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Archive for Saturday, July 3, 1993

SATURDAY COLUMN

July 3, 1993

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It would be interesting to know what the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, would think about the condition of the United States today, the role and magnitude of its government, the degree of intrusion by the government into the private lives of all Americans and the dependence of millions of Americans on the government for their well-being.

Chances are, the lawyers, judges, doctors, merchants and farmers who signed the declaration would be shocked and have a difficult time comprehending or understanding how many freedoms have been taken away from the people of this country, compared with the relationship of government to private citizens 217 years ago when the historic document was signed.

And if the government has moved so boldly into the everyday life of most Americans in a relatively short historical time frame, what is the situation likely to be in the coming years? It is not pleasant to contemplate. There are few activities or pursuits that do not have a large degree of government control: housing, health care, education, land use, personal earnings, taxes, prayer in schools, food labeling, cities banning wood-burning fireplaces -- you name it. There is a city, state or federal law governing or controlling most everything. Some suggest the ever-growing role of government is in the best interest of the American citizenry, but others point out there are fewer and fewer freedoms in the U.S., year by year.

THOSE WHO fled to the shores of North America in 1620 and subsequent years were seeking freedom, a break from the governments of Europe and separation of church and state, and they were willing to endure terrible hardships to try to gain this freedom.

Last week, one of this country's finest reporters, Saul Pett, died. He enjoyed a distinguished career with the Associated Press and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for a feature story on the growth of federal bureaucracy. Following, are several paragraphs from Pett's story:

"The government of the United States is so big you can't say where it begins and where it ends. It is so shapeless, you can't diagram it with boxes because, after you put the president here and Congress there and the judiciary in a third place, where in the hell do you put the Ad Hoc Committee for the Implementation of PL89-306? Or for the Interdepartmental Screw Thread Committee? Or the Interglacial Panel on the Present?

"The government of the United States is so unstructured, it is owned by everybody and owned by nobody and run by nobody. Presidents run only a part of it. Presidents can't even find and sort out the separate parts . . .

"POOR OLD Uncle Sam. He does many essential things that only government can do. He is capable of great change, a necessity for governments that would survive. He has held the place together 205 years in more freedom and comfort than history ever knew. But he is a creature of diverse forces. He gets it on all sides and is perceived in many ways.

"A big, bumbling, generous, naive, inquisitive, acquisitive, intrusive, meddlesome giant with a heart of gold and holes in his pockets, an incredible hulk, a 10-ton marshmallow lumbering along an uncertain road of good intentions somewhere between capitalism and socialism, an implausible giant who fights wars, sends men to the moon, explores the ends of the universe, feeds the hungry, heals the sick, helps the helpless, a thumping complex of guilt trying mightily to make up for the past sins to the satisfaction of nobody, a split personality who most of his life through God helps those who help themselves and only recently concluded God needed help, a malleable, vulnerable colossus pulled every which way by everybody who wants a piece of him, which is everybody."

If this were the situation as seen by Pett 11 years ago, consider how even more intrusive or helpful, depending on a person's given situation, the government has become in such a short time. What will be the role and degree of government involvement as this nation enters the 21st Century?

"INDEPENDENCE DAY" means many things to many people. For some, it is merely a day off, a government holiday, or a day to set off fireworks, if the government allows such happenings. Others will think of the ultimate sacrifice made by hundreds of thousands of Americans who fought to keep America free and to help give freedom to millions of people in other countries. And in some cases, unfortunately in not enough cases, people will give varying degrees of thought to "independence," how precious independence is, how fragile it is and how it cannot be taken for granted.

For some reason, too many in governmental positions, at the local, state and national levels, think they know best how the overall citizenry should be controlled or "governed." They have little hesitation in taking away citizens' freedoms and giving some government body or agency the right to control how that individual will conduct his public and private activities.

Unfortunately, government keeps getting bigger and bigger, more domineering and threatening, with fewer and fewer freedoms left for the citizens of this country.

For some, the upcoming Fourth of July holiday does, indeed, signify and emphasize "independence" while for growing millions of Americans, there is less independence and more dependence on the government for their daily subsistence.

Not a pleasant situation.

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