Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hug a Pinko Socialist Theocratic Autocrat

Before I get into the meat, I was thinking that there are two ways to look at this blog, and one is probably inappropriate. This is not a view of Mormon doctrine through the eyes of liberals, this is a view of our culture and politics through the eyes of a Mormon liberal. Big difference.

Second, I hope to have some fellow bloggers on this site soon who are smarter than me.

Now, the question that spawned the immediate creation of this little enterprise was on my wife's blog, directed at me. The question was, what do I think is the role of government. I thought about this a lot as I was raking six huge bags of leaves. My blisters will be other-wordly by tomorrow. Anyway, I thought I'd start real broad and work my way in, in a manner that will be likely both boring and wordy (I'm a lawyer!).

The Twelfth Article of Faith says: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." I think that's where we start. It is clear from this and a reading of the scriptures that there just isn't a single system of government that is "right." There may be some that are inherently better than others, but I don't know if I could make that list.

We have members of the church in hundreds of nations comprising nearly every form of government you can imagine. Tonga has a king, Europe is what conservatives would call Socialist, Venezuela is Socialist, countries in Africa and South America have dictators, and there are faithful members in them all that support the government and obey the law.

Righteous people in the scriptures had kings such as Mosiah, Benjamin, and David; they had communal living such as in 4 Nephi and in Acts, which was resurrected in the early church of this dispensation; they had judges such as in Israel and the Book of Mormon (perhaps a system of activists judges is God's way?); Joseph Smith created a form of theocracy which was continued by Brigham Young; and other examples probably exist that I am not remembering right now.

All this is to say, I don't think there is (capital) A role of government that members of the church should embrace. As long as the decisions they make are righteous or, if we lower our standards a bit, not unrighteous, we believe that we obey them.

Of course, in America we have a specific form of government with a constitution that makes it clear that not everything goes. The constitution lays all power on the shoulders of the people, giving some responsibilities to state and federal governments. I'm not going to go through them all, but the federal government is given authority over things like war, interstate commerce, taxation, and immigration. The judicial branch is given authority to interpret the law, including the constitution itself.

The constitution is inherently and purposely broad, meant to be conformed to a changing world. The founders themselves never agreed on its full meaning. So it seems to me that the role of government, to finally get to some sort of answer, is whatever the people want it to be. We probably all agree that the government should protect us, most of us would agree that it should provide infrastructure, educate our children, and promote fairness.

But if the people want a government that runs a single payer insurance system, the constitution wouldn't forbid it. If we want a government that provides free university level education to all citizens, the constitution wouldn't forbid it. If we want a government that mandates equal pay for women, the constitution wouldn't forbid it. If we want a government that taxes the rich more than it taxes the poor, the constitution wouldn't forbid it.

So I think the role of the government should be whatever not unrighteous thing the majority wants. Right now the majority is likely going to vote in a Democrat to be president and that party to control both houses of Congress who have promised a progressive tax system, expanded health care, more access to education, and an end to the war in Iraq. So that is the role of the government. The government is constantly cleaning up the messes of the Invisible Hand, so lets avoid those messes in the future. This is where I come down. Safety, prosperity, fairness, and opportunity.

If in the future the people want a change, they will elect new leaders with different goals. Government will have a new role. But in a broad view, as long as the government is not oppressive to the majority and is not unrighteous, I think we should respect that.


peter said...

This is Kristy, by the way, So I agree that the constitution is set up to allow the government that the people wish to vote for. (As long as judges aren't legislating from the bench.) I'm curious about your use of the word unrighteous. Since most people would use unrighteous in different ways and to characterize completely opposite views, when do we determine that the government is unrighteous? Is that unrighteous dominion or refering to the causes they espouse?

Sorry, your very intelligent blogger didn't show up here, just someone trying to figure things out.

Iliana said...

Wow, that kinda gave me a headache:) So not used to reading anything but kid stories on blogs, so it was enlightening. How can two people think so differently? There are so many points I differ on that I couldn't do it justice on a comment, so maybe one day at one of our friend get togethers we can have a friendly debate eh? Isn't it funny how people can fundamentally differ on such big things as government and yet get along nonetheless? Well, Jamie and I get along :)

P.S. I kinda feel like I'm copping out not defending my beliefs, but so be it since you're a paid debater I'd feel like the dorky PoliSci major I am :)