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Recently while discussing the political knowledge, or lack thereof, of the average U.S. citizen, a thought occurred to me. Ideally, this is how it should be. Government in America was designed to be small, very limited and irrelevant to the day-to-day life of the average American.
Government work is supposed to be boring. With the Constitution severely limiting the responsibilities of the government, the role of the public sector was intended to be constricted and narrow. When the branches of the federal government were being formed, our founders envisioned citizen statesman that would serve in government for a short amount of time before returning to their farms or trades. What was not expected was the rise of the career politician. Government work has since become an industry.
The growth in all facets of the government has created a leviathan out of the public sector. Politicians seek constant reelection, move from office to office and stay in politics as lobbyists. These politicians become policy experts which is now required do to the complex matters now under the umbrella of government responsibility.
The issues debated in government today are so convoluted and intricate; the layman cannot possibly stay properly informed. For example, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was nearly 1,000 pages long. This bill was also filled with jargon, specific terminology and references to other statutes. How could the average person develop an opinion on this legislation without relying on third or fourth party sources? No wonder Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” The length of the ACA bill was not unique. Plenty of bills reach the 1,000 page mark. Many other bills including yearly budgets, the stimulus bill and others extend well beyond 1,000 pages.
For the person who follows politics closely, reads the legislation and stays informed on all the important topics, only one thing can be going through his/her head, ‘Why am I not getting paid for this?’ It is simply impossibly for the average person to stay up to date and comprehend all of the issues and proposed legislation up for debate.
In the ideal scenario, government would be small and not of concern for the average person. The state would have little impact on the constituents’ everyday life. This would free up the citizen’s time to focus on their trade or whatever they deem necessary or important. There would be no reason why someone should not develop a niche expertise in whatever they find interesting while staying only moderately informed on the actions of the government. As of now however, we are far from this ideal. We have to stay informed on these issues that affect the entire nation and strive to reduce the size of the government to something more manageable.