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PERSPECTIVES: What is the proper role of government?

May 22, 2009

Editor's note: The Gazette's editorial board asked how readers see the role of government in the lives of everyday Americans. With few exceptions, the responses were pretty much one-sided, perhaps not unusual for a community known for conservative views. If there are enough letters supporting more government actions, we'll be happy to present them in a similar package as this.

Founders defined scope

How much government is too much government? Why are we still asking this question in the 21st century? The question was quite clearly answered by our Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution clearly laid out the responsibilities and authority of the U.S. government. Then it concluded with the admonition that all other power shall be left to the people and to the states.

So what's the question? If the power was not specifically given to the U.S. government in the Constitution, then it does not exist, period.

Don Payne, Colorado Springs

Constitution has final word

The Constitution of the United States, as amended, clearly defines the role of the federal government. There are certain powers defined in the Constitution for the feds, and the Ninth and 10th amendments clearly say that everything else belongs to the states.

That is not just my opinion; it is the foremost law of our nation. We are in trouble today since we have been ignoring the law for the past several decades.

Donald Erickson, Colorado Springs

People must make rules

The federal government's role is to set policy, social programs and laws for the promotion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Designing government to be less intrusive for business to thrive, its people (who are the government) to be free of tyranny.

Government belongs to the people, people do not belong to the government. Until we re-institute this basic constitutional premise and the people rise in opposition to the current wave of federal suppression, we are doomed as a nation. Americans must take our country back from these 535 representative greed mongers. We must uphold and defend the U S. Constitution at all costs, and configure spending policy that is approved by the people, not the so-called government representative's agendas.

Government should secure the public through border security, law enforcement and judicial competence in upholding the U.S. Constitution. We are a sovereign nation, the United States of America, not the U.S. of the world order.

State government should create and uphold state constitutions in alignment with the people's rights and liberties. It is supposed to preserve the state lands and infrastructure such as highways and bridges.

City government is there for infrastructure and mobility of its residents, and to create a climate that allows business to thrive for its community purposes. Through law enforcement agencies and judicial competence it should secure the public safety.

Frank Castro, Colorado Springs

Government protects people

The Gazette is so right that we must reduce the role of government in our lives. Here's where we can start:

1) Abolish the Department of Agriculture with its outrageous farm welfare payments and expensive meat inspection programs that raise the price of food. By exercising a little personal responsibility, the consumer can select meat from retailers that won't make the family sick. As a Gazette editorial has pointed out, companies that produce or sell products that kill people will quickly go out of business. So just a few major food poisonings and deaths every year will make our food supply safe.

2) OSHA has to go. These federal and state agencies in charge of worker safety are costing this country millions of jobs by making it too expensive for companies to operate.

In the past, employees understood that work was hazardous, and accepted that some of them would be crippled or die every year. And did they complain? No. They gladly accepted all these dangerous conditions so they could work and support their families.

And don't forget; dead workers make room for younger ones desperately needing work.

Finally, back in those better days, employers would at least pay for the worker's funeral expenses, something they don't do today.

3) Get rid of all these state licensing boards! If a man wants to practice as a doctor, then patients can take the personal responsibility to determine if he's qualified. Some people may be satisfied that a BS in biology qualifies him to practice, others may demand a masters degree in biochemistry. Why shouldn't people be allowed the freedom to choose and take some risk, for crying out loud? How much education does it take to treat children for ear aches, anyway? Restricting the practice of medicine to a small select few creates a monopoly that restricts trade and greatly increases the cost of treatment.

Sure, people are going to die because of incompetent practitioners, but they die at the hands of doctors now too, and it costs them a lot more.

So folks, let's get rid of all these government agencies trying to keep us safe so we can restore the thrill of going to work, the doctor, and the grocery store.

I hope you enjoyed this satire, which, perhaps, will make readers think about how much safer we are today than in the past.

Alan Read, Colorado Springs

Voluntary taxes control size

Since our government is supposedly "by the people, for the people," I suggest the size of government be whatever the will of the people dictates. I've devised an ingenious way to ensure this: voluntary taxation.

Before you write this off as unrealistic, allow me to point out that voluntary contributions successfully fund every church I've ever been to, so why shouldn't it work for government?

