Lately, a swirl of troubling stories have been buffeting us — at least those of us paying attention: political figures hounded out of restaurants by ranting mobs; “bombs” mailed out to intimidate controversial public figures; budget-shattering government spending; etc. But in the midst of all that, an under-the-radar report out of the Great Lake State brings a heartening note and reminds us: a) there’s good news out there — some noble accomplishments breaking out among all the darkness and nonsense; b) government is needed for some legitimate, even laudable, duties; and c) yes, it’s possible for “the State” to do those things well.
A one-day sweep by multiple law enforcement agencies in Wayne County, Michigan, resulted in the recovery of 123 missing children, the U.S. Marshals Service is now reporting. …[D]ubbed Operation MISafeKid … [t]he successful operation involved the Detroit, Michigan, missing child recovery unit of the U.S. Marshals sex offender investigations branch, which coordinated “with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — Office of Inspector General; the Michigan State Police; and law enforcement officers from several other Wayne County agencies,” the Detroit Free Press noted. …
The effort was aimed in particular at locating victims of sex trafficking …
Out of 301 missing children case files, 123 children were identified and recovered safely. …
The agency said … “The message to the missing children and their families that we wish to convey is that we will never stop looking for you”.
Very cool. Genuinely wonderful news. Government at its best.
Indeed, the words “government” and “wonderful” don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
Even so, constitutionalist conservatives too often send off the vibe we think anarchy is the way to go; that a society with no government at all is the ultimate objective.
The lion’s share of our founders certainly never envisioned such an ideological destination. I’d hope we who boldly claim them as our philosophical forebears would embrace their perspective, not some twisted, chaos-courting mutation of it.
It was the iconoclastic Thomas Paine who tagged government “even in its best state … but a necessary evil”.
However, the much more influential, founding-era luminary James Madison (the “Father of the Constitution”) opted for another assessment:
“[W]hat is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” he asked. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” (Federalist 51)
Later in life, he elaborated, “It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a misfortune. This necessity however exists; and the problem to be solved is, not what form of Government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect.”
Mark me down with Madison on this one. The distinctions between his view of the State and Paine’s may be nuanced, but they’re material. As Mark Twain might have put it, like the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug”.
Madison, happily, also agrees with the Bible on this topic: government is God’s partial solution for dealing with a fallen — sinful, imperfect, damaged – humanity. The establishment of legal codes, courts, law enforcement, military, etc. to keep in check mankind’s potentially civilization-annihilating wickedness? His idea from the start (Romans 13:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-14).
So, coming to the rescue of vulnerable children menaced by predatory perverts, whether in southeastern Michigan or elsewhere? (And, where possible, bringing to justice the deviant miscreants in the process?) There’s little better work for the civil authorities than that.
Of course, Washington, D.C. and state and local governments pulsating across the fruited plain are terrifically occupied with other pursuits. If doubting that fact, 2018’s $779 billion deficit bears witness — as do the financial crises plaguing commonwealths and municipalities north, south, east and west. It costs a stratospheric sum to solve everyone’s problems, commandeer and redistribute one person’s earning for another’s use, churn out an inexhaustible barrage of regulations, micromanage the concerns of every American citizen.
One could be forgiven for concluding our elected and appointed officials are involved in lots more that they ought to be — lots and lots more.
Once again, that’s hardly the arrangement our Revolutionary-age giants entertained for the new-born Republic.
In his First Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson pronounced, “… [A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
Further to Jefferson’s notion of what comprises “good government”, the aforementioned Madison wrote: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.” (Federalist 45)
Many of that Jefferson/Madison generation acknowledged reasons both moral and unapologetically practical for insisting the federal “State” address only those matters assigned it by the national charter they ratified; and nothing more. Whenever government wanders afield of its authorized jurisdiction, liberty eventually, inevitably suffers. Even more down-to-earth: every superfluous, unwarranted intrusion into people’s lives, saps governmental energies which ought to be focused on more constitutionally anchored responsibilities; and pilfers finite dollars which either should remain in the pockets of those who earned them or plowed into Uncle Sam’s properly vested, comparatively few and tightly spelled-out business.
Snatching kids out of the sex-trafficking industry’s nightmarish pit? Big thumbs up to Federal, State and Local authorities. Keep up the good work.
Barging into the lives of those same young people, every time they turn around, everywhere they go, for the rest of their prayerfully well-ordered and productive lives? Sorry, our Founding Fathers couldn’t summon any enthusiasms for government of that ilk. Neither can I.
Image: Screen Shot: WXYZ-TV Detroit Channel 7; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p97LFy8JKhg