I have an eclectic taste in music. From rock classics, to country ballads, to soulful blues. One of my favorite artists is Tim McGraw. He sings from the heart with clarity and purpose. I was pondering this blog post, thinking about what I would say about systems of government when Mr. McGraw came on my playlist. And this blog post became clearer. Of all the things I could say about government his words made the most sense to me. The words were meant for individuals but they can equally be applied to governing bodies and leaderships. For I believe a loving government is first and foremost, humble and kind.
A humble government is one that realizes they exist of the people and for the people. All the people. All the citizens of a nation must have an equal say in who governs them and how. Not an elite class within a single party membership. Not an absolute monarch who governs by birthright. Not an autocrat who governs through fear and intimidation. Not the rich and powerful who use their wealth to unduly influence the levers of government. And not partisans who actively try to thwart the will of the people through such practices as gerrymandering, voter suppression, or outright lies. For all of these do not represent humility. They represent arrogance. Such impostors do not represent the will of the people. They represent the subjugation of the people.
Humility dictates that all the people, each individual citizen of voting age, should have an equal say in free and fair elections because a government is meant to govern on behalf of all its citizens. There is no ruling class in a humble nation. There is only a nation of peers.
A humble government is a strong government because it was chosen by the people. It’s strength comes from the mandate given to it by those people. An arrogant government that was never chosen by the people has no mandate to govern on behalf of the people.
Humility extends beyond voting rights however. A humble government:
- Confers on its citizens fundamental rights and freedoms thereby ceding power to the people
- Recognizes that greatness can come from any social class. The success of a child should not be defined by the circumstances of their birth. Character and hard-work must be allowed to succeed wherever it manifests. Upward mobility must be more than a noble thought. It must be made public policy
- Ensures each branch of government has appropriate levels of oversight on, and independence from, the other branches of government. Power is never to be concentrated in the hands of too few. For the greater the power the greater the humility must be.
- Acknowledges that it does not hold a monopoly on powerful beliefs or thoughts by separating religion or the lack thereof (i.e. atheism) from the state. That every person’s beliefs have a right to be expressed without censorship from the state
Humility must never preclude greatness. Humility does not mean governments cannot dream big. It merely means that when those dreams are achieved governments remain humble and recognize their success is founded on the backs of previous administrations of all political stripes, and the past generations of its citizens. It is recognizing that a government’s success is the result of the success of many others over the centuries and only together can they inspire a nation.
Similarly a kind government:
- Cares for it citizens regardless of their financial resources. All citizens deserve the dignity and compassion of medical care whenever it is needed
- Catches citizens when they fall. Employment insurance and social welfare programs are but two examples
- Takes steps to reduce income inequality. For when too much is controlled by too few upward mobility is jeopardized and a society’s fairness fades away
- Welcomes refugees fleeing persecution, war or violence regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Refugees must not be viewed as a burden or a threat, but as a building block on which to build a more diverse, just, and loving nation
- Is a humane government, never succumbing to cruelty. The civilization of a nation is based on how it treats its most unwanted. Death penalties and torture are aberrations of love. Kind governments recognize the sanctity of all life, even the most heinous
The first step towards such a government comes with free and fair elections. The citizens, all the citizens, must be given a voice and that voice must be allowed to effect change. Without this those voices will escalate and eventually look for other outlets, outside of voting booths, in which to be heard. Those outlets may include protests, strikes, and other forms of civil disobedience. Such methods can quickly escalate and rulers who work to suppress such disobedience, I believe, sew the seeds of their eventual demise. As an American president once said, “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Free and fair elections must ensure that control over the executive and legislative direction of a nation rests with the entire population. Such elections serve as a relief valve by which citizens can voice their discontent and realize a peaceful transfer of power. They are the peaceful revolutions that ensure the direction of the executive and legislative branches is guided by the aspirations of the masses, instead of being dictated by an authoritarian few. A loving government then protects against the tyranny of those masses through an independent judiciary. In turn that independent judiciary is directed by charters, constitutions and laws that enshrine minority rights, fundamental freedoms, and equality into the heart of a nation. The words in those laws must reflect a love for, and an equality of, all persons and it is with those words that the bedrock of a nation is forged. Those words then serve as a beacon to attract the masses of the global village to that nations shores where they are welcomed with open and compassionate arms. In so doing I believe something wonderful happens. A nation’s love for all of its citizens becomes sacred.
Today it is the world’s liberal democracies that best exemplify the ideals described above. But even democracies are imperfectly defined by fallible people. Winston Churchill once said: “…democracy is the worst form of government – except for all those other forms that have been tried…“. Democracies can be short-sighted with a tendency to see only as far as the next election cycle, let alone the needs and aspirations of future generations. Their guardrails may prove deficient when faced with corrupt, or self-serving leaders. Partisanship and polarization can often take priority over cooperation and consensus-building. And so the laws that define and regulate such governments will need to change and adapt over time, even if it means amending a nation’s founding documents. Hubris must never prevent us from questioning any of our texts, even those we hold most dear. So long as when doing so we remain humble and kind.