Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 23, 2008—Just How Stupid Are We?

Consider This for June 23, 2008—Just How Stupid Are We?

“What good fortune for those in power that people to not think.” Adolf Hitler

At one time we all had to take a year or two of Civics to learn about government and how it affected our day to day lives. Civics went the way of Driver Education and Wood Shop in the never ending quest of educators to teach our children more relevant things. Our current level of knowledge about government and the fact that we are all terrible drivers only proves the error of our ways.

I watched a program about a new book “Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter by Rick Shenkman. Rick was on CNN last week with Rick Sanchez talking about his book and what he had to say really resonated with me.

His thesis is that most voters do not have a clue as to how government works. People vote based on how they feel about someone or some issue rather than grasping the importance of how they actually get to choose their government and are able to decide how it is run and who is in charge

I am not recommending the book because I have not read it yet. I think that it is probably unethical and maybe immoral to recommend something that you have not personally read. Imagine recommending a restaurant that you have never visited?

I had a student a couple of years ago who refused to register to vote because she felt that her vote would not make a difference. When she finished my class she was registered and had some very strong opinions about the importance of her vote and how she could influence government. The irony with her was that she was from Florida, the land of the hanging chad, and the presidential election that was won by a person who did not get the most votes.

Let me share with you the basics of the government that you get to choose and pay for.

Our government is patterned after the government in England with some substantial differences.

There are three types of government, Federal, State and Local. The Federal government is easily described and you hear about it daily on the news.

State government is different in each state. In a Federalist system of government as we have each state has its own constitution and laws. Each state is much like its own country in many ways. Most of us have lived in two or more states and know how laws can be different. The current issue of same sex marriage is an example.

Local government is counties, towns and districts. There are 63 counties in Colorado and hundreds of towns and districts. Each county is an arm of state government but towns and districts are not. They are pretty much autonomous.

There are three branches of government. Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Again, this is patterned after the government in England. At the time the Executive branch in England was the King or Queen. There was even talk about making George Washington King after the Revolutionary War.

At the federal level the Executive is the President of the United States and his Cabinet and various functions given to the president under the constitution. At the state level it is the governor and in local government it could be the county commissioners, the mayors or the chairman of the board of a special district.

The legislative function at the federal level is congress which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This is also true at the state level. At the local level it would be the board of county commissioners, town council and the board of directors of a special district.

The Judicial function at the federal level is the Supreme Court with each state also having a Supreme Court. At the local level this function under law is given to District Courts for appeal and review of actions of local government.

Of course there is a lot more to government than what I have stated. It is up to you to find out more on your own. Just keep in mind that you do get the kind of government that you deserve.

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