Using Government to Shrink Government
Jason Charewicz, Class of 2013, Philosophy
September 7, 2012
Filed under Quill
Republicans talk about shrinking the government and making people less dependent on the government. A smaller government removes red tape and other obstacles, and the individual drive to self-sufficiency will combine to promote entrepreneurship, strengthen the economy, and generally improve the quality of life for Americans. Candidates run on this philosophy, asking for votes to help turn this vision into a reality.
I have one major qualm with this line of thinking, or more specifically with politicians and candidates who promote these beliefs. It seems quite odd to me to decrease the size of the government and promote individual initiative by having someone else do something in the government. Broken campaign promises and political intransigence aside, the thinking betrays itself.
If the government is to shrink, it must be as a result of people taking action of their own accord within their own capacity, and not the product of officials in Washington writing, tweaking, and passing legislation.
Currently, taking political action denotes either voting, which runs into the aforementioned problem, or of revolution, which is not at all the intention. The latter is not only unnecessary, but generally complicated and messy. Voting, on the other hand, is an interesting topic. Often the idea of political action and voting are made synonymous, and the idea of political action always generates ideas of government legislation or election campaigning.
This is a very narrow conception of politics, one that pushes real involvement and important decisions away from the communities in which people live. This bleeds the notion that “man is a political animal” of meaning until only voting remains, at which point you could probably rephrase it to “man is a voting animal”.
Man functions in a polis, which in the modern American context would consist of the citizens of a given town or city involved in a meaningful way in the administration of the community. The local stakes of the issues at hand would have a much more visible meaning in the context of a community of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and other acquaintances, and could bring together and strengthen communities in a largely forgotten way.
But local and state elections have given way to national elections, and man’s political capacity has decreased as a result. Even voting – the last trace of the political animal – means less when it occurs less often and has national and general consequences rather than local and specific results.
Ultimately my point is that as long as local communities are seen as less important than the dealings of the federal government, voting becomes less significant and man eventually becomes less political. National elections have general topics, unknown candidates, and comparatively little tangibility or visibility of effect. Local politics and the positive ability of man to act for and in relation to his neighbors ought to be far more stressed than they currently are, and that’s merely the starting point.