On July 4 this column sometimes turns its thoughts to the system of government under which we live.
It takes note of injustices, abuses of power, inequities, and malfunctions in administration, but nevertheless concludes that the system itself is a very good one. As I see it, the things that are wrong in our country are wrong in spite of the system, not because of it.
In the days that follow publication of such views. I invariably receive a few letters that contain contrary opinions. Most are quite sharp in their criticism of the system and of any body who speaks well of it.
The pattern in these letters is to list all of the conditions of life that are less than ideal (including things like "air pollution caused by the unrestricted ownership of automobiles"), and then to ask, "How can you defend a system that permits such conditions to exist?"
I say it is a good system because it lets people make their own choices. It is better than any system that imposes decision from above. There is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.
Critics should keep in mind that Utopia exists in fiction only, not in real life.If they want to engage in intellectual exercises that deal with a make-believe world in which everything runs according to an ideal master plan. I see no harm in that. In fact, there might even be some good in it. Encouraging people to think about progress can help to speed progress.
But let us not confuse Utopia with reality. In the real world, people are stubbornly addicted to being individuals. They offer bitter resistance to edicts imposed upon them by others - even "benevolent" edicts.
For those who want a system that permits people a high degree of individual freedom. I know of no better place than the United States. We may be unwise to accept polluted air as the price we pay for unrestricted ownership of automobiles, but that is a decision we made of our own free will, and a decision we can alter when enough people think it needs to be altered. It was a decision permitted by our system, not one imposed by it.
I think people are better off under our system for three major reasons. Our Constitution contains as good a blueprint for individual freedom as you will find anywhere. It contains as good a mechanism for orderly change as you will find anywhere. And it is based upon the principle that government is meant to serve people, not the other way around.
Whatever evils exist under such a system can be remedied under it. People are free to advocate, oppose, speak, listen, tune in, tune out, write, read, petition, demonstrate, picket, rebut, vote, and engage in all sorts of political action or inaction.
We can fix whatever is wrong because we are free to act in our own behalf. When we want the intervention of Big Brother in Washington or in our state capitals, we can have it. When we want Big Brother to stay out of our affairs, we have the power to make him do that, too. If we fail to use that power, the blame is ours.
When we act wisely, we can enjoy the blessings of Providence. When we fail to act wisely, the fault is our own, not the government's, for we are the government.
I know of no other country in which control is so readily accessible to the people. But I can think of several countries in which the ultimate protest, the right to leave and live elsewhere, is forbidden to the people.
It appears to me that we are fortunate to be living under a system that has achieved so much and provides its people with the political apparatus to achieve so much more. I know of no better basic system, no system with greater potential for the future, and no system that has, in practice, done more for its people.
If you think you know of a better country, you're fortunate to be living here, where you have a free choice.
You're free to go live in that other country. Or you can stay here and help make this one better.