Children are capable of doing wonderful things. I remember an instance where our daughters went out of their way to befriend a fellow elementary school student who had the unfortunate circumstance of changing schools mid-semester. In reaching out to the new-comer, I’m sure, they made the transition a little easier.
I remember another story (actually multiple stories) where our daughters fought one another over petty disagreements. Sisters can do that. They can mistreat one another from time to time. So, on the other hand, children are capable of being not so nice.
The same is true of adults.
When our nation was founded there was a widespread consensus that human beings are capable of both great beauty and great malevolence. Essentially, that truth has not changed. Despite the efforts of a massively enlarged national government and intrusions at the state and local level, we are still capable of great beauty and great malevolence. We are still greedy perhaps when we shouldn’t be, too enabling when it might be destructive and we still take people for granted. At the same time, we have consistently shown that we can help our neighbors and save souls.
So, what should we make of this when it comes to government? If this aspect of our nature is consistent through time, wouldn’t it be proper to factor that in when establishing a government? That is precisely what Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and the gang did when our country was founded.
Since government is made up of human beings who are flawed, they intentionally tried to minimize the bad government can do to humanity by limiting its scope and power. Sounds like a good idea, right? It seems, though, this idea has been lost to many in our country today.
We shouldn’t assume that people with power will ignore their capacity for malevolence and opt only for benevolence. Why would we assume that because someone goes from average citizen to elected official they become more virtuous? Are they not the same people they were before they were elected? Are they not just as susceptible as anyone else to the truism that absolute power corrupts absolutely? Good questions to consider as many of us continually put our unjustified trust in elected officials to solve our problems.
In fact, our history is littered with officials at all levels proving our trust is unjust. As a child in the Chicago area, we were routinely treated with stories of people who dared vote the wrong way. The consequence for this inexcusable offense? Their trash was not collected. No worries, though. The 135 year old resident next door made up that vote for the esteemed and honorable Mayor. Hardly benevolent government behavior worthy of our trust.
We do not have to be doomed to a fate of consistently corrupt and control-freak government. We can applaud the Founders for what they gave us. Understanding government does not hover somewhere above our human Jekyll and Hyde nature, they structured a government which allows for our imperfections and limits the damage it can do to human beings. In fact, they demanded that government protect the rights of human beings, not create them or force others to provide them (Obamacare).
If all the narrow self-interests at work in our republic today truthfully want a classically liberal, freedom-oriented society, as many of them at least say they do, then they should embrace the idea that the force of government should be used only sparingly and with great caution. They should embrace the idea of a fair, clear, consistent government with limited capacity to do harm.
We all should get our trash collected regardless of how we vote. That, after all, is what we were originally given and what we were originally given was good.