs for every American citizen.
    Page 2 of 2 - We now have a federal government charged with defending our nation as well as looking out for the welfare of its citizens. It’s no wonder that the words of many of our Founding Fathers act as a warning to us.
    Benjamin Franklin said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Or upon signing the Constitution he is reported to have said “We now have a Republic, if you can keep it.”
    In the midst of technology that threatens our personal privacy and security and the specter of rising national debt, are not these earlier warnings very relevant today? On the other side of the equation, we are a much different society today from the one our Founding Fathers lived in. We are an urban society, as opposed to a rural one. Technology affects every minute detail of our lives. What role should the government have in combatting the high unemployment rate, increasing poverty, and rising crime?
    We demand so many things from government. We expect quality roads, schools and police protection. In addition, we now expect an adequate social security check, fair and decent wages and consumer protection. Is national health insurance the next great government service? Can we afford these programs?
    Can we continue to be a strong nation when some of its citizens do not have basic necessities? Whether health care is one of those basic rights, Americans will have to determine that through their elected officials.
    There was a time when I thought all government programs were infringing on my rights. Why should the government tell me what I should eat or how I should drive my car? I was reminded that how I do certain things could be taking the freedom away from others. By not wearing my seatbelt I may be putting the economic health of my family in jeopardy. I could become a burden to other tax payers.
    Determining the role of government becomes more difficult all the time.
    To keep the values of democracy alive is an even more daunting task. How we determine the role of government in our present time will go a long way in meeting the welfare of all of its citizens.
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