I heard the reverend Al Sharpton the other day spouting off as people so often do that the government’s first job is protecting the citizens. Lets be real people this is not and never has been the government’s first job.
The first job of government is acquiring the power to do what it wants. THis isn’t some nutter libertarian rant against the evils of big government it is just a reality. Most of the world is non democratic but all of the world is governed. From small tribal councils to behemoths like modern national governments, they all have to find the power to move forward those projects that they feel are important.
In non democratic realms this is easier in the short run. Those in power use their armed forces when necessary and their propaganda machine all the time to get the citizens to agree to whatever project. WHether it is war on the neighbours or building the new pyramid, or setting up the site for the new farmers market the government sets the direction and gets others to go along for the general good.
The ends are not always evil and in many cases they are commendable. THis particular day in history marks the opening of the first hospital in the United States in Pennsylvania in 1752. Good old Ben franklin had his hand in this along with others and you can bet there were some people standing around drinking tea saying the idea was ok as long as government didn’t get too big and certainly as long as all those sick people weren’t kept near where I live.
That last part is part of the point of government. No one wants the hospital, dump, jail, armory etc, etc, in their back yard but they have to go somewhere. GOvernment cuts through this crap and one way or another sites the project collects the money and creates something.
Those who happen to work for a government in a democracy have the problem of trying to convince people that they should go along with these projects. No democratic government can last long simply imposing its will on the population in spite of what the people want but sometime somewhere they have to call a halt to the crying and moaning and actually build something.
Now part of every government project is the public hearings about the same. These things are mostly window dressing for the people affected to think they at least got a chance to be heard but in reality they seldom have any real effect on the decisions made. Certainly there are times when a group manages to raise enough opposition and a change is made but mostly it is an exercise in creating the feeling that the government is listening. Today too the government is forever talking about protecting the citizens but in reality they are still, as in the days of yore quite happy to jail or otherwise punish those who oppose and cary on with their projects as they see fit.
So the next time you are told the governments first job is protecting the citizens think about just who is being protected and who is going to end up paying the price. THey may not be evil incarnate but governments are accumulators of power, through persuasion or coercion as the need arises.
No government however totalitarian can exist for long without the backing of most of its citizens but every government however democratic has all sorts of ways to gain enough backing to proceed. Your duty as a citizen is simply to be aware of these things and oppose what you truly believe is wrong for your society and aid what you feel is right but in any case at some point the projects needed by the bulk of the citizens have to go ahead even if they are in your back yard.