Is government bad? Depends on who you ask |

Is government bad? Depends on who you ask

Chuck Muth
For the Nevada Appeal

In a recent interview, University Regent Mike Wixom said, “What troubles me is there’s this whole underlying notion that government is bad.” Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Steve Hill seconded that emotion. “One of the things that I hope conversations like this can do is get rid of the idea that government is bad,” he said.

In a separate, unrelated interview called “The American Revolution” – conducted more than 225 years ago – founding father George Washington disagreed with both Wixom and Hill. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force,” the nation’s first president warned. “Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

In other words, government, if not strictly controlled: bad.

Fellow founding father Thomas Paine agreed. “Society in every state is a blessing,” said the author of Common Sense, “but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”

In other words: bad.

So who ya gonna believe: Wixom and Hill or Washington and Paine?

Wixom, however, not only is in a twist over the quintessentially American notion that government ain’t sugar and spice and everything nice, but said he’s also troubled by “this whole underlying notion that … we should do away with government.”

That’s what’s called a red herring. Actually, it borders on slander against limited-government conservatives.

You see, no one in the discussion about Nevada’s budget woes has called for the complete elimination of government. That’s just a cheap leftist smear tactic. There’s been no suggestion whatsoever by conservatives now, back in 1776, or coming anytime in the future to “do away with government” altogether.

The debate is and always has been on what the proper role of government should be. As for me, Washington, Paine, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, well, we think government’s role should be extremely limited – acknowledging that some government is a necessary evil in an orderly society.

So the question isn’t whether or not we’re going to maintain and fund a certain level of government, but where to draw the line. And as Madison put it, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” So I wonder what Madison would have thought about the government, rather than churches and private community organizations, providing diapers to senior citizens?

Regent Mike Wixom ought to engage in an honest and principled debate over exactly what the legitimate role of government should be. And maybe, just maybe, he should push for more “History of the United States” courses and fewer “History of the Beatles” courses at the Nevada System of Higher Education.

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization.