Tags: Government | that | Cares

A Government that Cares

Monday, 19 September 2005 12:00 AM

The government's sluggish response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has led some to declare that there is an "empathy deficit" in the Bush administration. Or in the more plain language of Kanye West: "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

Of course the veracity of West's accusation depends on the definition of "caring". If the government's compassion and empathy is measured by the amount of money it spends, then beyond his very real passion there is little substance to his charge. Under the Bush administration, spending on anti-poverty programs is up 42 percent.

This administration created the homeownership challenge that has helped to raise homeownership among African-Americans above 50 percent for the first time in history, signed the prescription drug benefit for seniors, and instituted No Child Left Behind in an effort to improve educational opportunities for inner-city children. One might not share the administration's enthusiasm for some of these programs but you can't reasonably argue that they lack compassion.

But let us suppose that by some other measure West is correct. Who cares? Government is not supposed to be our friend.

In exchange for certain of our freedoms, government has a duty to protect our lives and property. This compact is similar to the one we have with our local grocer. In exchange for our dollars he has a duty to give us fresh bread. How much he cares about us is of little consequence.

Laws against theft are not enforced because government cares about us, but because it is government's duty to protect our property regardless of who we are. In fact, we might do better if government didn't "care" so much. Government has, as of late, demonstrated so much caring for us that it has neglected its far more important mission, which is to shield us from, say, attack by Islamic fascists, being overrun by illegal immigrants and of course, destruction of our property due to neglect of vital infrastructure.

The compact we have with our family, friends and neighbors is slightly different. As Americans, one of the values we share is that as decent and moral people we have an obligation to help our fellow man. We "care about" one another. We lend a helping hand where and when we are able with the knowledge that in our time of need, the community will likewise support us.

And as we rely on the community for compassion, the community depends on us to be responsible -- to make good choices and learn from the consequences of our bad decisions so that we do not become a burden on our fellow man, thus infringing on our neighbor's right to his happiness and freedom.

That is not to say that government is our enemy or that government should be heartless and without concern for those less fortunate members of our society. Moral government recognizes the need to provide care and shelter for those who, due to age or mental incapacity are unable to provide for themselves.

Moral and energetic government seeks to open the doors of free enterprise and encourage habits of virtue, individual initiative and self-reliance not because it cares for us, but because as James Madison wrote: "the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim…"

In the case of the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, government at every level failed in their duty and that is what must concern us more than empathy. Demanding that government "care" is to invite chaos into our lives by requiring government to do that for which it is ill equipped. More importantly, we also distract it from the duties for which it is charged, leaving our nation vulnerable to the evils of man and nature.

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The government's sluggish response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has led some to declare that there is an "empathy deficit" in the Bush administration.Or in the more plain language of Kanye West: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Of course the...
Government,that,Cares
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2005-00-19
Monday, 19 September 2005 12:00 AM
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