It’s Time for Society to Do the Heavy Lifting

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.  Thomas Paine, Common Sense

During times of “do something” politics, our government has a track record of making bad situations worse.  How many more people would have protested the government’s post 9/11 Patriot Act or the creation of the Department of Homeland Security had they understood 20 years ago that Congress’s “do something” legislation would have opened the door to mass warrantless surveillance, reduced privacy, intrusive transportation screenings and a “Disinformation Board” to regulate speech?

For too many Americans the sharp divide between government and society has disappeared, with the former now presuming to speak in toto for the latter.  To appreciate this distinction, consider that the only “solution” overwhelmingly tossed around for reducing mass shootings is to pass laws making it more difficult, if not impossible, to own firearms.  When government is seen as the only answer to a problem then punishment becomes the only tool for effecting change.

If we still had proper regard for the role of society as separate from the blunt instrumentalities of government, responding to the illicit actions of a criminal offender by punishing non-offenders would seem absurd.  

Society, of course, has innumerable potential answers for handling gun violence. It could, for instance, rededicate itself to teaching our children the importance of morality, civic duty, and virtue.  It would reject the false notion that religion must be abandoned in the public square.  It could celebrate successful marriages, strong families and attentive mothers and fathers. 

It could dismiss the postmodern temptation to treat what is “right” and what is “wrong” as nothing more than contrived value judgments for creating and maintaining power.  It could choose to honor those with virtue and condemn those consumed with wickedness.

It could recommit to teaching individual responsibility and applauding individual achievement.  It could embrace responsible gun ownership as a duty expected of every citizen.  It could refuse, in other words, to hand over society’s inherent purpose to the cold machinery of government force and coercion.

Only when Americans come to the conclusion that society’s problems require cultural answers, and only when government gets out of the way, can America regain its footing and health. Gun control and heavy-handed government will never end this cycle of violence.  To rejuvenate society, society must do the heavy lifting.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, seen in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”   Thomas Paine

Source:  You can read The Answer to Mass Shootings Isn’t Bigger Government, But Better Citizens by J.B. Shurk, published at The Federalist, in full at the link provided.

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