Reagan famously said “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”. This quote has been taken out of context and twisted into implying that the government is incapable of solving problems, so the size of government should always be reduced by cutting taxes and eliminating government regulation.
But if you read the entire original quote, you can see that this isn’t at all what Reagan meant:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden.
Reagan was saying that everyone must share in the burden of governing, not just people actually in government. Governing is everyone’s responsibility, not just some elite group, starting with being responsible for ourselves.
I was thinking about this while reading the latest disclosures about the Florida Republican Party. Top officials of the Florida GOP are facing criminal charges, and now the former office manager has broken her silence and is painting a picture of rampant corruption, waste, and fraud. The office manager, Susan Wright, describes an elite “club” of top party officials who spent millions of dollars on personal vacations, birthday parties for their children, gambling, Wayne Newton concert tickets, expensive cigars, fancy dinners, jobs for friends, and even oil portraits of themselves.
What makes this even more stunning is the sense of entitlement displayed by members of the “club”. At the same time that the officials were misappropriating millions of dollars, the party itself was going broke. When Wright questioned these lavish expenditures, she was told that it was none of her business, and that she would lose her job if she didn’t keep quiet. The top officials even set up a shell company that they owned, and funneled party funds into the company. When Wright objected, she was summarily fired.
The bottom line is, it isn’t government that is the problem, it is bad government that is the problem. When you let some elite group take over any organization — whether it is lobbyists taking over Congress, or a small group of crooks stealing money from a political party — that’s the real problem. The Florida Republican party shows just how bad it can get, and really makes you wonder: if they can’t even govern their own party, how can we expect them to run the government?