Big Government or Not?

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)


It’s confusing sometimes, understanding when government is supposed to step in and when it isn’t.


Conservatives argue against “big government,”  but they also vouch for the right of the federal government to step in on some very personal issues. In the current discussion going on about same-sex marriage, the mantra of many Conservatives is that “we don’t need government to step in and redefine marriage.”


Yet, they want government to step in and “define” marriage in a way that fits into their ideology. Right?


Did the United States Supreme Court overstep its authority when it ruled that women have a constitutional right to have abortions? Are abortions, who has them and who does not, within the purview of the duties and decisions of the governments, via the nation’s highest court? (


Many people think the SCOTUS did  overstep its authority in the Roe Vs. Wade case, but they are pulling for the high court to settle the current disagreement on same-sex marriage. I am totally confused. When is “big government” all right? Does a court ever have the right to decide what is “right” in such personal issues?


It seems like we are straddling a rail. We want government, big government, but only on the things where there is an ideological dispute, right? We want big government when there is a tragedy, or a natural disaster. We don’t want big government when it is too concerned with helping the poor, spending money on people whose lives seem to many out of control. Big government should stay out of those kinds of things. Of course, had it not been for “big government,” many people would have been swallowed in the nation’s most recent economic debacle. but many people are still very critical of the government’s attempt to help people who were drowning.


So, “big government” is out of line when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty and economic despair, right?


But big government needs to come in and set the records straight when it comes to personal situations involving sexuality and abortion, right? In those cases, the government gives into a responsibility to make moral decisions for the citizens of the United States. Right?


The bottom line is that there is no consistency on when big government is necessary and needed and expected. When Hurricane Sandy came, people were expecting government to step in and help those who had been so severely impacted. Had “big government” not done that, it would have been criticized soundly.


And now, big government is being called upon to decide who gets to get married and who does not…but this is a moral question, right? Is government really allowed to tell people what they can or cannot do as individuals? Is that the purview of government?


The thought of the government having the power to decide who can get married, and thereby be entitled to the legal benefits of marriage, is as distasteful as the idea of the government having the authority to tell women how many children they can have, and whether or not they can get an abortion. I don’t believe that abortion is good, but it doesn’t seem that government has the right to tell a woman if she can or cannot get one. Isn’t that kind of subversive?


It seems like there ought to be a new constitutional convention or something, to define big government and to clarify what the federal government can and cannot do, and what it must and must not do.


At the very least, though, it seems that those who rail against “big government” ought to tailor their criticisms. The argument against “big government” ought to explain that folks are only against big government when it comes to allocating money, especially for the poor and downtrodden, the oppressed and pretty much forgotten citizens of this country. When it comes to defining morality, though, and what personal decisions Americans are allowed to make, big government needs to step in and do…what a good government does.


Do I have it right?


A candid observation …




God and Government, Really

It occurred to me that we humans treat God and government in much the same way.

When times are good, we tend to marginalize God and we rail against “big government.”

But when the bottom falls from beneath us, we run to God or government or both, depending on the situation.

Nicholas Kristoff wrote an article in The New York Times about a former employee of Chase Bank whose job it was to award sub prime loans to people whom the bank knew were poor risks. If things fell apart, the bank reasoned, the government would bail the banks out …and no one would be the wiser.

Things did fall apart and the government (that would be big government) did in fact bail banks and corporations out, and the people who had been granted loans the banks knew they’d never be able to pay were left out in the cold – some of them literally.

Big government did what a government is supposed to do, right?

In times of economic prosperity, however, big government is spurned and scorned. It is pushed to the side; a government too involved in the life of the masses of people makes it too “socialist.” Whatever America is, it is not socialist. God forbid.

The same type of marginalization of God tends to be a reality. When times are good, for way too many people God is an afterthought, or if not an afterthought, an unwelcome reminder that there is a God who is the same whether times are good or not.

In Biblical literature, the Israelites, over and over, rejected God when times were good, when they were enjoying economic prosperity and benefited from all that money gives. They failed to understand that God doesn’t like to be marginalized and they failed to appreciate God’s anger against such insensitive treatment.

When times got bad, however, and they always got bad – these same people would fall before God and ask for forgiveness and mercy and relief from their dilemmas.

Government doesn’t much care, one would suppose, if it is marginalized. Government, though it is supposed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people,” doesn’t have a personality with which adherents have to deal. Government takes its knocks;  some politicians do what they can for “the least of these” when the anti-big government cries are loud, and they see that those whose voices cannot be heard are those who are themselves marginalized, with seemingly no voice.

God, on the other hand, according to the Bible, doesn’t take very well to being marginalized. If we are to believe the Biblical texts, then God must be fuming because the recent spate of prosperity encouraged way too many people, some of them church-going believers – to push Him/Her to the side.

But that’s how we treat God and government. We consider them our tools, our property, really, to use when we need them, but to be pushed onto a nice shelf when we are doing all right.

A candid observation …

God and Government, Really © 2011 Candid Observations