OPINION – Between the distractions of election rallies, incessant political ads and the emotional campaigning, it’s easy to forget exactly why our governing systems exist in the first place.
They exist to make and enforce rules governing human conduct.
This means that every rule or official policy carries some form of punishment that can be used to deprive an individual of his life, liberty or property.
As voters, we each bear personal responsibility for how the government behaves as our agent. When government becomes abusive, it is because the voting public has allowed it to do so through the people they elect.
Blogger Eric Peters explains:
Remember that what we call “the government” is just us, collectively. We elect representatives. They pass laws. But ultimately, “the government” is no wiser or more righteous than each of us individually.
For this reason, our nation’s founders placed strict limits upon government power and enumerated exactly what it should be allowed to do.
Unfortunately, human nature is extremely consistent in how most men react to being given power. Those who attain some degree of authority tend to use that power to force others to do as they demand.
When this tendency is combined with the coercive power of government, people tend to become busybodies with no sense of personal responsibility or conscience.
This is why politics tends to draw power seekers like moths to a porch light.
Differentiating between those who are power seekers and those who would instead serve the people who elect them is an essential part of voting responsibly.
As a general rule, we should always be wary of any candidate who is a little too eager to exercise political power over others. Likewise, those who promise to use that power to bring home favors to those who elect them are typically doing so for self-serving reasons.
If a candidate cannot think of a single issue in which he would say, “Government has no business interfering in that matter,” then he does not understand the proper limits of government.
Power seekers are masters of telling people what they want to hear.
That means we must be willing to get beyond simplistic campaign slogans and determine whether a candidate’s words and actions are in alignment with sound principles.
The only way to reliably sift the power-seeking opportunists from the more selfless leaders is to have an electorate that understands the principles and practices of freedom.
There may some other avenues worth exploring as well.
Perhaps we’d be better served if a committee of neighbors were to come together — independent of party — and deliberate as to who would best represent them in public office.
That committee could then approach the man or woman in whom they have confidence and ask that person to represent them for one term. They might say, “You didn’t ask for this position, but we feel that you are a person of integrity and we will do your campaigning for you.”
To the candidate, it might feel more like they were being drafted rather than simply trying to convince voters to let them rule over them. Such an approach could certainly be less self-serving than most political campaigns today.
Can you see the difference between exercising our voices in this manner versus being cajoled into throwing our support behind a power seeker?
Public service should be just that: service, not entitlement.
This is essentially what happened to George Washington following the ratification of the Constitution and the founding of our federal system of government.
Washington had already given many years of service to his country and would have preferred to stay home, read his books and tend to his gardens. His countrymen knew that his leadership could be trusted, and they begged him to work on their behalf.
What this type of leadership denotes is a nearly forgotten concept known as public virtue, in which a person willingly sacrifices comfort, time and effort without thought of personal gain.
Political service should be a time of sacrifice that primarily benefits others.
It’s akin to the person who puts in the back-breaking work of planting trees with the understanding that they won’t be the one enjoying the shade or fruits 40 years down the road.
Power seekers won’t do that kind of work, and it’s in our best interest as voters to recognize them for what they are and refuse to reward them.
This can only happen when we understand that each of us has a personal moral responsibility for what government does in our names and that the same moral laws apply to individual action as to when men act in concert.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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