The Urge to Serve

May 20, 2021

This week, my feeds were filled with both good news and bad, stemming from Tuesday’s elections. I was ecstatic to see some colleagues, friends, and supporters, win hard-fought victories. They were all thrilled at the prospect of getting started on the very needed, and very hard work, of making their communities stronger, more resilient, and more self-reliant.

At the same time, I was crushed to hear of some defeats of people that I know have their community’s best intentions at heart, who have given their all to give back, and who take immense pride and satisfaction in the difficult work of serving their communities.

To all of them, the winners and losers, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all of the people that you have served, will serve, or want to serve. Your drive to improve the lives of the people that call your community home is both exceptional and commendable.

This is a very difficult time in our history for people who want to get involved in the very necessary work of governing. We are at the tail end of a four-decade stretch of people complaining about how much government is the problem. Ronald Reagan so famously and unfortunately said “The most terrifying words in the English language are, I am from the government and I am here to help.”

This irresponsible notion that government is unnecessary has lead to disastrous consequences. Sure, government has its problems, but I am pretty sure everyone has their problems. I certainly do. Last I checked, nearly every for-profit company also has its problems. No institution that is run by people, does not have some sort of problem or another. The private sector has its problems, but I don’t see government officials lobbying to shut it down.

Government can always improve, as can each one of us, but a lack of perfection, is no need to destroy something, it is simply an indicator that more improvement is needed. Running a local government is difficult work, with so many moving parts and such varied constituencies. It is extremely taxing work to manage a city. Work that is often thankless, work that is often underpaid, work that makes half the population mad at you, yet there are still people that want to do it.

There are people, fully aware of the difficulty they are facing and the obstacles ahead, and yet, they still decide that they are up for the challenge. These people know they are giving up anonymity, and evenings and weekends with their families, and probably better paying private sector work, and the peace of mind knowing people don’t always hate you. They give all this up because they can’t resist the draw of trying to make their town better.

These people are incredible and we are all fortunate to have them. Even after forty years of people talking all kinds of shit on government, they still feel compelled to serve. There is no doing away with government and if that is honestly what you want, there are plenty of mountainsides in Wyoming that could use another hermit.

Government is not perfect, but this is no reason to get rid of it. Let me break it down for you quickly, so we can all be very clear about where this notion comes from. Certain private sector business don’t want to play by the rules. They may want to pollute, they may want to take advantage of consumers, they may want to ignore anti-trust laws. Who knows. But for whatever reason, they do not want to abide by the rules government has set up to determine what is and isn’t acceptable. They feel their ability to generate profit is being limited by government regulations.

We are all subject to the laws of the place in which we inhabit though. Unless you can find an abandoned island, you will be subject to community laws, rules and regulations. We have determined long ago, that a functional society requires some guardrails. I want to throw beer bottles at every car that speeds down my street, but the law says that I cannot. I suppose I can try and convince elected officials that I should be allowed, but I accept that this would be problematic behavior, so I refrain.

Certain businesses, that want to maximize their profits, don’t refrain. They use their influence to try and change the laws so they no longer have to abide by them. This is not an option for you or me or the local hardware store or restaurant. This sort of influence is only available to the largest companies on the planet. The best way they have found to get rid of the rules that limit their profitability, is to dismantle government.

In saying, government is the actual problem, they can begin the process of trying to get rid of government. Not because they don’t like government, but because they don’t want to follow the laws. I am sure they enjoy all of the laws that protect them, they just don’t want to deal with the laws that inhibit them. But that’s just not the way it works, or at least, the way it should work.

We need government. We need guardrails. We can’t operate with out a collective agreement of what is, and isn’t acceptable. This is the Social Contract Theory and by determining what behaviors are permitted, we protect ourselves by limiting those behaviors that would prove destructive to us all.

We need to pool our resources as a society to pay for roads and schools and parks. We need the funds to manage those collective investments and we need to pay people to enforce those rules we have adopted. Government is the armed services, just as it is the community development director. Government is the police and fire department, just as much as it is the public school teacher. These things are not separate, they are all carrying out the hard work of serving society and doing so in a way that they are able and willing.

We are fortunate to have people willing to do this work and thank Zues they are. A functioning government is absolutely critical to the well-being of society and in-turn, the well being of all of us. Without government there would be no rules, no laws, no guardrails, and therefore, no functioning society. I for one, am a huge fun of a functioning society. Thus, I am a huge fan of government.

As I found out who won and lost their elections, I think of all the people whose well-being is at stake. For all the people who ran on the platform of “government is the problem”, their victories will only serve to make their constituent’s lives worse. They are not interested in making anything better, just stripping down the hard work of others because they have been duped by big business to do their bidding.

If you think government is the problem, please do us all a favor and stay out of it. There are very serious people who are trying to make a difference and you’re getting in the way.

To all of you who can’t resist the pull to try and make a difference. To all of you, who see all the challenges ahead and still decide to serve. To all of you who can’t repress the desire to make your community better. To all of you whose civic obligation compels you to knock on doors and face down the real possibility of a public rejection, I thank you. We thank you. We are fortunate to have you. We are better off for your service.

To everyone who ran for office, regardless of the outcome, if you threw your hat in the ring because you felt it was your civic duty to serve, thank you. Your community is lucky to have you. Your work is appreciated. Your dedication is commendable. Your service is special. You kick all the ass.

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