Government Shmovernment

Posted on 03 November 2018

UN Security Council

Directing a movie is a little bit like being back in student government and putting on the homecoming dance.
You’re like, “You put up the streamers, and you hire the DJ, and you get the punch bowl.”
Some people are just like, “This dance sucks.”
And you’re like, “No no, this dance is awesome”
You have to be really positive.

~Mike Birbiglia

Human Beings Are Social Animals

We cannot as a species survive utterly independently from one another. We rely on our brains as our primary means of interacting with our environment and caring for ourselves. Our brains are large and take time to develop. Therefore, we are vulnerable as children for a long time and require the support of parents and community.

We build weapons because we do not have particularly sharp teeth or claws. We tame horses for riding because we are not particularly fast, nor do we have the stamina for long trips. Because we are weak compared to other predators, we find strength in combining and coordinating our hunting efforts. We agree to collectively hunt because we agree to share our prizes.

Unique to humanity is the possession of a neocortex markedly larger than that in the brain of any other ape or mammal of similar size. The neocortex comprises of those parts of the brain responsible for higher social cognition such as: conscious thought, language, behavioral and emotional regulation, as well as empathy and theory of mind.

Humans also have a high number of mirror neurons. These neurons are important for both learning and empathy. Mirror neurons fire when they observe action performed by another, as if they had done that action themselves. Action includes emotional responses. We have the second most mirror neurons compared to other animals. Only the Long-finned pilot whale outstrips us.

Because we rely on a network of relations beyond our families, we have to consider how to manage ourselves such that larger and larger groups of people can successfully live with one another. This is the evolutionary origins of civilisation.

As such we need political systems and government. We also need to think about our political systems and government, because as we consciously evolve, so must the social structures upon which we rely.

The Roles of Government

Democratic governments Exist for two purposes:

* To represent the collective will of their citizens

* To ensure the collective welfare of their citizens

These mandates can be at odds with each other. Sometimes circumstances bring anger and fear to a boil among the citizenry. People may then want expedient answers that are not in fact in their own best interest. This scenario can be made less likely when citizens are well educated and have a good sense that we are all in this together. When three different Australian states were unwilling to share the Murray river in order to meet their water needs, they could have gone to war with one another. Instead the federally elected government stepped in to ensure the water was fairly divided.

To represent the collective will of their citizens.

In a functioning democracy your vote counts for something. Your vote shouldn’t just represent a suggestion to someone, who was appointed on your behalf and who you did not vote for, in order to determine who is president. Pretty tangled, eh? That’s how the US Electoral College works. The government is happy to know your opinion, but then makes up its own mind as to who gets the highest seat of power. This is because in fact they do not trust your opinion. Such a system is not even a representative republic.

In a functioning democracy you have ready access to the politicians you put into positions of responsibility. Yes, they may be busy with work, but you are in fact a top priority and they must, at some point, make time for you. Start asking questions if this is not the case. At no point should any politician be more obligated to a corporation or special interest than to you…ever. They should never feel distant, high, or mighty. You should be the sole source of their power, and you can withdraw that power at any time with the simple stroke of a pen or push of a button when you make your vote.

In a functioning democracy you should feel confident that elections are fair and above board. It should be easy for you to execute your civic duty. Voting is a right and a responsibility. Your government must demonstrate their respect for that by making voting booths readily available, giving everyone sufficient time to vote, and ensuring voter registration is straightforward.

The democratic process and the role politicians are taking must be held in such esteem that it is unthinkable anyone would seek to win by any but the most honorable of means. Everyone should have access to standing for a democratically elected office, not just a select few with enough money and the right connections. Shady dealing should scandalize the public. Such dealing should never be accepted and never normalized. People need to fully express their anger: “this is wrong, this person should be removed from office and never allowed to stand again.” That’s what you do when someone abuses a sacred trust. Would you accept bad behavior from a daycare worker? NO! Children are precious. So is our democracy.

In a functioning democracy everyone will have sufficient education and access to objective reporting in order to make considered decisions when voting. Education is meant to prepare you for life. The proper functioning of your country is part of your life. Whether or not you are paid to understand current affairs and vote, this is important work. This is how you ensure your well-being and the well-being of your children.

To ensure the collective welfare of their citizens.

Countries do this by providing-

* stable rules and regulations, and their enforcement

* goods, services, infrastructure, as necessary.

Each country may need a different mix of these. However, at no point should enforcing rules be made more important than the physical and emotional well-being of citzens.

Stable rules and regulations, and their enforcement.

When you are feeling hemmed in and dominated by your parents, your school system, your government, and ultimately your society, it is easy to believe that all rules and regulations are bad.

Traffic laws are rules that people meet with daily and feel strongly about. Some get angry with speed limits and wonder why they have to wait for someone at an intersection–“I have someplace to go!” However, cars are dangerous equipment. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, “In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens ages 16-19 died every day due to motor vehicle crashes and hundreds more were injured.” In Australia the leading cause of death for children up to fourteen is car accidents and car accidents cause 21% of deaths for 15-24 year-olds.