Each taxpayer would simply donate to the government what he or she thinks is fair, and the collective will of the people would then determine the size of government. If people want to reduce the size of government, they would give it less money and the size of government would be necessarily reduced. If people want more programs and government services, all they would need do is give their elected officials more of their hard-earned money to spend as they see fit. The taxpaying habits of the collective majority would therefore democratically establish the size of government.

Ian Spohn, Colorado Springs

Limit redundancies

The proper role of government is to protect people and property. A government that can't do these two essential functions is useless. However, a government that tries to do everything eventually stifles personal and economic growth.

The role of government can be defined by applying a bottom-up principle. For instance, a city can certainly handle responsibilities such as police, sanitation, fire protection and public transportation. Therefore, there is no need for the state or federal government to be involved.

Whereas county responsibilities vary from state to state, they essentially mirror city functions, providing those services to unincorporated areas. State roles are well defined as those not specifically defined as federal responsibilities in the U.S. Constitution, and should be limited to duties that cannot be managed by cities and counties. It's important to remember that the states created the federal government, and should re-assert their collective responsibilities to limit the federal government's role.

Generally, I think government becomes too big when the federal government extracts money from citizens to fund/mandate (and regulate) state responsibilities. The same thing happens when states fund/mandate (and regulate) local responsibilities. Efficiency is lost, and government overlap starts to drag on individual liberties and well-being.

However, when it comes right down to it, the role of the government depends on our individual responsibility to govern ourselves. For instance, many look to the government to provide affordable health care, yet those same people may maintain unhealthy lifestyles, which eventually drive up the cost. We need increased law enforcement and larger prisons (and therefore higher taxes) to house those who can't govern themselves.

Colorado continues to move toward the California nanny-state model through laws on seat belts, smoking, etc., because we force others to tell us how to behave.

Finally, it's important to remember that government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from us, the people who have created it.

Buddy Gilmore, Colorado Springs

Government must be trimmed

It is my opinion that government at all levels should be more limited. But before we limit government, we need to establish what is critical for the continuance of our society.

A role of government at all levels is to establish the regulatory guidelines, begun in our country with the U.S. Constitution, within which businesses, organizations and society operate. Many would agree that public health, public safety, and national security are critical for our societal progress. The recent swine flu outbreak shows that we do need nationally coordinated health oversight to identify and target areas of outbreak to limit the spread of disease. We do need public health at the national, state and local level to regularly check our air, water and food. These agencies at the local level ensure that we and our children are generally protected through the inspections of public businesses, child care facilities, school cafeterias, public swimming pools, restaurants and other facilities/businesses that serve the public.

We need regulatory teeth at all levels to shut down those public businesses, and/or their imports, that harm our population with unsafe food products, medicines, or consumer goods.

Sept. 11, 2001, taught us the importance of national security and good law enforcement.

We do need taxpayer-funded law enforcement in sufficient quantities, but not to the level of a police state, to ensure a safe environment for all so that we can be productive citizens without fear of crime. We do not need more prisons, rather we need sane sentencing guidelines that determine who really needs to be in prison. We do need taxpayer -funded roads and bridges crisscrossing the nation or our economy will grind to a halt. Without these basics, our ability to progress would essentially cease.

Other than the above basics it is my opinion that governments role in many areas, especially here in El Paso County, should be reduced through consolidation: City and county government duplications are too expensive. We need less, more-efficient government, not more of the same.

Consolidate city and county government whenever possible; eliminate competing interests, improve service, reduce sprawl, rebuild blighted areas, and improve mass transit to move our population efficiently.

Locally we can consolidate the dozen or so school districts in El Paso County and save millions that can be used for better schools, better teacher pay, and better management.

States and local governments need to reassert control over education and the federal Department of Education needs to be eliminated. Education should be handled strictly by states and local communities.

Do we really need tax incentives for business at the local, state, and federal levels? If we have to have them, wouldn't it make more sense to put those tax incentives into contracts with colleges to produce the educated workers needed for the industries we seek for our communities?

