I just finished reading Ken Trainor’s column [Liberal? Conservative? Free-market Socialist? Viewpoints, May 2] concerning political labels. I found it interesting, as I do most of his thoughts. Along the spectrum from Right to Left, I suspect that most people who know me best would place my politics more to the “Liberal” than to the “Conservative” end of the spectrum.
So be it. My voting record tends in that direction. Generally.
However, I would prefer to come at the issue from a rather different direction. What is the purpose of a democratic government?
In my mind, the purpose of democratic government is to do for its citizens only those things that the individual citizen cannot do alone. Two hundred-plus years ago in a fledging country of approximately eight million souls (I never knew whether that number counted our slaves as one or as three-fifths — perhaps you could research that for me) the demands on government were relatively simple.
To create a fair and equitable constitution. To protect the rights of all individuals other than slaves and indentured Irishmen. To establish a secure currency. To provide free traffic on the high seas so that our commerce could flourish. To establish a fair judiciary and a thoughtful body of freemen who would guide our legislative process.
All good conservative concepts — and I say that without jest. We did crush slavery and Martin Luther King and other great Americans did give hope and direction to our black brothers and sisters. All of that has nothing to do with political tendencies. It is purely basic to our democracy.
Ken, the creation of our government was a noble and successful task. I say that proudly, both as an American looking back at my immigrant Irish family and as the grandfather of two absolutely sensational granddaughters whose roots are in Malawi, Africa. Nowhere else on God’s green Earth could my family have prospered so beautifully.
But am I a Conservative? Or a Liberal?
I repeat: The purpose of good government is to do for its citizens only those things that the individual citizen cannot do alone. I believe that, Ken.
But in the 200-plus years since the building blocks of our nation were set in place, civic life has become so more complex. And much more demanding of its citizens.
Our issues are so much more complex today. The Left prognosticates. The right declares. And I say, “Where is Everett Dirksen when we need him most?” Compromise is essential to good governance.
OK, the “conservatives” are correct: smaller government is desirable. I have no issue with that. But we live in an incredibly complex society today, a society that our Founding Fathers could not have begun to imagine.
Those things that the individual citizen cannot do alone is a hell of a lot of stuff.
P.S. Until your comments the week before [One good thought can be contagious, Ken Trainor, April 25], I thought I was the last remaining “hopeless romantic.” But you failed to mention “Always” by Irving Berlin. It was the recessional hymn at my wife’s funeral Mass a dozen years ago. Think about its implications.