The term politics refers to the general process by which our society makes collective decisions. It can seem messy and confusing, but through the consent of the governed and confines of the constitution, our government wields authority to execute the public will. We make decisions about rules for private enterprise. We raise taxes to provide for public education. We grapple with how best to provide opportunity to those less fortunate in society. The process, while imperfect, is necessary to secure continued liberty and prosperity for our citizens.

The Role of Government

It feels like public discourse these days involves some people advocating for a minimalist state with maximum freedom for citizens to pursue their own ends vs. some people advocating for a more robust state that provides protections for its citizens from life’s hardships. The loudest voices, however, are not always worthy of our attention. Beyond the populist rhetoric like “government is the problem,” we must realize that some common ground exists between anarchy and tyranny.

For the most part, citizens appreciate much of what government provides like roads, public parks, national security, protection of rights, etc. Some people then wrongly assume that successes in these realms mean that government is well suited for many other functions. Likewise, other people wrongly assume that simply disbursing power and limiting government would liberate people to live lives of maximum freedom. This tension of perspectives fuels the (not always productive) debate of the proper role of government.

We must first recognize that smaller communities and local sovereignty certainly inspire greater civic interest and allegiance of citizens than larger abstract government. Yet local government is not the simple answer. We must also remember that too often such communities can become pockets of intolerance where the tyranny of the majority can reign.  Further, even idyllic communities are now part of a world where goods, information, and people flow across national boundaries with such ease as to necessitate larger forms of government. This challenges us to balance national and global power sufficient to protect rights and rival global market forces with local sovereignty and self-government to engage our citizens.

Government cannot be the answer for all of society’s woes and it cannot be the villain responsible for all of society’s woes. It cannot be entirely local and it cannot be entirely national. Its role is carry out our desires as citizens to promote a free and prosperous nation in whatever manner that works. This demands an understanding by voters of the central issues and policies involved and a careful study of their effectiveness.

The Measurement of Success

How is the U.S. Government doing of forming “a more perfect Union”? The most widely used measure of a nation’s progress has been Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it does correlate to societal prosperity. However, this feels incomplete as Robert Kennedy pointed out in 1968 saying that it “…measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile….” These other areas seem important, but what specifically can we measure?

As the preamble to the Constitution alludes, we could monitor our success in areas of justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and liberty of citizens. There are several indexes that attempt to do this including the 2010 Legatum Prosperity Index which ranks nations by areas like health, education, security, personal freedom, economics, etc. Using rankings like this provides a real look in the mirror and offers data to assess claims about American exceptionalism.

My hope is that the United States will someday achieve the self-accountability to publicly assess its positions regarding crime rates, personal savings, health, education, etc. Only through deciding what our common goals and benchmarks should be will our government have greater clarity of purpose and benefit to the people in the long run.

Future Sections Here

  • The Budget
  • Taxes
  • Health Care
  • Social Security (complete)
  • Defense
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Immigration
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