When everyone follows traffic laws, their behavior is predictable. This makes it possible for drivers to figure out what everyone is doing and take appropriate action. Speed limits are set to reflect how dangerous certain sections of road are, either for the driver or for pedestrians. Following those limits means drivers are less likely to lose control of their car or be unable to respond quickly enough to a pedestrian’s presence on the road.

Traffic laws make it possible for us to all arrive home alive. We want them enforced, because we don’t want some jerks thinking they can ignore the law and endanger the rest of us. Having a car can be very much like having a gun.

January 2017 in Melbourne Australia (where I live) a man deliberately drove his car into the pedestrians at Bourke Street Mall. Four people were killed, including a young child; twenty people were injured. I had one friend who saw the event unfold from the window of his office building, and was passing on Facebook updates as to what was going on. It was frightening. Until something disastrous happens to yourself or someone you care about, it can be very hard to understand why something is a problem. Please understand this: some laws are about your safety.

This is where things get tricky: some laws are not made in good faith.

If someone is so poor that they are forced to steal a loaf of bread in order to eat, which is more important: ensuring this person doesn’t starve or punishing them for breaking the law? In such a situation the government has failed in its duty of care towards its citizens and should largely be responsible for the theft.

Beware of countries that remove safety nets for people who have fallen upon hard times. It’s hardly surprising then when people resort to any means available to them just to survive. However, by creating crime these governments can convince the rest of the country that it is in their best interest to beef up police and military forces in order to better control their own citizenry. For those living comfortable lives, this may not seem like such a problem…up until you disagree with your government and your political voice is silenced with an actual gun.

Goods, services, and infrastructure.

In certain countries you are solely responsible for ensuring you have enough to eat. You may also be responsible for your medical care, your education, your ability to travel, whether or not you have clean water and sanitation. Research for various diseases such as bowel cancer may be left to those non-profit organizations who can collect enough money from people like you to pay researchers. Similarly research into the health of the environment may be left to rely on charitable donations. Children living in orphanages and foster homes will need caring donors or face living on the streets. You may also be approached by friends and family on GoFundMe to help when they have fallen on hard times.

This is a lot of work. This is a lot of responsibility that we are all asked to carry every day, all the time. Surely a better way can be found.

A better way has been found. These are all things for which your government is supposed to be responsible. This is what your tax dollars are for…goods, services and infrastructure that benefit you and your community.

When early American settlers took up the cry, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” they did not say “taxation is tyranny”. They understood the value of taxation when that money became a community resource. What they objected to was having money taken from them without consultation, and to have that money distributed solely to people within England. They were not being taxed so much as being expected to offer tribute.

Let’s say a group of people in a community decide to start their own hospital cooperative. Everyone pitches in money to ensure enough doctors, medical equipment, and medicines are available for whenever anyone is sick. Some people will use the hospital more and some will use it less, but ultimately everyone is cared for. If anything catastrophic happens to anyone, they can feel secure that they will receive all the care they need. The results are a healthier community and peace of mind. More than that, everyone in the community knows that this is their hospital and can vote on who runs it and how.

This is pretty much how government taxation works. However, by paying state taxes you can ensure those people in poorer communities in your state also receive good care. When you pay federal taxes for health care some of that money can go toward medical research, thereby potentially finding cures to deadly diseases.

When hospital care is left to corporations they can ask, “How much is your health worth to you? Are you willing to pay $100 to be well? How about $1000 or $10,000?” CEOs can be sued by shareholders of hospitals for not making enough money. Therefore, it is worth it to them to charge as much as the market can bear. The bottom line is more important to them than your health. They also have the right to turn people away who can’t pay. Some diseases can only be contained when everyone is treated. You can’t play favorites based on wealth. Otherwise, everyone becomes ill, despite the numbers in their bank account.

Anything that is a human right should be made available to everyone through their government. Other people may privately offer similar services. But everyone must receive sufficient support from their government that they can live with dignity. This is already done in countries like Sweden and Norway. Taking so much in taxes that a full life is not possible would be counter to a government’s duty. This only happens when taxes are unfair because not everyone is equally sharing in supporting the well-being of their country.

A country is a collective entity. If you are benefitting from a country in any way, then it is your responsiblity to chip in along with everyone else. Some people with a lot of money go to great lengths to avoid taxes. They dazzle people with their lifestyle and convince people to let them behave irresponsibly. They will use their money to access positions of power and thereby dismantle public services. They will convince you this will lessen your tax burden. What will lessen your tax burden and ensure your personal security is if those with money behave honorably and pay an equal percentage of their wealth, as you do, for our collective well-being.

Government…we need good government. Currently, we aren’t experiencing what that is. That is no indication that good government isn’t possible, just that we have to get off our butts and make big change!

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.

Responses are closed for this post.

Recent Posts

Tag Cloud

constitution environment human rights united nations


Katherine Phelps is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

Copyright © Katherine Phelps