Who Needs It? We Do!
by Dr. John E.
Bonfadini, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus, George Mason University
Long ago, when families lived miles apart, traveling often
provided significant time in a world of solitude. There were no talk radio
shows or iPods with a thousand songs blaring through stereo radios. If you
wanted music you had to sing or listen to the birds.
Those were the days when the Constitution was formed. I
don’t think the founders ever envisioned today’s world, where many families
share a common wall with neighbors and traveling is done in a sea of noise
pollution. A few centuries back, individuals provided for themselves. They
grew their own food. There was no need for labeling, and listing nutritional
information: Proper diet was instinctive. Food was not processed and things
like milk came directly from the source, harvested by hand.
I’ve just eaten yogurt with more information on the
container’s side than I probably want or need. As seniors, we eat out more
than I like and Sunday dinner usually (if we have one) is interrupted by the
NFL, NBA, PGA, and recreation in general. Sunday church is a thing of the
past. We go on Saturday evenings.
Only a few decades ago we had something called “blue
laws.” Stores were closed on Sundays. Johnny Cash’s song “Sunday Morning
Coming Down” talks about something special in a Sunday. At first I wanted to
say it just didn’t fit today’s world, but listening to the lyrics (on
YOUTUBE again), it may fit more than I think. Sunday is like every other day
… nothing special about it. So without going on and on about change, I think
we can all agree things are very different than they were years ago.
So you ask, “What’s this got to do with the need for big
government?” The answer is simple — complexity. The borders between towns,
counties, states, and nations continue to dissolve like the individual
grains of a sugar cube in a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The simple black
coffee that cowboys brewed has changed into complex concoctions attempting
to satisfy the many taste buds of a variety of consumers. Government is
trying to do the same thing by expanding to meet the needs of an expanding
It’s fashionable to say I don’t want government telling me
what to do, but the actions of law-making agencies across this country
reflect a different trend. Everyone and every organization is asking
government to enact laws on a multitude of subjects. Just look at the
legislation introduced in these bodies. If you’re a member of a governing
body and don’t have your name plastered all over a number of bills, your
opponents will accuse you of doing nothing. The average number of bills
introduced each year in Congress numbers around 11,000. Every organization
wants something from government. Just look at the number of lobbyists. I’m
sure most of you belong to some organization that is working on your behalf.
Don’t say no, because if you get this magazine, the cooperatives have
lobbyists at both the state and national levels.
I frequently drive on Interstate 66. I can’t imagine what
would happen if we didn’t have laws governing that travel. It would be nice
if everyone was kind enough to respect the rights of other drivers, but I
know that’s never going to happen. I want more government control over
speed, vehicle safety, HOV lanes and people talking and texting on phones. I
want the government to build more roads and make them safer. I don’t want
any driver on the road with an old clunker that hasn’t had the brakes
inspected. I want the government to make sure all vehicles are safe.
Cell phones, computers, television, and other electronic
media have increased the speed of communications. Sorry to say that the
quality of all that communication doesn’t deserve that much speed. As a
society we’d probably be better off if news went through a few more filters
before it hit the airways. When something newsworthy happens, it’s known
around the world in a matter of minutes … tweet, tweet!
Technology creates the need for more laws and more
government. We are no longer isolated from what’s happening in the rest of
the world. Minor conflicts of the past become major issues in today’s world.
Economically, financially, militarily, and socially, there is far more
interaction with other nations today than just a few decades ago, and this,
too, requires more government.
Our desire to live in a clean and safe environment creates
the need for laws to keep rivers and streams clean. We carry more diseases
across international borders with increased travel. Today’s medical
technology requires more rules for procedures, drugs, personnel, and other
considerations, including ethics. Who’s going to develop and administer all
these laws and rules? You got it — the government. In education, we want
national standards for students and educators. The list can go on and on,
but by now you’re getting my point — big government is a necessity.
Just because something is big doesn’t mean it’s bad. The
quality of the item is what’s important, big or small. Quality begins with
the people who are elected and employed by us (WE, THE PEOPLE) to form and
operate this thing we call government, large or small. We should concentrate
more on quality, rather than just focusing on size. Smaller doesn’t mean
better. I pulled up behind an SUV with a political sticker that read, “Vote
for Mr. X and get less government and more freedom.” That seems to be a
recurring theme among all non-incumbent politicians. None of them ever say
they want their position eliminated. Maybe that’s what we need to do, make
Congress smaller. Do we really need all those elected people in all levels
of government? They don’t seem to be able to get along or accomplish very
much. Maybe the family is just too big.
I’m not quite sure about the size of government, but I am
sure that those who are elected are staying too long. I believe it’s time
for term limits at all levels of government. The 22nd amendment to the
Constitution limits the term of the president to two terms or 10 years. I
think Congress should be limited to a specific number of terms. In a world
so complex that little if anything can be agreed upon, term limits may be
the only way to get some compromise on issues. If it’s good enough for the
president, it should be good enough for all others.
Big government is here to stay. We
need to concentrate on making it a quality government capable of handling
more complex issues at greater speed. The number and complexity of issues
requiring legislation is not going to decrease. The ideal government of the
future will be significantly different from what we have today. We need to
about the future and quit dwelling on the “good