What Should Government Do?
By Wayne Spencer - October 12, 2003
The following commentary was created to provide talking points at our local church discussion group.
This discussion, as I read it in the e-mails, seems to have bogged down into a legalistic discussion of what "can" Government do and what "can't" Government do according to the constitution and according to the Platform of the Libertarian Party. We are meeting here as Unitarian, Universalists. We are not meeting here as representatives of any particular political party.
As Unitarians, Universalists our concern should be for all of the people of the world.
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote (The Seven Principles)
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
I thought that it could be useful to also have the values of the Green Party at hand:
The Green Party of Virginia - The Ten Key Values.
Greens in the United States are defined by Ten Key Values which we hold. There is no official definition of these values. The following is one interpretation:
- Ecological Wisdom
Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. We advocate stewardship of our resources for the continued health of our communities and our planet.
- Social Justice
Everyone should share in the fruits of our society regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, age, or disability. We work for a world in which all can live free of fear and discrimination
- Grassroots Democracy
Citizens have the right and responsibility to participate in the environmental, political, and economic decisions that affect their lives.
We reject violence at all levels of society, from the family to the nation. We promote peace by working for justice and by advocating non-violent resolution to conflict.
Concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few contributes to social and economic injustice as well as environmental destruction. We call for the return of local decision-making so individuals and communities may act in their own best interests.
- Community-Based Economics
We support the strengthening of local communities by encouraging economic self-reliance in all ways practical.
We call for cooperative ways of interacting to replace the cultural ethics of domination and control. We actively promote equal rights for all citizens.
- Respect for Diversity
We support the cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity among all people. We also cherish and encourage the preservation of the earth's biodiversity.
- Personal & Global Responsibility
As individuals, we strive to be mindful of our interconnectedness, to consider the effect of our actions and lifestyle choices on the earth and all its inhabitants.
- Future Focus & Sustainability
For love of our children, we consider the long range consequences of current actions. For the sake of future generations, we seek to create a society which meets the needs of everyone within the natural limits of the earth.
What do I think Government should do ?
A. Provide for the common defense.
1. Provide secure borders.
2. Abide by all of our treaties.
a. Treaties with Native Americans.
3. Lead the world toward environmental stability.
b. Treaties with other nations including full support of the U.N. Charter and the World Court to which the U.S. is a signer.
a. Reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels.
4. Stop the age-old practice of maintaining a huge, burdensome military that is primarily for the benefit of a relatively few multinational corporations operating at the expense of our own citizens as well as to the detriment of many third-world countries. Our military now has a presence in over 120 countries.
b. Increase the use of renewable energy.
c. Establish a new yardstick for the measurement of sustainable economic growth..
5. Help establish true free global trade, in place of imperialism.
6. Respect the religions and cultures of the world.
7. Respect the passports of travelers who are naturalized citizens.
8. Respect human rights and abide by international law.
B. Provide Free Public Education
1. From Head-Start through to a Baccalaureate Degree.
2. Fund all of education at the Federal level through general taxation.
3. For all citizens and residents.
C. Provide Health Care
1. Universal - for all citizens and residents.
2. Single Payer - Federal Government administered.
3. Funded by general tax revenue.
D. Government Pension
1. Universal - for all retired citizens.
2. Single Payer - Federal Government administered.
3. Retirement age of 62.
4. Funded by general tax revenue.
5. Same living-wage amount for everyone.
6. Index amount with increase in cost of living.
Provide adequate, responsible and cost-effective nation-wide system.
1. Provide adequate short-term unemployment benefits.
2. Provide work for needed public works projects and needed improvements and maintenance for our national infrastructure.
3. Provide a national interest need-based monetary system in place of the present corporate need-based system.
4. Insist that the Labor Department be headed by prominent labor leaders and not business leaders. Save the business leaders to head the Commerce Department.
G. Provide a National Transportation System
1. Nationalize this country's rail transportation.
2. Fully fund a modern high-speed passenger rail system.
3. Nationalize the airline passenger system.
4. Maintain, expand and modernize our nation's highway system.
5. Make it cost-effective to move freight via rail where possible.
H. Maintain High Environmental Standards
1. Phase out the use of coal and oil products for the production of electricity.
2. Maintain high standards for the cutting of timber.
3. Maintain high standards for mining operations.
4. Make the clean air standards for trucks and buses the same as for cars since the burning of diesel fuel is one of the largest sources for cancer-causing pollutants in most of our cities and towns.
5. Make all Government and military sites adhere to the same high standards as industry.
I. Progressive Taxation
1. For tax purposes treat all income from all sources the same including inheritance.
2. Set up a progressive income tax system based solely upon the amount of income. Very low marginal incomes at a zero-rate up to a rate of sixty percent at the highest level. Adjust the brackets according to the federal budget in order to achieve a balance.
3. Eliminate ALL tax incentives or loopholes.
4. Eliminate all corporate income tax.
5. Eliminate most use taxes. In many cases these taxes cost more to collect and manage than they produce in revenue.
6. Eliminate all payroll taxes except Federal Income Tax.
7. Eliminate all sales taxes, Federal, State and Local.
8. Fund State and Local Governments from the Federal level on a per capita basis.
J. Create a Department of Ethical Standards
Filling in the details of this item would make an interesting topic for discussion at another time.
K. Criminal Justice System
1. Decriminalize the use of drugs.
2. Phase non-violent criminals out of prison and into rehab, halfway houses and parole on a case by case basis beginning with those that have served the longest.
3. Give all prisoners the right to vote in local, state and federal elections.
4. Create a blue ribbon panel made up of lawyers picked in secret election by all members of the bar. This panel would serve for life. The purpose of this panel would be to choose all judges for all appointments for local, state and federal judges. This would remove the present problem of elected judges responding to the often-hyped knee-jerk whims of the electorate to the detriment of justice. This system is similar to the one used in the U.K.
5. Remove the power of all legislatures from passing mandatory sentences. This is a judicial function.
6. The Supreme Courts of each state, to insure adherence to the respective state constitutions and to the U.S. Constitution should review all laws passed by all legislatures at the time of passage. The Supreme Court, for adherence to the U.S. Constitution, should review all laws passed by congress. These reviews should be made prior to sending the legislation for signature by the state and federal executive. Local courts should review all local laws passed. This is similar to the system in Canada's federal system.
In conclusion, I am sure that there are many other valid things that Government should do. This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list, but rather a list of talking points.
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Copyright © 2003 by Wayne Spencer - This article may be freely distributed with this copyright notice attached.