by Jim Lembke
You all have heard the old adage; Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This of course is a standard that at best is a moving target, and at worst is quite relative. That said, is the definition of “good government” a subjective opinion, or is there an objective standard by which we the people might measure? Is good government in the eye of the beholder?
Throughout world history and for that matter the short history of our republic, good government has been an elusive animal. Leaders of all stripes have strayed from fundamental truths to selfish ambition and pragmatic easy solutions. History is wrought with examples of might makes right, greedy kings and despotic democracies. Power corrupts even the best of intensions.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the definition of good government certainly is not subjective.
Our founding fathers did not trust centralized government. They envisioned a government that would be limited by a constitution and the rule of law. They devised a system with built in checks to protect us from the government they created.
“The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce…The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.”
As we study our own history and the history of all man-made government we will find the progressive nature of mans desire to accumulate power. Again, our founders knew that the only way to check mans unbridled quest for more power was to limit government by a static constitution and the rule of law.
So what does good government look like? Good government is limited, restrained, and bound by an understanding that the people are the true sovereigns, not governments.
Article 1, section 1 of the Missouri constitution reads; “That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
“Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson
Our founders in the state of Missouri were as leery as the original framers. In article 1, section 2 of our Missouri constitution they included the job description for every elected leader that would serve our state after them.
“That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry…that to give security to these things is the principle office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”
This standard leaves no room for us to decide want good government is or is not. We either provide the needed protection to secure these rights or we fail the people we are elected to serve.
It is possible to know good government when we see it. Good government is that which respects it’s constitutional limits and measures itself against that objective standard.
Jim Lembke is now with United for Missouri, and was formerly a member of the Missouri State Senate and House of Representatives