Finally, professional politicians at all levels need to have reduced roles in government. As our population increases, our representative government seems to become more ponderous, less efficient, more manipulated by those with wealth, and less concerned about the basic needs of the average citizen. Our politicians should not be provided a career and retirement at taxpayer expense. Limit their terms (no more than two terms), limit their numbers and pay, and corruption and lobbyist influence at all levels would drop.

We have allowed, through our inaction, the regulatory and bureaucratic monsters that now dominate at every level. Government should be limited, regarding the amount of legislation it produces, the agencies and businesses (locally) it creates, and most definitely the amount of taxpayer money it spends. Limit government to the minimum, under the Constitution, that it takes to ensure the health, safety, and security needed to produce a viable economy. We don't need more in-your-face government or corporate bailouts.

Neil L. Talbott, Colorado Springs

State law takes our liberty

Nowhere has government become more intrusive toward Colorado citizens than in the construction of "anti-discrimination" legislation as embodied in the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act as amended in 2007. This law identifies, variously, the following groups of citizens for protected class status: "race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, age sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, marital status, families with children under 18, marriage to a co-worker and retaliation for participating in an employment discrimination proceeding."

Most of us recognize that all of these groups are amply represented in virtually every walk of life. Add to that the supreme metaphor of the successes of the anti-discrimination era, the election of a black American as president of the United States.

It is now possible to celebrate joyously the success of the anti-discrimination era and declare anti-discrimination legislation in Colorado superfluous.

By creating an endless stream of personal identities for protected class status, government has sought to place our individual rights and civil liberties on every conceivable "identity" except the only one that matters - our U.S. citizenship. Our "rights" properly stem from that one "identity" and no other.

The result has been to carve American society up into clusters of snarling, angry mobs, each seeking to transfer personal responsibility onto others and to plunder as much loot from the rest of society as it can.

This predatory-rights industry has resulted in gross misapplications of government's role in society. Take, for instance, so-called hate-crime legislation, where definition of a crime and its punishment is based on an artificial personal identity of victim. This turns equal protection under the law on its head.

Harken back to 1992 and Amendment 2, the ballot initiative that was passed by the Colorado voters and which was overturned because it specified a particular group of Colorado citizens. To quote from the majority opinion in the Supreme Court case: "a state cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws."

If an anti-anti-discrimination law such as Amendment 2 fails because of specifying a class of persons based on an artificial personal identity, so should an anti-discrimination statute fail for the identical reason - specificity.

A more recent example of intolerable government intrusion in society is the so-called employee benefits for same-sex partners, intrusion which on a practical level will have devastating results. As a retired insurance agent I know something about employee benefit programs, medical insurance and morbidity factors of risk calculation. I know that if government coerces the insurance industry to abandon its proper underwriting standards, the insurance industry can only magnify its cost calculations. Same-sex benefits, which essentially allow any employee to simply name a roommate, invites incalculable exploitation of the system.

How might Colorado, at least, rid itself of this invasive and irrational "rights industry?"

Many of us think a Colorado ballot initiative would be the answer, perhaps one as simple as "The Colorado Anti-discrimination Act as amended is repealed." These eight words are simple, yet sweeping in clearing the morass of statutes and regulations that confound the fundamental principle of equality under the law.

Whitney Galbraith, Colorado Springs

Citizens choose government

We all have opinions about the role of government, but to understand it properly, we need to listen to our Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson said it well, "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."

The Constitution specified limits for the federal government, and reserved the rest of the powers to the states and the people. Our federal government has evolved into a leviathan that our Founders would not recognize, influencing and controlling every aspect of our lives.

The best government is that which is accountable to the people, and it works best on the state and local levels. Politicians in our home towns and states have to be sensitive to the will of the voters.

Who should pay for government? Everyone who benefits from the proper role of government should help pay for the necessities. The problem arises when people realize they can lobby politicians for special favors at the expense of their fellow citizens or future generations.

Wise men two centuries ago warned that the American republic would last only until people realized they could "vote for themselves largesse from the public treasury."

With small government there is more freedom. With big government, there is less liberty and more tyranny. Either we work for the good of ourselves, our families, and our communities, or we become servants of the state. If we want the government to meet all of our needs, we can kiss our freedoms good-bye.

Which will we choose?

William T. Gillin, Colorado Springs



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