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What is government’s role”

February 23, 2011

“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.”

So what’s the role of government? One of my favorite characters is Madame Defarge from a Tale of Two Cities. If you are not familiar with the character or the book from Charles Dickens (you know Dickens for his Ebenezer Scrooge from a Christmas Carol), here’s the short of it. Madame Defarge was a symbol of the French Revolution. While she sat quietly in her husband’s wine shop knitting, she was actually knitting the names of people that were targeted for death by the new republic, talk about cold-blooded.

And so as republicans and tea partiers and democrats debate what is the role of government, I examine the preamble to the Constitution and now we have an opportunity to examine Egypt, Bahrain, Wisconsin. Most are crying out that the Egyptian people have legitimate concerns and that it is time for a change. The Egyptian government has not addressed the concerns and now it is time for a new government.

The Founding Fathers were pretty apt in seeking a representative type of government having dealt with the issues from Mother England (“No taxation without representation”) and as much as we can have each person have a voice, it is a good thing so people can be heard.

I recently listened to Richard Wolff on KPFA speaking on his new book “Capitalism hit the fan”. Interesting commentary on how productivity for the average American worker has increased from 1970 to present due to technology but American workers’ wages have not increased over the same time period. Coincidentally, the CEOs have taken advantage of record profits over the years due to increased productivity from labor and awarded themselves huge salaries and bonuses. Meanwhile, the debate rages that teachers are overcompensated and unions should be busted as the problem before us.

So back to government.
• What services will government support – parks, healthcare, schools, hospitals, garbage, water?
• How will we pay for those services?
• What about human rights and social justice and the whole conundrum, at what cost?
If we can focus on the lofty aims of the preamble and figure out how to pay for it, the world can be a beautiful place.

Establish Justice (LAWS, COURTS) – so far prison developers have made incarceration a profit maker. But there are too few public defenders for the case load, add social workers to that mix also. We know that jail or prison does not rehabilitate and places a stigma on the convicted. Can we find a better way to address non-violent offenders? Jobs, job training anyone?

Insure domestic Tranquility (ORDER, STRUCTURE, RESOLVE DISPUTES) America promotes discourse and debate but our government is as entrenched as any other when civil disobedience rears its head – Ruby Ridge, Waco.

Provide for the common defense – (SAFETY) – Safety is broad reaching tentacles, our police services, those that protect the safety of our food, air, and water. Opposing sides fight for lower restrictions that threaten safety to the environment and health for profit.

Promote the General Welfare – (SERVICES) – Here’s the rub. If it promotes the GENERAL welfare let’s support it. Is that contra to a capitalistic society, given the opportunity to let the free market self-regulate for the betterment of the general welfare it does not. Promote the general welfare is not only general services that we have come to expect but also regulations.

Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity (HUMAN RIGHTS) Human rights is so intertwined with religion, sexism, racism that acceptability and a common standard is difficult and debatable. Nevertheless, just like bullying which has become front page news, each person should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But that is where the debate begins with consideration of power and control, ethnic cleansing, cheap labor. If I can do it to you, I will.

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