When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. – Thomas Jefferson
What does that mean?
With all the present turmoil across the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and into the Arabian Peninsula, this quote seems to be appropriate. There has been a great deal of debate between some of the greatest minds as to the role and size of a proper government. That debate, however, is not the topic today.
Here we examine the extremes of the spectrum. On one hand, we have Libya and Iran, where the government is actively suppressing, and even bombing the civilian population. In many cases, this is to put the fear of government into the people. The opposite (which is, technically what is happening: the government fears an uprising and puts it down preemptively) exists in very few places.
Where there are free and open elections, the people in the government fear for their jobs. And that is a good thing. However, even in the free countries, the Bureaucrat is slowly taking over… but that’s for another blog. Proper governance is a tricky thing, and what is proper is debated even to this day.
Why is proper governance important?
Well, with improper governance, we get a big mess. Either the trains don’t run on time, the economy is centrally planned (that is, messed up by a handful of people somewhere over there, who have no idea what the people over here need), or there are troops in the street keeping an eye out for people who raise their voices against the government… The list of ways a government can go wrong is almost endless.
So, what is proper governance? It’s a happy medium, between too little government and too much. That is a tricky thing, as any two people are likely to disagree on at least a few areas. So it becomes a balancing act, spread over area and over time. California goes too far left (some people say), and Arizona (right next door) goes too far to the right (other people say). Wisconsin was too far to the left in the past, now it’s too far to the right. Like a ship or an airplane, you’re headed in the general direction of your destination, but corrections to the course are inevitable and expected.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Unless you are a head of state, or a prominent politician (like they have time to read blogs, they’re too busy messing things up, I mean governing, to read this), you are going to have to settle for your local government. What are you afraid of doing for fear of government retribution? Even something like speeding could be valid, if you feel the speed limit on a particular road is too low. Fight city hall, ask why it’s posted with such a low speed limit and be prepared to show other roads with similar conditions that have higher speed limits.
Perhaps you are just unhappy with the direction things are going. If it’s at the school, start with the local parents association, get involved. Attend school board meetings and ask the pointed questions, get under their skin. Make a fuss in proportion to the size and nature of the problem. If you can’t get satisfaction, make them fear you – run for their seat on the board! Then you have a more prominent voice in the process. Just be careful, you might annoy enough people that you get thrown out in the next election (the pendulum swings both ways!).
Perhaps it’s the zoning board or the local chamber of commerce. Same thing. Attend, be the squeaky wheel and if you can’t get satisfaction, run in the next election or help a like minded person do it. If your problem is city hall, fight it! Again, be the squeaky wheel and run for a spot on the City Council (or as an Alderman, Selectman or whatever the city’s governing board is called), or support a like minded individual in their bid to replace a less than satisfactory individual.
In this day and age, with various flavors of democracy blooming across the planet, there is really no excuse for not having the government you want, besides apathy.*
*Subjects of brutal dictatorships and one-party systems excluded. 8(
From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasjeff412712.html
Photo by j.reed