Sunday, March 2, 2008

The role of government

This election year has caused me to ponder a lot of questions about the true role of government in our daily lives, as well as their role in national and international affairs. Here are random questions and thoughts, which may or may not make sense.

* Ours is a democratically elected government of a pluralistic society. That means, in part, that no one part of society gets special treatment.

* So what role should that government play in things such as protection of one segment of society from abuse of another? Obviously, we've decided no one should discriminate on the basis of race, creed, or sex. Who decides what constitutes "abuse" of one party by another?

* Can it be argued that the government's job is to see to the welfare of the country? At all costs? At some cost? In other words, can't it be argued that if it is in the country's best interest to protect it's oil supply, it should do so?

* Who decides what's in the county's best interest? The voters? A 51% majority? The courts?

This is what is stumping me, but I'm not able to articulate it well. I've been reading how the government shouldn't legislate "morality." You can't force people to make what other people think are the "right" or moral choices in life. Abortion, homosexual rights, and stem cell research are just a few examples. But at the same time, social justice issues are seen as the proper domain for the federal government. Welfare, food stamps, child care, health care, education, head start, etc. We've tried affirmative action as well as other social programs to level the playing field. Isn't that legislating morality, too?

Is the job of government to ensure their international trading is "fair" trade? If we say it is in the best interest of any country to deal compassionately with other countries and peoples, aren't we making moral judgments and therefore asking our governments to legislate morality instead of ensure the safety and survival of the country? What about illegal immigration? Should we possibly weaken our defenses and drain our resources by dealing "compassionately" with those who have come here to seek a better life? Perhaps immigrants are making the country a better place, but I think it can be argued rather effectively that that's not a universal truth and there are real and costly problems involved. Should compassion for an individual (or even many individuals) dictate national policy? Should it dictate how everyone must deal with something like this on a national level? Isn't it best to accommodate the needs of the many, not the few? Isn't that legislating morality?

It just seems we want to pick and choose what we see as the legitimate moral grounds for the federal government. Most, if not all of you who read my sporadic blog should know me at least a little. Yes, I have a conservative bent in politics and social issues. But I'm letting my mind run here, and I want help thinking through this issue of what is the legitimate role of government and who has the right to chose which areas the government meddles in, and which it doesn't?

Here is a concrete example. Should a government be compassionate at all costs? Isn't it the federal governments' primary job to secure our borders and to keep our country safe? If you don't see that as a primary function, what do you think the primary function is?

1 comment:

Ampersand said...

I don't have an answer to your question on the role of government...that would require too much thinking, which I'm trying not to do too much of these days. :-)

But I did want to thank you for your comments on my blogs. And to say that I'm so glad that your daughter, and those who love her, found a way to recovery.