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CITIZENS DON'T KNOW GOVERNMENT

August 16, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)

I recently had the opportunity to chat with an elected official at a private function. He is a man in whom I have respect—he takes his role as a public servant seriously and considers it a privilege to serve. His professional background gives him a distinct advantage in ferreting out government inefficacies. Yet, he is troubled by a realization that the public remains ignorant in ways our government must operate. “They are so totally dumb about government,” he says.

Although his was not a harsh condemnation it remains brutally painful as one listens to plausible but false arguments advanced by the disaffected and those discontented with any authority. Neither detailed nor specific, the criticisms of government seems to coalesce around a simplicity of solutions emanating from the amorphous characteristics of the Tea Party Movement.

Sharon Angle, the endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nevada, came to that position as a Tea Party candidate that defeated two other Republican candidates for the right to challenge Harry Reed. Ms. Angle’s simple jingoisms carried Republican primary voters but appears less likely to appeal to general election voters.

Her “simple solutions” platform include abolishing Social Security and Unemployment Insurance without regard for the cascading catastrophe that would be visited on nearly every household in the United States.

It appears to me that her “simple solutions” are heart felt—genuinely held—and represent attitudes that government is easy to fix. She demonstrated as much when she recently told a reporter from Fox News that she expected a friendly press (Fox and Christian Broadcasters) to accept her questions and permit proscribed answers. I expect Ms. Angle and her followers believes the press might actually work that way—well, good luck with that one.

Frequent verbalization that we need only to reduce the size of government to limit governments’ power over the individual is at once synthetic and false. The “simple solutions” adherents would merely transfer power from one part of government to another and rigidly enforce their own moral code of acceptable behavior. The end result of that “smaller government” argument does nothing to increase, or even enhance our liberty.

The “simple solutions” crowd is not limited to the Tea Party People. Locally the “simple solutions” crowd believes the only impediment keeping elected public officials from doing “what’s right” is a lack of common sense. We hear that sounded round the governmental spectrum—“get rid of the Sheriff’s patrols”, “fire all the people at the top in city hall”, and “throw the bums out”. School administrators and school board members are admonished to “fire all the bad teachers” when in reality they ought to be hiring more teachers.

The uninformed continue the drum beat for across the board cuts—a meat axe approach that posits too many people on welfare—too many women of minority ethnicity bearing welfare babies just to up the ante—too many immigrants on the dole when the most likely welfare recipient is a 32 year old white woman recently divorced.

The simple solutions offered by many operating on the extreme edge of reality in the political arena would produce nothing but rotten fruit and install dangerous alternatives.

 
 

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