I care about the elections and, like all good citizens, I plan to vote tomorrow, but my expectations about the possibilities for government are low. My liberal friends expect government to fix a lot of problems that it simply is not equipped to fix.
Many people believe government officials lead our culture, but the truth is our culture leads our government. Elected officials are among the most reactionary people on earth. Once the culture is moving in a particular direction, expect our elected officials to reflect that direction.
Whenever I contemplate the tension between those who want limited government and those who want expansive government, I think of chapter 8 from First Samuel in the Old Testament. This is the chapter where the Israelites ask Samuel for a king. Up until that point, the Israelites had been ruled by a network of Judges, but now they want a king. Samuel doesn’t like the idea, but God tells him to give them what they want. So Samuel says they can have a king but warns them about the demands that a king will make on them:
“He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen, and use them to do his work. He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. When this takes place, you yourselves will complain about the king you have chosen…”
We don’t call our elected officials “kings,” (although former Gov. Jesse Ventura thought he was king of Minnesota), but I think Samuel’s warning is valid today. Government has a great price. We end up working a long time to pay for an ever-expanding government sector. And every election cycle, we complain about those we chose in the last election.
I believe in democracy; it’s the best form of government anyone has come up with. But my point is, government has its limits. It can handle some responsibilities, like fixing roads and maintaining fire departments, but it is unrealistic to ask too much of government, like arranging for universal health care and guaranteeing everyone a good job. There are a lot of things that we have to resolve on our own -– starting in our own homes, with our own families. That is the basis of our culture. And culture will always be many steps ahead of government.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
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