Mitt, Newt, Rick, and the Purpose of Government

“Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free. If we understand our first and sole duty to consist of loving God supremely and loving everyone, even our enemies, for God’s dear sake, then we can enjoy spiritual tranquility under every circumstance.” – A. W. Tozer

I have honestly stopped watching the endless Republican presidential debates. I’m interested in them more for the political gamesmanship than the substance. This makes me more of a distant and obscure narrator than a participant.

With that I will note that I caught a soundbite of Rick Perry going after Newt Gingrich on his multiple failed marriages and marital infidelity. He points out, rightly I suppose, that breaking your word to your wife (or wives) makes you more suspect regarding your ability to keep an oath of office. I’m sure it’s a point I’ve made before, and I don’t disagree.

That’s not to say I’d never vote for a divorcee. People change, they grow, they learn, they (hopefully) repent and recognize the error of their ways before moving on. Heck, Nancy Reagan was not Ronald Reagan’s first wife, and I think he made a pretty good president.

I didn’t stick around for the answer (I didn’t really care that much), but the punditry seems to hold that Gingrich managed the situation well.

More important to my mind is not a person’s past moral failings (not that they’re meaningless, by any stretch) but rather their stated (and demonstrated, if possible) preference for the role of government.

Rick Perry, trying to save his all-but-finished campaign, has come out hard for the anti-gay Christian vote; harping on about gays serving openly in the military and what a travesty it is. (I don’t agree with him, by the way, and I’m a radical, right-wing Christian.) This is part and parcel of Mr. Perry’s view of government – to help establish a moral tone in the country and enforce it when necessary.

I recall back in the 2008 primaries that Mike Huckabee was getting a lot of traction and made statements about wanting to use the government and his (potential) presidency to help people live better lives. Role of government … help people.

Gingrich & Romney come down pretty much on the same place with this. Sure, they have policy squabbles, but by-and-large they hold that government has a purpose for helping people lead better lives and fixing what ails them. We hear it in different forms, but it almost always comes down to “we know that the government ought to be helping out in these difficult times and giving businesses the tools they need to promote growth.”

It’s funny to hear these guys ramble on about government solving problems, and the need for smaller government. These two don’t seem to go together. If the purpose of government is to solve problems, then government must be big enough to solve them. Maybe that’s why Republican presidents and congresses endlessly prattle on about reducing the size of government, and yet they always make it bigger and more powerful – so it can solve problems. Now, different candidates may have a different list of problems to solve, but they all seem to end up promoting a larger, more powerful government to address their list.

This type of inconsistency is common in politics. It’s not ubiquitous, of course, but common. There are politicians (most with the last name of Paul) that want a smaller government because they believe its role is defense of life, liberty, and property … and nothing more. There are also those who promote bigger government, but from a consistent standpoint. Liberal crackpots like Dennis Kucinich and socialists like Bernie Sanders come to mind. But most of the rest talk out of both sides of their mouth (and their backside) at the same time.

That’s not to say I won’t vote for one of these hucksters – I’m still on the fence. Pragmatism has a place, a very serious one, in the political realm.

At the root of it though, I find that loving my neighbor as myself, following the Golden Rule, and holding to equality before God – leads me inextricably to the conclusion that freedom is the way of it, and that all government intervention beyond life, liberty, and property forcibly suppresses one of these directives in favor of pride, theocracy, and elevating oneself to judge of the law rather than doer.

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