Do we have the government we deserve?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Savoyard writer, diplomat and lawyer Joseph de Maistre is credited with saying in 1811, "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite (Every nation gets the government it deserves)."

I'm entirely convinced that it is not only limited to just nations, but also to states, counties, cities, school boards and even civic clubs. Our leaders are, as sad as it is to say, an accurate snapshot of "we the people." Corruption that is allowed to continue, represents a constituency that is "okay with it," obviously. Incompetence in a leader is an indication that either "we the people" are equally incompetent or that we are "okay with it."

President John Adams, in Thoughts in Government (1776), explained that since it's impossible for every last citizen to assemble together to make laws on all the issues that we face, a representative (republican) form of government was required that would select office holders that were "snapshots" of "we the people."

Famed British statesman Edmund Burke once said, "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

So, what does a snapshot of "we the people" (locally) look like? What does their judgment rest upon? Well, look at our mayors, quorum court members, county judge, school board members, city council members, state representatives...and if we see a pattern within those representatives, then we see accurately what is representative of us.

So, what do our leaders really believe? Who knows? You and I know that what they say during their campaign is probably NOT the best indication of what they truly, passionately believe. But, I believe that those unguarded words that slip from their tongues during innocuous chitchat may better reveal the truth.

I have been reporting long enough now that I have developed relationships with most all of the people that I write about. As I have said many times, I truly like and enjoy talking with most all of them. But I can honestly say that not all of them are representative of ME, though they are my representatives.

I am going to mention a few quotes that I have personally been told, face-to-face, from elected leaders and use that as an indication of what I believe to be accurate reflections of the philosophies they employ while representing us. I will not list names, because the purpose of this column is not to call anyone out, but rather for OUR reflection regarding why are these people representing us. Are they accurate snapshots of us or are we not doing our part to make sure that those we elect do?

One elected official speaking of another level of government said, "We had an agreement that this was our year to ask for a tax. Now I hear they are going to ask for a tax." What? So our elected officials conspire against us as a whole to take turns asking for new or higher taxes? Are you kidding me?

Another local leader said in a meeting, "If you want progress, then you have to tax." Most taxes are not progressive. They are in fact regressive, by definition and stifle investment by businesses and individuals.

Reducing public discourse to its nadir and insulting the intelligence of anyone they talk to, a new "verbal campaign bumper sticker" out today was spoken to me by two of our local leaders when they said, "If you want more crime then vote against the tax, but if you want less crime vote for it." Sounds like extortion to me -- simply a public relations campaign for more taxes.

More than one local leader has told me, independently of each other, "We just voted to put the tax before the people so that they can tell us what they want." Are you kidding me? Did a 69 percent vote AGAINST the tax last time not tell you what the people think about raising taxes? You can put lipstick on a pig or even give the pig a bath, but ultimately it is still a pig. Taxes are the same way. You can call it something different and sell it differently, but that doesn't make it anything other than a tax. Clearly, the people don't want more taxes at this time.

Another public official said, "We will pay for that with anticipated savings from..."

I am not in the practice of budgeting based upon what I hope happens. I believe that we should budget based upon what we know will happen. Plan for the worst and hope for the best, then we'll all be pleasantly surprised. If the saving do occur, then we will have a windfall or the mythical unicorn known as a surplus! I cannot make my budget based upon the anticipation that my utility costs will be lower this summer than last year, because we don't know what the costs of those utilities will be. Likewise, our governments and agencies shouldn't be kicking the can down the road, spending from anticipated savings.

Another public official said, "The overall tax might lower if...[another specific tax] doesn't get renewed." Again, we don't need to raise taxes in one place, based upon a mere hopeful and entirely unlikely hope that maybe, there could possibly be a tax in Mississippi County that goes away. I mean it has happened, but it's the exception that proves the rule.

Yes, I promise I made up none of these quotes. They really were said. So the question remains; do these thoughts and philosophies accurately represent you and I? If so, then we have the government we deserve. If not, then we didn't do enough to get someone in there that does accurately represent us and...once again we have the government we deserve.

If you are the person(s) that said the above mentioned quotes, I have purposely not identified you, because this column was not written to offend you or attack you. It was to give readers a "snapshot" of our representation as a whole and thus of "we the people." But you should ask yourself, are you really representing the will of the people?