We Are the Government, But Where Are We Going? Is the Political Right On A Downward Path?

Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. RONALD REAGAN, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

It’s a funny thing to hear certain citizens vehemently criticizing the government, whether it’s federal, state or local. They treat the government as some sort of separate entity from themselves. Our federal and state governments are constitutionally set up as republican democracies, whereas, we control it directly through our elected representatives and executives. By treating government as a separate entity, they claim that they are not a part of it and the only relationship that they have is that of an unwilling victim under the weight of an oppressive government, whether it’s from taxes, regulations or restrictive laws. Does that mean we are being victimized by ourselves?  Isn’t this actually removing oneself from responsibility and accountability by claiming the role of victim?

From our earliest beginnings on this continent, people came here to pursue opportunity and freedom from repressive established societies, which restricted the pursuit of their human potential. We have been inculcated from birth to resist restrictions, pursuing free expression and direction, but at the same time to constantly maintain personal and social order, thus achieving the security and protection of the group. This has led to two distinct values; one being that of the sovereign individual and the other the sovereignty of the group or community. This creates conditions that can create friction and conflict. Effective mediation between the two is usually accomplished through a process of assimilation, accommodation and learning to compromise between the two values. However, society has implemented an overriding structure to assure mediation through balancing the needs of conflicting interests. We call this instrument of organization and mediation; government.

We, as a species, are communal by nature. Over the course of history, our main adaptive survival mechanism has been social structure. An ordered, protective and adaptive social structure has been found to be the most effective and efficient means to guarantee survival of the fittest and the passing on of our genetic legacy.  Over time the instruments of living together have developed and taken the form of morality, ethics, traditions, folkways, technology, etc. These varied instruments are the adaptations placed on us by our responding to physical environment and our pursuit of both individual and species survival. Attempting to survive on our own will only render limited success, until we are finally overcome by old age, physical disaster or disease. At that point we cease to exist, including our genetic line.

In my view, the United States was founded on satisfying the individual and social needs of three primary groups:

  1. The emerging rich mercantile and banking class (engaged in smuggling against the East India Company and the British Crown) of the Mid-Atlantic and New England colonies.
  2. The aristocratic planters of the Southern colonies.
  3. The yeomen farmers, craftsmen, and retailers.

There was a fourth group that was pretty much out of the control of organized government; the frontiersmen, settlers beyond the Alleghenies and the Northwest Territory.

Our form of government came straight out of the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. The country was formed by the educated and enlightened members of the rich mercantile and planter classes. There vision of government included meeting the needs of society while assuring the needs of the individual. Therefore, they created a limited government with its own internal checks and balances. But, in so doing they also cast the seeds for derision, conflict and a cyclic pattern of power between the two primary divisions, personal sovereignty and communal sovereignty.


In the beginning our government was formed and controlled by an extremely small group of rich, native born, white landowners. These were the only ones who could seek national political office and vote. I call this the Governmental Exclusion Phase, where more individuals and groups were excluded than were included. This lasted until the War Between the States abolished the vile institution of slavery. From the Civil War onward we abandoned our government of exclusion to move to a government of inclusion. Over the last one hundred and fifty years we have moved to more and more inclusion of selective groups into full citizenship with the right to vote and to hold political office. This has lowered the barriers to include non-whites, women, etc. This is definitely a sovereign community action. As more groups are included the role of government has needed to be broadened.

When the nation was formed, the population was estimated at around 4.0 million. During the first presidential election, the electorate only numbered 38,818. In the upcoming 2012 election, the population is somewhere around 311 million and around 200 million plus eligible to vote.  This represents a wide diverse spectrum of special interests. The net result is, as the population has grown, so has the demands placed on the government.   

When one looks at the history of our nation and the ebb and flow of support for community sovereignty or support for personal sovereignty, you soon begin to see patterns emerge. The most prominent cycle is the movement back and forth between conservatism and liberalism. This cycle is normally somewhere between 30 to 35 years. A much longer cycle is the cycle between personal sovereignty and communal sovereignty movement. This seems to mirror changes in the change in economic cycles. If we look at both cycles, it is logical to conclude that we will soon leave the conservatism launched by Ronald Reagan and a new focus on economics as indicated by the Great Recession. We had a change in economic systems at the close of the Great Depression. Now what does that have to do with government direction?

