Running a country is no simple task, but we have the Constitution to guide us
Editor's note: Robert Faber writes occasional columns for AnnArbor.com about aging, politics and other issues.
Nobody said it was easy. Running a household efficiently and effectively, keeping within budget and pleasing all its residents, is an intimidating challenge for even the most efficient and dedicated of managers.
And running a business that satisfies the needs of the market it serves, while remaining profitable for its investors, is a task that makes household responsibilities seem like a walk in the park.
But running a country that is attentive to the many needs of its diverse population and to all the varied interests that are necessary and responsible for reaching those goals -- accounting for the dreams and traditions that have guided us and sustained us since our founding more than two centuries ago -- makes all the rest little more than child’s play.
Running an organization the size and complexity of the United States is truly mind-boggling. Even aside from organizing the programs and personnel necessary to keep us afloat and preparing for such unforeseeable disasters as wars and hurricanes and plagues, just the task of keeping incomes and expenses in some sort of balance is enough to traumatize the most insensitive soul.
So it may be a bit unfair to come down too hard on those who run the show from Washington, but they are the ones, after all, who insist on the credit when things go well and who point disapproving fingers at their critics when it falls apart, so they are also the ones who must ultimately be held accountable. And the essence of that responsibility is the welfare of the people by whom this nation was built and for whom these legislators serve. Now their most difficult and delicate problem is in defining the needs of our nation -- honestly and honorably -- and determining how those needs can best be met.
Aye, and therein lies the quandary. There are those who feel that Big Business provides the jobs that fuel the economy that feeds the people that builds the future that keeps us happy, so it is the needs of Big Business that must be attended and nurtured and protected. Others narrow the list to just those most consequential players like the biggest banks and global investment firms and major defense contractors and others who are charged with keeping us free in a hostile world ... and fuels the economy that feeds the people that builds the ... etc. And still others concentrate their support on the many temples of worship designed to sustain us when all else fails to satisfactorily fuel the economy that feeds the people that builds ... etc. Or maybe, and more likely, none of the above -- or at least, none of the above should be granted the honored spot on center stage. The original focus of our founding was on the people to be served. Instituting the most efficient means for the provision of that service, of course, is an essential part of the process, but that remains secondary to the basic goal of providing for the people. In the Constitution’s pledge to “promote the general Welfare” it is the People who are the focus of those must be served - at least on a par with the providers of that service.
Efficiency in the provision and distribution of those services is essential, of course, but there must be a core set of principles by which those needs are identified and on which their programs of support are designed and built. Helping secure the health and satisfy the needs of profit-oriented suppliers in order to protect their firms and employees and customers is a reasonable responsibility of government, but extending those benefits to the rest of our nation’s citizens -- even without ties to business -- is no less a national obligation.
It may not be fair to concentrate too rigorously on the occasional misdeed or mismanagement or mistake that marks so much of our nation’s performance when so many options are in play, but ultimately our actions must be guided by concern for the well-being of our larger population.
And I suggest that the basic principles most compatible with our people and our traditions are those articulated in our Constitution. That sacred document -- in its pledge to “form a more perfect Union” and to “promote the general Welfare ... ” -- provides the most efficient, reliable, honorable standard on which to build and protect our future -- and overrides all other competing interests.
Bob Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He and his wife, Eunice, owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.