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The government and misplaced trust

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SPO_070212_flagSomething has bothered me for a long time about the way this country governs itself — or to be more precise, the way government governs the rest of us.

For example, the Hobby Lobby case was just the latest example over the past few months of the U.S. Supreme Court handing down a 5-4 ruling on a highly publicized and politicized case. A majority of one person has decided the direction the entire country must walk.

Federal, state or local bureaucrats operate much the same way. One person sitting behind a desk in some far-off government building can make a decision or draft a rule based on his or her understanding of a given law — a decision or rule that may cause great injury to a lot of people.

Nobody knows who that person is. Nobody knows who that person’s supervisor is. Nobody knows what motivated that person, or the supervisor, to draft that rule or make that decision, and then enforce it. Nobody knows if the impact on the public was ever discussed beforehand. Nobody knows much of anything.

And unless you have the money to fight the decision-makers by demanding answers to your legitimate questions, all you can do is knuckle under and find a way to muddle through.

We have been living with this experiment called democracy for a long time, not realizing that it’s not really democracy. In a true democracy, the public votes on the laws directly. But we live in a republic, which means we elect people to represent us by writing and enforcing laws.

I am not saying that the public has a better sense of right and wrong, or is in any way nobler, than the people we elect to pass the laws, and then hire to enforce them. They are people, just like the rest of us.

What bothers me is that we trust the government to make the correct choices because we presume, to our detriment, that once people go to work for the government they are immediately imbued with some special nobility, grace or selflessness that motivates them to work in the best interests of all, while leaving their humanity behind.

Wrong! They have the same human failings and weaknesses as all the rest of us. And if we were in their shoes, we would make the same kinds of harmful decisions they occasionally make, whether intentionally or out of ineptitude.

Our grand experiment in self-governance is deeply faulted because we are faulted. We fool ourselves when we expect government to do the right thing. We should be grateful when that happens but not surprised when it doesn’t. If the government could always do what’s best we wouldn’t need a savior.

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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