Ask yourself a question: What is the purpose of government? Most folks will say something “nice” like this: The purpose of government is to make our lives better. With appreciation to Captain Kangaroo and all the kids in the kindergarten class, may I suggest that we’ve been fed such horse hooey long enough?
The sad truth of the matter is that every time government “makes our lives better,” it’s done at the expense of someone. Either everyone gets a benefit paid for by a few, or a chosen few get something that comes at the expense of everyone.
Now let me propose a different explanation for the purpose of government: The purpose of government is to prevent fraud, abuse, and violence so that the people of any given constituency can pursue the betterment of their own lives and the lives of those they hold dear. This, I humbly suggest, is the vision of those of us who think that government is best when it governs least, or when it governs only when it must. Why? Because governance controls and limits the options of the governed. This is necessary when the governed foist fraud or misrepresentation upon others, but government is doing so much more than preventing that. Government seems to be everywhere and in the middle of everything, and citizens seem always to be answering to government representatives. Imagine how many things our city and county leaders wouldn’t be involved in if they had an understanding of limited government.
On June 15th the City of Ocean Springs is set to open its new $7 Million Sportsplex on Highway 57. My busy work schedule will make it impossible for me to find the time to enjoy this lovely new facility. I’m a full-time college professor and my wife and I own a business in Ocean Springs. Like others in our fair city, we’re busy working hard in order to pay city and county taxes. After all, our leaders have lots of important projects on which to spend that tax money (like the city’s new Sportsplex and the county’s expansion of soccer fields). My wife and I can’t enjoy these things because we’re working to pay for them. If county and city officials think they should watch out for our health, however, perhaps they could chip in to buy us an exercise bike for our living room.
Let’s get back to the purpose of government. Watching some of the leadership of Jackson County and Ocean Springs, one might think they believe the purpose of government is to figure out how to spend all the money they have managed to take from taxpayers. Now that Ocean Springs has a new Sportsplex, of course it needs a fancy new sign. It’s not enough to point out the entrance to the facility; Mayor Moran wants a big sign with all the bells and whistles. She seems to think that citizens aren’t smart enough to learn about the activities at the Sportsplex on their own. According to the Sun Herald, the sign will have “an area for advertising and en electronic display in the middle to advertise upcoming events.”
There’s just one little problem: the proposed sign would violate the county sign ordinance (the Sportsplex is not within the city limits so it is subject to county ordinance). Actually, as county supervisor John McKay pointed out, there really is another problem as well. You see, one day the city will probably annex the Sportsplex and here’s a surprise: the proposed sign would also violate city ordinance. According to the Sun Herald, Mayor Moran said “it could be considered a billboard.” That’s an easy solution. But would it be offered so quickly if the proposed sign was the brainchild of a privately-owned business?
This is but one more example why government that governs too much actually hurts us all. I am quite sure that the Sportsplex will be lovely, but I’m not so sure it was necessary right now–when the nation’s economy is tattered and nearing a second round of heart palpitations (there’s no recovery yet, folks). In fact, I’m not so sure that it’s the job of counties and cities to build multimillion-dollar sports complexes.
Of course, if our leaders are going to build such monuments to their own generosity with our money, they also have to advertise them. And why bother to follow the regulations that are imposed on everyone else? Governments make the rules. They don’t have to abide by them.
I applaud Supervisor McKay for questioning the matter of signage. Let’s hope he doesn’t give in on the matter. Mr. McKay, if government is going to regulate its citizens, then it must abide by the laws it forces upon us all. Anything else is plain hypocrisy and abuse of power, even when it comes to “nice” things like the Sportsplex.