Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Should Tell us What to Think?

Now that the President and the media are comfortable referring to an ideological divide, let me put the question in non-ideological terms: historically, Americans have wanted to keep government out of their lives. But over the last 200 years, business has become so powerful that it tells us what cereal to eat, that we should smoke, drive instead of using public transportation, where to go on vacation.

Try as I might, I don’t see the advantage. Business is in it for profit. When government tells us to get health or car insurance, it’s not making a dime.

The trouble we all see with government is that it spends our money for things we don’t agree with. That’s where we should be trying to change things.

If you have two friends, and one of them tells you to try his favorite breakfast cereal, and the other is a salesperson for a different breakfast cereal, which one would you trust?

When the country was first coming together, the incipient federal government had to fight to supersede the powers of the individuals colonies, which were in a sense separate “countries” with a common interest, that of getting Great Britain off their backs. It wasn’t easy to get them to unite.

Now we have fifty states, each with their histories, customs, and heroes. A good part of the state legislatures’ time is spent fighting with the Federal Government over who should pay for what. Then there are crucial laws regarding what can or cannot take place “across state lines”.

Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, is the clause that authorizes Congress "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes." Much of the U.S. government's regulatory authority derives from this clause, which specifies that “when Congress is silent, states may act, unless the specific subject requires "uniform national control."

After the civil war, the 14th Amendment guaranteeing all citizens equal protection under the law complicated the issue of states’ rights and continue to affect a wide range of issue.

With an on-going polemic over which organs of government are empowered to do what, it is not surprising many that citizens see Government with a capital G as something to be resisted.

I wonder what needs to happen for Americans to realize that being told what to think and what to do by business, over which they have no control, is worse.

1 comment:

  1. And a fun fact to keep in mind: It was the railroads that decided on our four time zones. Initially, we had about 50. The railroads decided that was inefficient, so they reduced it to four and the government said "Oh, okay."