“Bad” people make “good” government?

A professor at Valencia College in Florida recently asked his students to write an essay describing their vision of the “American Dream.” According to the professor, more than 80 percent of his students indicated that they believed the government providing them stuff was part of that dream. Pres. Obama came up with a whole campaign theme called “Julia” to tap into this notion.

One student wrote:

“As human beings, we are not really responsible for our own acts, and so we need government to control those who don’t care about others.”

For the sake of argument, let’s accept the student’s first premise. Yes, people tend to duck responsibility. Humans possess flawed character. Theologian John Calvin went as far as  to describe it as “total depravity.” The comic strip character Calvin proved the point on the pages of newspapers across the country for many years. We often don’t act with compassion. We tend toward greed. And we like to use power to further our own agenda at the expense of others – if we can get away with it.

A dim view of human nature indeed, but one that reason and observation makes at least credible.

But if people really fail to act responsibly on a regular basis, does it follow that we need a big, strong government to “control” them and “make them do the right thing?”