A friend of mine from high school recently started a conservative blog. He asked if I was willing to do a point/counterpoint thingy and we decided we would post about “The Role of Government.” I submitted my post to him and he rejected it! Censored! He said it didn’t have my usual heart or passion. I think he meant it wasn’t ranty enough. Not even allowed to post the counterpoint to his point unless he approved the counterpoint before hand. That is so Republican. So, I’ll post it here. Apparently it’s pretty boring but it is already written and I did learn a lot researching John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. I love those guys. You know Addie is named Adams after John and Abigail, right? Have a little caffeine to keep yourself awake and read on:
First of all let’s begin with the preamble of the constitution.
Now understanding that this is the introduction and in itself does not give rights to the government or limit what the government can do it is still a pretty good starting point.
I am pretty certain no one cares what my personal beliefs about the role of government are so I thought I would go straight to the experts, my two favorite founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, because certainly the founding fathers agreed about the role of government, right? Wrong. Pardon the over simplification but in a nutshell; John Adams was a Federalist and believed more power should be centralized in the federal government and while in office raised taxes, and substantially increased the military. Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, believed in limited government power and during his term (right after Adams) lowered taxes, cut the military, and tried to pay off the government debts.
Now before we boo John Adams for raising taxes it is important to note that he was preparing a country for a possible war with France. It wasn’t like we had a petty cash reserve lying around to build a military so he had to get the money somewhere. As for Jefferson, current poster boy for the Tea Party, he may have been a proponent of states rights and less federal government but he was not a fan of “big banks” and “big corporations” finding them a threat to democracy.
“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare to challenge our government to a trial by strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
Doesn’t sound like he thinks corporations are people. And then there is this:
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”
Oops, and even Adams agrees.
“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.”
Phew! Glad that is settled. Now we never need to debate that again.
As for the issue of social welfare it seems that both Adams and Jefferson were against government supporting it’s people long term. I have seen first hand our welfare system abused and promote continued dependence on the government. I have also seen it give hard working people a cushion and support until they can get on their feet again. Overhaul? Absolutely, I do not believe in supporting people indefinitely. However, we are hopefully a nation of people willing to help those who need it. John Adams thought people were basically selfish. I hate to say I am inclined to agree. I would love to be proven wrong but I don’t see many individuals jumping up to adopt neglected children or take in the sick or make sure their elderly neighbors aren’t eating cat food. Church run orphanages and poor houses don’t seem like a good plan to me. So until we are all willing to step up or come up with a better plan I don’t mind if the government uses some of my tax dollars to help those who need it.
If the debate about the role of government has been raging since our countries founding how can anyone state unequivocally what the role of government should be now? Greater minds than Adams and Jefferson are seldom found and if those two guys didn’t agree than maybe there isn’t a definitive answer. Perhaps that means there is a need for both ideologies and that certain things need to happen or change due to the circumstances. As times change, the world changes, the way we make a living changes we need to be open to new ways the government can serve the people, not be afraid to get rid of the things that no longer serve us as a nation, and always be aware how we can serve our country and each other.
“To remain inflexible would be as ridiculous as signing an oath never to raise taxes no matter what new information you might learn in the future just to get money for your election. It would be myopic and dangerous to democracy. “
DeAnne Spicer Todd (attributed)
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare. How to accomplish this seems to be debatable, still.
I would like to give special thanks to Cathy Lewis Alderman, American History Teacher at Anderson New Technology High School for her help with this blog post.