Change: it’s the talk of the nation. I haven’t heard this much discussion on needing change since we last cleaned under the sofa cushions or since my kids were two.Two Presidential candidates, in particular, are ringing the bell of change in hopes of calling voters to their camps—Barack Obama and Ron Paul. And, honestly, despite the campaign trail rhetoric, other than the obvious aesthetic characteristics and the fact that he’s NOT a Republican I don’t see that Senator Obama’s campaign is really representative of change in this election. Ron Paul, is another story.
Ron Paul’s candidacy represents change from beginning to end and he is attracting attention from many people, particularly young voters, who no longer trust their government and feel “Washington must be changed.”The foundation of Congressman Paul’s ideology is his Libertarian background. Once a Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party (1988) he is looking to change the system by working within the system, now running as a Republican (good choice). The appeal of Ron Paul to the “I don’t trust government” crowd is clear on the surface, but looking beneath the surface the waters get murky.
A Libertarian should not be President unless there is great TRUST of government, not DISTRUST. The fundamental premise of Libertarians is that government should stay out of the lives of citizens. Thomas Paine could well have provided the party’s motto when he said, “Government is best which governs least.” The end game for the Libertarian is to be left alone by government, to have the least intrusion possible into his life by government.However, one must anticipate that removing government from the people would likewise remove people from the government. Four years of a Libertarian president, erasing and removing government from the lives of people would also remove the influence of the individual on the government that would remain. Out of sight, out of mind. The government left to govern, would (probably rightly) assume that the people would rather not be bothered with the details of government’s inner workings. Government would begin to feel itself unfettered by public opinion.
Additionally, this newfound separation of the government from the people would only serve to make an already apathetic electorate more apathetic. It is already hard work to communicate our wishes with our elected officials. Doing so becomes a way of life. Maintaining those lines of communication is already difficult. However, if those lines were to be broken by a retreat of the people into a Libertarian induced sense of non-government inebriation, how much more difficult would it be to reopen those lines? Once the people fill the time they used to spend thinking about their government with thinking about themselves, it will be a hard chore indeed to reclaim that time from their day-timers. No habit is harder to break than selfishness.
The net effect is that if you do not trust your government then the last thing you should want is a Libertarian running it. A Libertarian in charge will remove your distrust, cynicism and questions from the people most in need of accountability–politicians. The American system of government, as fashioned by our Founding Fathers 220 years ago continues to endure no matter how often we claim the system is broken. The misuse of the system, both by politicians and an electorate which believes itself impotent, may need fixing, but the system itself provides a means for doing just that—individual participation.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is an old adage that applies here as well. If you do not trust your government, all the more reason for you to stay close to it and remain involved. If, rather, we were in the middle of an extended period of trust and good will with our government, that might be a great time to reap a trust-dividend and begin to allow ourselves some separation from our elected officials. But this is certainly no time for that. This is no time to give ourselves reason to be MORE apathetic, to be LESS involved, to be MORE selfish. On the contrary, we need the societal bonds that tie us together. Not the mandated bonds of liberalism but the voluntary bonds of conservatism which itself encompasses words like compassion and duty.
Let us not forget human nature as we coyly wink at the flirtatious Libertarian. It is our human condition that when encouraged to think of ourselves first we do just that. If you don’t trust your government, Ron Paul is not the answer. Certainly, a change is in order, but the change is not in creating distance between ourselves and government, but rather in decreasing it; and we can best decrease that distance by actually utilizing the great American political system given to us at our country’s inception. It is not more government that is needed. Nor is it necessarily less. It is more of us that is needed.