I think we reached the zenith of political conservatism in 2010. As the conservative movement begins its long journey toward its nadir, the nature of government will again be redefined. The government to come will be one where nagging problems will finally be addressed, such as a single payer healthcare. I also see a change in the approach to education, with post secondary education being picked up by the government. Also, entitlement programs will be changed to become real training to work movements for those able to work. At present we have absolutely no idea of the long range impact on the Information Age on the government. Government will use information technology to modify the bureaucracies to become more responsive and user friendly to the citizenry. We can expect a new fifty year cycle of communal sovereignty focused government.

To counter Ronald Reagan’s famous quote from his inaugural speech in 1981; “government is the problem” has now been revealed to be false, extreme political conservatism is the problem.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lyle Ruble September 25, 2012 at 08:32 PM
@J.B. Schmidt....Brian Dey states his main objection to the federal government is it has become an institution that reaches into areas that it was never authorized or designed for. However, over the course of our existence the social environment and the population has not remained static. The growth of all government, including state and local is an adaptation to meet the defined needs and wants of the population plus respond to changes in technology, the physical environment, economics and geo-political changes. Over the last decade federal workers only account for 1.26% of the total workforce. This is for a period from 2001 to 2011. The total for all state and local workers in the U.S. is approximately 17 million. When federal and all other public employees are combined, it is slightly over 19 million. When public employees, of all types, are compared to the nation's total workforce; it is 1.36% of all working Americans. This represents a very modest bureaucracy at most. Government at all levels is represented by the will of the majority. We are constantly confronted with bureaucracies that are stymied by organizational demands for accountability and designed to handle the ordinary and not the extraordinary. Demands on government has become so complicated that it requires managers appointed who are experts, thus the tzars. As far as MMSD, how else could it be done? The current setup was designed for efficiency and take the politics and possible graft out of the process.
J. B. Schmidt September 26, 2012 at 01:54 PM
@Lyle First, lets use the word 'experts' very liberally when we are talking about czars or others who have gotten their job because they are well connected. If these positions are so required, then why are they not elected? More importantly, does our government not pay hundreds of people nationally as advisors? What are our elected officials doing if they need these appointed agencies to do the job for which they were elected? This is just more of the same piling on of bureaucratic BS on top of more regulation on top of more taxation without representation. In truth, it is the liberal policy of removing freedom. Furthermore, your statement, "Demands on government has become so complicated" is you and your ilks continued arrogance that assumes the people are not smart enough to care for themselves. These not elected 'managers' are required because we can't expect the American people to elect the correct person. The actual size of government employment is immaterial if, for example, the MMSD board of 7 people can increase taxation on nearly 1million citizens without the citizens having a say. The HHS is a single not elected individual who has been given far reaching authority over the health care of the entire country. Our founding was built on the fact that we had no representation with the king over our own taxation. Please explain to me how a board of not elected 'experts' deciding taxation or regulation is any different?
H.E. Pennypacker September 26, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Government can never be too big for people like Lyle. Government butters his bread, allows him to do nothing, he would never bite the hand that feeds him.
Lyle Ruble September 26, 2012 at 08:51 PM
@J.B. Schmidt....We elect representatives and executives to protect the interests of us all. Do we expect every elected official to be a Thomas Jefferson, a 18th century renaissance man? Of course not and we are electing them to set policy and direction that will be implemented by the associated bureaucracies. The appointments that executives make and approved by the appropriate legislative bodies, gives the executives the oversight necessary to implement policy and the associated regulations to carry out the legislative will. However, some agencies are hybrid that doesn't require election and goes through a special appointment procedure. Some common ones include the Public Service Commissions, Federal Reserve, Boards of Regents, judges, etc. These appointments are done to keep the functions non-partisan and they have only limited narrowly defined powers. In the case of MMSD, it functions as both governing agency such as a PSC, but also a service provider. Unlike other utilities, which in this state is for profit organizations, the MMSD functions strictly off of a tax levy which was granted by duly elected officials when the agency was set up. However, there has been limitations placed on them to how much they can tax without going back to get legislative and executive approval. This has been done to increase efficiency and effectiveness since it has been determined that water and sewer are critical for life and health.
Lyle Ruble September 26, 2012 at 08:53 PM
@Alfred (a.k.a. H.E. Pennypacker)....How does ad hominem attacks add to the discussion?


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