Good Government

Having lived on this planet nearly 70 years, I am qualified to opine just about everything, including to comment on what constitutes good government.  Being older does not make one wiser, trust me.  But trust me, I am a wise guy.  I will prove it later on in this piece.

But let us start at the beginning:  The U.S. Constitution.  Many want us to adhere to the original.  So here is the preamble:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Yes, I know, back in the old days they spelled defense with a “c”. Not sure why they capitalized Tranquility, Welfare and Posterity, either, but maybe they meant to have those concepts stand out.  They also noted that the People of the U.S. have developed this to form a more perfect Union.  So let us break this down and compare these concepts to our current state of affairs:

Domestic Tranquility.  Do you feel the tranquility in these modern times?  Thought not.

Common Defense:  Do we feel more secure?  Must we manufacture arms and sell them overseas to dictators?  Why not just make enough to protect our homeland?

General Welfare:  Welfare is a dirty word, but don’t touch my Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Posterity:  Are we really acting in our children and grandchildren’s best interest?  What about the trillion dollar national debt? Climate change?

I could go on, but won’t.   And what about taxes?  Here is what Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said about them in 1927: “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

I think those who say taxes are too high or too low are getting ahead of themselves.  The question should not be the level of taxation.  The question should be what do we want from government that is funded by our taxes? So my suggestion is to make a list of everything you want from government—e.g., roads, bridges, schools, defense, regulation, consumer protection, social services, equal justice, etc.—and put a price tag on it. That is how much we need to raise in revenue (e.g., taxes).  Now how it is raised and who pays is another discussion.  That is the price of good government, which, I know for some is an oxymoron.

So, Randy, you ask, what qualifies you as being such an expert? My answer is aside from my age and experience, I offer the following:

Eight years service on a school board.  Local government in action, or, in reality, endless meetings that were often boring, occasionally exciting when being yelled at.

My taste in music and penchant for recognizing good song lyrics. Case in point, the following from country music singer Roger Miller:

“I hear tell you’re doin’ well,
Good things have come to you.
I wish I had your happiness
And you had a do-wacka-do,
Wacka do, wacka-do, wacka-do.”

He also wrote that you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.  It takes a fine mind to come up with stuff like that.  And even a finer mind to discern how insightful it is.

Finally, my son-in-law asked me what advice I would give my grandson. I think he thought I would come up with something profound.  I did. Here it is:  “Watch out.  Pay attention.”

Now is not that the height of profundity?  I am glad you agree.  So when you think about your part in forming a more perfect union and promoting good government—watch out.  Pay attention.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, what can we say about the craziness that is the US today. I can only read the headlines these days – detail just makes me despair even more. I can’t listen to even NPR on my car radio anymore, and only listen to classical music. I have been doing some voter registration and GOTV work with the League of Women Voters. It could be a positive sign that at the last 2 registration drives we didn’t register a single person – because everyone was already registered. Here’s hoping they all actually vote.

    Funny you should mention Roger Miller. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been singing in a choir directed by JD Steele with his brother Fred accompanying on keyboard. One day JD asked people to sing something or tell a story, as a way of getting to know each other. An African American woman sang a song that I’d never heard before. Every African American in the room knew it and sang along, and all of the white folks just looked at each other wondering how come we’d never heard it. Then a white guy told a story about a factory job he’d had in high school and how the song King of the Road reminded him of those days. Then he sang King of the Road and all the white people in the room sang along (it’s a room full of Boomers) and not a single African American knew the song. They all looked at each other in puzzlement the same way the white folks had looked at each other during the previous song. It was such a lesson in how we lived parallel lives that hardly intersected. Guess I should be heartened that at least now we’re all singing in the same choir. And JD frequently reminds us that for black folks, 1968 was far worse than 2018, and somehow they survived.

    Here’s hoping that 50 years from now our descendants are talking about how they survived 2018…




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