What is the role of government?


Noah Amidon, opinions editor

Throughout world history there have been thousands of varying ideologies when it comes to the role of government, however, too often we limit our scope to just a couple. It makes sense why we do it to describe one’s viewpoint on the world one or two words are often too few, but this has caused individuals’ viewpoints to be completely overruled by a blanket title (socialist, authoritarian, democratic, etc.) that truly fail to fully describe what a person thinks about our system. Throughout my life, I have been described with many of these titles, ranging from democratic socialist to social libertarian, based on the way that I view how our government should function.

To unpack one’s ideology it’s important to look at their views in seven key areas: social spending, taxation, military spending, social intervention, international intervention, immigration, and finally the means to accomplish all of this.
First and foremost, however, it is imperative to take a glimpse at the lens which one views the world through, which is often religion. For many, when hearing the combination of Christianity and politics, it often brings very negative connotations, as the far-right has taken the Bible and twisted it to point in a direction that looks quite opposite to what it truly is.
In Matthew 22:36-40 NLT the Bible states, “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'”
Therefore if one is to utilize the Bible and Christianity as their basis for how to govern it is inextricably important to look to these four verses to truly see what God’s call is to his believers.
Looking through that lens, one can then begin to examine what the role of government should be in American society. First, let’s examine social spending.

When one examines the government’s social spending the verse “Love your neighbor as yourself,” must be looked towards. This is a clear indication from God that one is expected to care for their fellow American and thus social spending is a justified means to accomplish that. To love one’s neighbor means to ensure their well-being, therefore the government should care for one’s needs; first, by ensuring quality healthcare for all. For this one can look towards the systems in the EU or Canada where the government subsidizes a healthcare system that sure isn’t perfect, but doesn’t leave massive bills that contribute to the negative cycle of poverty that we have in the US. Second, the government must make sure that individuals start on equal footing. In our nation today we have a system of inequality that spans across generations and generational poverty is a major issue. The United Way writes that “Growing up in poverty can lead to poorer health outcomes, lower educational attainment, and increased difficulty finding employment as an adult. Children who experience poverty are also more likely to experience food insecurity, poor housing, and limited access to healthcare.” This is not a fair system, and the US must do whatever it can to re-distribute wealth and make sure that just because an individual was born into a bad circumstance that they are not going to continue the cycle. This leads right to the third point of education. Education cannot continue to be majorly funded by local property taxes. This creates a massive divide as district lines are drawn to create what essentially are ‘rich schools’ and ‘poor schools.’ The schools that aren’t fortunate enough to have a large tax base often struggle as teachers aren’t motivated, and students have no motivation as it is clear that the government doesn’t expect anything out of them given the lack of resources. It’s imperative to fix the school system and ensure that all schools are given a basic amount of funding per student, that allows for individual success, and a fair chance at life.

Next one must examine the means to accomplish this increased social spending and that’s through taxation. In the EU many individuals pay nearly half their income in taxes; this makes many Americans shudder at the thought, however, given the amount of governmental amenities these individuals are gifted, it truly is a great investment. To love our neighbors, we must be willing to give a little so that less fortunate individuals can have a chance. The old ideology that evangelicals have used to combat taxation that true Christians can give to the poor, and there need not be a governmental middle-man is not working as poverty is on the rise in America. It’s time to raise taxes to create a better future. This can start at the top as well, as it has been made clear over the past several years that the 1% is not paying their fair share, and that must be combatted first and foremost.

Then let’s examine social intervention by the state. Frankly, the Government should restrict its role in individuals’ lives to a public safety level. This can be difficult for many to fathom as their personal religious beliefs often disagree with actions made by non-believers, however in the US individuals must find a way to be fine with that. As the first amendment to the Constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Sorry to say it, but no matter what your personal beliefs are about the morality of an issue, the founding fathers made it clear that in the US we cannot operate as a theocracy. Social intervention must be limited to ensuring that only when an individual’s safety is at risk, whether that be physical or economic safety, the government intervenes with its regulatory or police power. Additionally, the government should work to ensure that personal harm is not occurring, and that can be found through the regulation of drugs. If a drug can be proven to be non-addictive and safe to use, then, by all means, allow it to be sold in controlled environments, however, if a drug is addictive, or is not safe to use, then it is the government’s responsibility to regulate it and ensure that it isn’t allowed in the public dominion. Abortion is also a tricky subject, as many believe that a fetus counts as a person, however, that contention often relies upon personal beliefs, and thus shouldn’t be forced upon every individual. It is unjust to force thoughts upon someone else. Government intervention in the lives of its civilians must be limited, except in matters of personal safety.
Next, international intervention. “Love your neighbor.” We should care about one another in the world, especially those who are less fortunate to be born in a country that simply can’t offer the same opportunities as the US, and we must work to change that. To help nations develop and become strong in the world, right along the lines of President Biden’s current ‘Africa Plan.’ Also if the US works to develop struggling countries that will reduce the burden that we currently face with millions of individuals trying to immigrate to our country.

This perfectly leads to the next topic, immigration. It is often said that the US is a nation of immigrants, and that’s because it is. Throughout its history it has been a place where people have fled to escape poverty, persecution, and so much more. Thus we should have our borders open, and work to reform the immigration system to make sure that people can enter the country legally, and not make it so difficult to obtain residency status.

Now, most importantly, how does our government accomplish all of these reforms that it so desperately needs? Many with similar viewpoints would argue for radical change as that would accomplish many of these issues immediately. This includes: expanding the courts, abolishing the Senate filibuster rule, or even removing a presidential term limit. This is where I digress. In this nation, there has always been a majority and a minority. Our founding fathers knew this, and thus they set up our government in a way to protect the minority, to ensure that a majority never took steps towards radical change, and this is a good thing. Incrementalism is the only way to fix this country, working within the system to achieve small steps toward what utopia might be. It can be extremely frustrating, however, it is important to note that the majority and minority are constantly shifting in our society. So yes, one day you may be in the majority and ready to abolish the protections of the minority to achieve sweeping reforms, however, the next you may be that minority, who now lacks any sort of protection, and you are likely to see radical change happening in the opposing direction. This is not healthy for our government, and that’s why the founding fathers created our system in this way. Incrementalism is the only method to change our nation.

Next time you ask somebody what their ideology is, realize that it’s far more complicated than just Democrat or Republican, as each views the world differently, and that shapes how they see it. Even within a family, it can extremely vary as just one of these seven factors can be extremely different. When having discussions about these issues it’s important to remember that we are all different, and all use different lenses in our lives to view these issues that shape us since at the end of the day everyone is trying to do what is right, it’s just sometimes we see what is right differently than the person next to us.