How do we understand government and its relationship to its people?
What the hell does this have to do with Rob Ford?
As many of you know – thanks to the wonderful nature of late night television – the mayor of Toronto went through some… scrutiny for smoking crack. Now. Let’s get this out there; I am in no way justifying, validating or condemning the mayor’s actions. There are dozens of shows, news reports and comedians already doing this (with varying success), so if you want to know whether he is good or bad I can gladly point you to some articles and comedians. I’m interested in knowing whether we should even criticize politicians for their actions, so what better segue than a politician smoking crack?
Why do we expect politicians to be better than us?
It’s a poor reflection of us as people when we decide to assign “intelligence”, “responsibility” and “maturity” to certain groups of people, making it their “job” to deal with such things.
Saying that “it’s the government’s job to look out for the well-being of its people” is scary. What have we progressed to that we think self-preservation isn’t actually the duty of the self?
Why do we expect our governments to be smarter than us? Why are we disappointed when it’s not?
It is true that there needs to be a level of competence in any government system for it to run. But do you really want to be entirely subjected to the will of your government? I thought that people wanted their government to work for them, submit to their needs, and not prescribe correct methods of conduct. By giving the government such responsibilities we risk elevating them above citizenship, and thus above the law. If the government is above its people then who does it answer to? I can’t help but feel that by suggesting a government needs to be run in this or that manner by this person with these specific characteristics, we set up a government in which those running it can’t answer for their actions, or that they can only answer to themselves because of their “maturity”, “responsibility” and “intelligence”. When the government makes mistakes, as it often does, who then is responsible for criticizing it? It can’t be us, the people, since we obviously do not possess the required intelligence. Obviously.
A government’s relationship with its people is a little contradictory. We shouldn’t say the government has to exclusively uphold ideals because it may allow tyranny, so we should expect politicians to be for, by, and of the people. Yet the government has to be held accountable to the people when it doesn’t fulfill the needs of the people. The politician is the people, a representative made of, for and by them, so would it not be accurate for her to be held accountable to herself? But we don’t allow politicians to be held accountable to solely themselves, which necessarily means that they can’t be of, for or by the people. They are either above or below us. Whether or not the government is above or below us is irrelevant, for whether they serve us or govern over us we still assign certain functions to it. These functions are things we don’t take care of ourselves, such as healthcare, daycare services, criminal enforcement, and other such things under the jurisdiction of government. With these exclusive responsibilities come certain characteristics. You wouldn’t want a healthcare system that favoured the healthy, or a justice system that convicted without evidence. The government needs to be impartial, just and benevolent, among other things, and because of this we’re back at the beginning.
Final Thoughts: After reading this you may be wondering: what the hell does this have to do with Rob Ford? I am too. I decided to split this post into two, because who wants to sit through a thousand word post? Not me.
What are your thoughts on government and its relationship to people? Do you agree with my interpretation of government? Is government inevitably placed above or below its people?