As an experiment, try substituting the words, "We, the People" every time you read or use the word "government." Or use the word "our" instead of "the" when you say "the government." Our government, us, we, the people. This really does change the way we understand the relationship between our government and ourselves, doesn't it?
The other day I brought up the example of Ronald Reagan's famous saying, "Government is the problem." When you look at that saying in this new way, he is saying "We, The People are the problem." Doesn't that sound like he is expressing a profoundly anti-democratic sentiment? Is that really what we want our leaders to be promoting?
How many other places do we discover similar anti-democratic sentiments? How about when we hear about "limited government?" Are conservatives saying that they want to limit the power of the people? What about when they talk about getting rid of government regulations? Do conservatives want to stop the people from regulating what corporations do? When you think about what their words really mean, it sure starts to sound that way.
Conservatives have worked hard to make "government" a bad word. They complain about "big government." They complain about "government schools." But what happens when we substitute a form of "We, the People" into their slogans? The whole meaning seems to change.
Behind-the-scenes conservative leader Grover Norquist is known (to some of us) for having said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Think about what he is saying about democracy there. He wants to drown it!
Besides fewer decisions made by "the government," another thing conservatives say they want is more decisions made by the "private sector." Let's examine what these words really mean. Business.com offers this definition of "private sector": "Part of national economy made up of, and resources owned by, private enterprises." Wikipedia offers, "In economics, the private sector is that part of the economy which is both run for profit and is not controlled by the state."
So when conservatives say more decisions should be made by the private sector than by the government, aren't they saying that instead of We, The People making decisions we should hand the decision-making power over to the corporations? Is this really what we want?
Sure, the words about "smaller government" and "deregulation" sound good, but when you really think about what they are saying, maybe it isn't such a good idea after all. At least, if we think democracy is a good idea, that is.
This piece originally appeared at Speak Out California