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The role of government
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Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around Newton County regarding our local government - to raise taxes or not, to lay off employees or not. If there are layoffs of employees, which employees should stay or go? Also, there is the whole matter of buying railroad tracks or not, to build trails or not and if built how to keep them safe and how to fund them.

All of this discussion has made me ask what is the role of government. Is it to provide necessary services to the taxpayers? Is it to provide everything on the politicians' wish lists? Is it to buy up private properties from the private sector such as railroad tracks?

All of this discussion and opposing points of view reminded me of a quote from one of the best presidents in our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party's first president, in which he defines liberty and how the same word can mean different things to different people depending on their points of view.

Lincoln said, "We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty.
And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny."

From my perspective and point of view as a conservative, I believe government's vital role is to protect its citizens as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. When our nation was founded it was founded with individuals who worked hard and success was given to them upon the product of their own labor. Today, unfortunately, more and more we are seeing people prosper from the other person's labor. We were founded as a republic, but more and more we are behaving as a democracy, which is unsustainable because as people learn they can get more from the government, the voters will vote accordingly and vote in politicians who will give them more. This would be what President Lincoln spoke about - the product of the other man's labor.

In my opinion our local government should not be buying railroad tracks even if the money is there. If it is important to have such a trail system, then why not get a group of citizens or a charity together to buy the land necessary for the trail system? The reason no citizen or group would probably ever touch this deal is because of several reasons: the cost (very expensive), security for the trails and the liability the citizens or group could face (safety and possible law suits) and maintenance of the trails. And, it is not the business of the government to buy up railroad tracks to hold and possibly use one day. If anything, the county should be exploring what properties it could sell.

The main role of the government is to protect its citizens. Our brave men and women, local heroes of the fire department/EMS, sheriff's department and police protect and serve us everyday and their jobs should never be considered for layoffs as they have roles that are vital to each citizen's safety. No one wants workers to lose their jobs, but let's look at this like a business.

If there were people whose departments have slowed down due to the economic recession, those jobs should be considered for layoffs. First, before layoffs, perhaps certain pork could be cut from the budget. What is wrong with decreasing the size of government? As a county grows, it may require the government to grow, but as an economy slows down and decreases, then it may be necessary to then decrease the government - it is just common sense in my opinion.

Elizabeth Christian is the 1st vice chair of the Newton County Republican Party.