Thursday, March 8, 2012

Limiting the Little Gods Of Government

Last month President Obama announced new national health care rules requiring all employers to provide 'free' contraception. He claimed the rules constitute a compromise with Catholics, because supposedly the insurer, not the employer, will absorb related costs. Certain Catholic Bishops who initially supported Obama's health care plan, reacted with dismay and anger, since the President had promised to respect their beliefs about contraception and abortion. But they should not have been surprised by the betrayal; although their intentions were good, their efforts were doomed by a misplaced faith in Government.

While the President touts the new rules as a compromise, opponents note that a number of employers self-insure, and even outside insurance companies indirectly pass the costs to employers. Directly or indirectly, employers will bear the costs of 'free' contraception. But this isn't just about birth-control pills. 'Contraception' as defined by government bureaucrats includes surgical sterilization and chemical abortions. President Obama's new rules will force coverage of abortion procedures.

While not all Americans agree with Catholic values regarding the sanctity of life, all should take heed of the dangers of investing too much power in the hands of Government.

Misplaced faith in the institutions of government is nothing new. People of various faiths have repeatedly turned to 'Government' to cure societal ills and take care of all needs. Ancient Jews infamously begged for monarchy, Thomas More suggested an imposed Utopia, and even Plato proposed a powerful Philosopher King. The premise is that a benevolent dictatorship can eradicate human suffering and allow us to all live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, the 'Government' on which we want to depend does not exist. Rather than better angels, government is made up of mere humans -who at best will make mistakes. At worst they will be utterly corrupt, and the majority will fall somewhere in between. In order to reach a theoretical Utopia, we must surrender rights and liberties to other mortals. Unfortunately, men and women in government often resemble the capricious and petty gods of Olympus, and our Philosopher King is more apt to behave like Zeus or Hera rather than a just and virtuous deity.

The Catholic Bishops were deceived when led to believe the President would respect their religious principles. However, even if Obama were a devout Catholic (hard to imagine, I know,) he is neither eternal nor omnipotent. Eventually some other 'god' would become president or king, and other judgments and values would be imposed. By then, government control over Catholic employers would have been firmly entrenched and religious objections rendered inconsequential.

Differences between various belief systems will never disappear, and with those differences there will always be a degree of intolerance. Recently in Central Texas, an anonymous person left notes objecting to Bibles on the desks of Cedar Park City Councilmen Tony Dale and Matt Powell. Apparently, 'Anonymous' would like the power to forbid Bibles on government property. But inordinate government power can lead to persecution of any group, and we could find that the Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, or Communist Manifesto are banned as well.

The lesson here is that while we all desire a better society, surrendering too many of our rights and liberties to 'Government' is doomed to failure. Many countries have attempted a government-imposed 'perfect' society, but the worst of human nature usually takes the helm and produces the kind of suffering that characterized Stalinist Russia. Government can provide a framework for society and work to protect the innocent, but its power must be limited. Excessive trust in the god of 'Government' never results in Utopia, but may very well create Hell on earth.

The above column was published in The Hill Country News and the Jarrell Star Ledger.  I was amused by one critic who said including the Communist Manifesto was inappropriate since it is a political work.  However, it takes a great leap of faith in the 'little gods of Government' to believe in the Communist Manifesto!  In fact Marx used the work to draw up a 'catechism' entitled Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith.  I would suggest that it is indeed, a work of theology.  I guess my critic missed the point entirely. 

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