Understanding our government

By Matthew Balsinger, Managing Editor

In Tuesday’s edition of The Buchtelite, an article was published about a perceived difference between government regulations and the people who make up the country.

Though the article makes an impassioned call to our emotions, it falls into the same unfortunate mistake that many people make concerning understanding the nature of the U.S. government.

The article began with asking why the people of the country cannot enter national places such as parks, museums and monuments even though they pay the taxes that fund them. Though this sounds good on principal, it lacks a fundamental understanding of our government.

Simply defined, a government is a system by which a community is governed. There are varying philosophies on precisely what a perfect government should or should not do, but the important term here is community.

When speaking of the U.S. government, “the people” refers broadly to us as the community of the United States. As individuals within the greater community, we are granted rights and freedoms that are protected under law.

However, this is not to say that as members of the community we may do as we see fit. For example, you may think it is entirely fit to drink and drive, but the greater community does not.

Throughout American history there has been an ongoing battle between precisely what rights the individual has or does not have against the community at large.

There is, however, one idea that is held as absolute: that the rights of one individual do not trump the rights of another under law.

The article made the impression, on several occasions, that things like regulation and laws are overbearing on the people and freedom in general. It implies that this is somehow not acting for and by the people. Unfortunately, this is not correct.

The purpose of government is to manage a system of people in a community. Laws, which include regulations of any and all kinds, are by definition the way of protecting one segment of the community from another.

Not all regulation is good and not all regulation is bad, but painting a broad brush by saying the government using regulations is somehow opposite of representing the people is just nonsense.

To more directly answer the article’s question of why we are not allowed access public places when the government is not open; it is because the government represents all of us, not just you or me.

In order to preserve such things for all of us, it must regulate these things in order for us all to enjoy them.

We all may disagree with how to manage resources such as these, which is why it’s the job of a government to devise a system by which we can all maximize the benefit while minimizing the harm.

The article goes on to make the argument that both political parties are petty and seemingly responsible for the current government budget battle.

This argument, however, is completely devoid of factual credibility.

To argue that the government shutdown is the result of both parties sounds fair and balanced. However, there is one political party that is more responsible for this mess; it is not balanced nor fair to say that both parties should share the blame. To make that claim is to ignore reality.

The Republican party bears sole responsibility for the current government shutdown. In September the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution in regards to the budget that did not include spending for the Affordable Care Act, knowing full well that it would not pass the Senate.

Refusing to fund a law that has been upheld by the country’s highest court, that has survived repeal over 42 times and was the centerpiece of the previous presidential election is equivalent to refusing to enforce murder laws because you don’t like them.

It is the job of the government to fund the laws it has passed, not close the government because you don’t agree with them.

The article closed with an argument that we somehow don’t need government to protect the people through regulation; it argues that we are different now and that society has grown up.

The sad thing that the article ignores is that we only “grew up” as a society because of the government intervention. I myself am left asking, should we return to the time when we weren’t protected?

I will profess my bias: The only way our society has ever evolved is through the innovations and work of government, whether it’s laws or the activism of its citizens to enact new legislation.

In all practical matters, you do not have rights unless they are acknowledged by the body that governs you. Period.

Government is a system science. It is a system science much like trying to understand how a medication is going to impact your body or how to best combat cancer.

It is impossible to know what the right balance is, but it is important to refrain from making unilateral statements.

The government is not to represent the views, wants or needs of me or you, but instead all of us.