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The art and science of politics

The recent Student Government elections got me thinking about what people often ask me when I tell them I’m a political science major. They usually respond with something like, “So, you’re going to be a politician, huh?” I’m sure to the delight of many readers, my answer is always no.

Besides the fact that I am an introvert, my main reason for not wanting to run for any type of public office is that I don’t think I could ever be elected — at least not with the way things are today.

I remember that for my final presentation for a legislative internship program that I participated in last spring here at USF, I made the comment that I would probably never run for office because I’m too ideological. What I meant was that I’m too much of a liberty nut that most people today would feel somewhat uncomfortable voting for me. The funny, and telling, thing is I would probably have had a lot better chance of being elected if this were sometime before the 20th century.

I say this because today’s electorate doesn’t seem to have as great an understanding and appreciation for liberty. It’s been that way for about a century or more. Gradually, the public’s acceptance of limited government in many parts of our lives has dwindled.

A good example of this is the current Social Security reform debate. Years ago, particularly in our country’s early years, the idea that the government would actually force workers to put part of their wages into a government old-age-insurance program would have been flatly rejected, if not laughed at.

The same would be true of other government programs and agencies like AFDC, FCC, IRS and all sorts of other acronyms. Each program or agency has taken away some amount of freedom from the people for whom it was designed to serve. Each, in my mind, involves some aspect of government encroaching on the liberty of individuals in a free society.

The bottom line is basically this: If it doesn’t have to do with the violation of a person’s rights to life, liberty or property by another person, then government should butt out. That rules out everything from the minimum wage to the banning of drugs. Of course there’s a logistical exception for tasks like the building of roads. Even then, most of that responsibility can be left to the local communities.

In that sense, I essentially agree with the late Sen. Barry Goldwater when he said, “My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.”

I’ve occasionally joked to friends that if I were to be elected to any type of public office, I would probably vote no on just about everything. That’s my limited-government belief at work. I guess that I just have this crazy notion that government is involved too much in our lives. Because of this, I’m not likely to rack up many votes should I ever decide to run for public office.

Too many people, in my estimation, have become accepting of government’s encroachment on their lives. People have allowed government to take more and more of their responsibilities away from them and, as a result, their freedom as well.

Big government has been compared to a nanny. It promotes programs that keep citizens dependent on it. It’s hard for those who have grown accustomed to relying on that nanny to break free and become independent. Any call for people to grow up and break free is not likely to gain a lot of support from today’s voters.

One sign of unlimited government is the increase in promises from politicians: “If you elect me, I will give you (fill in whatever here).” If I were to run for office, the only promise I would give to voters would be to leave them alone.

As a result, the prospect for me ever attaining public office through a majority vote looks dim. But I sleep in peace at night knowing that at least two people would support my potential candidacy: my parents. At least I think they would; sometimes I wonder about my mom.

Adam Fowler is a senior majoring in political science.