The conclusion here on July 4 was that the blueprint provided by our Constitution is as sound today as it was 190 years ago, and that the system of government that exists under it is the world's best.
The hard truth we must face on July 5 is that the best is none too good. In theory, we have an excellent system. In practice, our government sometimes turns out to have two left feet. It fails to live up to the potential the Constitution gives it.
Consider if you will a report filed by Lou Brott, who operates a Washington public relations firm. One of Brott's clients is a national health organization. It wanted to know how it might participate in Older Americans Month.
Before he could make any recommendations, Brott needed facts. He said to his associate, Lisa Keen, "I assume there will be a theme to the observance, so let's begin by finding out what their theme will be."
Lisa began by calling the public information office of the National Institute of Aging, which in government listings comes under the National Institutes of Health, which are under the Public Health Service, which is part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Lisa's call initiated a long series of referrals.
NIA referred her to the Administration on Aging, which is also under the HEW umbrella but in the Office of Human Development rather than under the Public Health Service. The person in AOA to whom Lisa was referred passed her along to another person, and that person referred her to a third person who told her that no theme had yet been decided upon for Older Americans Month.
So much for the government's position in the matter. Now Lisa decided she had better find out if a nongovernment agency plans to fill the gap.
She called the National Council on Aging, which referred her to another nongovernment group, the National Council of Senior Citizens, which referred her to its research department, which referred her to the Federal Council on Aging - and thereby put her back on government turf again.
Unfortunately, the Congressional Directory's index makes no mention of the Federal Council on Aging. And Lisa couldn't find it in the telephone book, either.
Her quest was at a dead end until she noticed the little box in the telephone book's listing of government phone numbers. "Confused?" it asks. "Don't know which of these offices can help you? Call 755-8660."
Lisa called 755-8660 and learned that the Federal Council on Aging is part of the Administration on Aging, an office she had already called during her adventure into big government.
The first person she talked to in the Federal Council on Aging referred her to a second person. The second person not only could offer no help but didn't even refer her to somebody else.
Now Lisa called the person at AOA who had told her that no theme had yet been chosen for Older Americans Month. This time she was told that there is another small section of AOA in which she would find a man who is in charge of the Older Americans Month observance.
So Lisa called the man. He was out. She called back seven times on the first day, four more times on the second day. He was always out. Finally Lisa was given a phone number in another building where she could find the man in the office of the National Clearinghouse on the Aging, and there she was told that there ar e no plans for Older Americans Month, period.
One who loses his way in the undergrowth of a governmental jungle is left to wonder how much duplication exists in all these agencies and why some of them can't be eliminated. Perhaps President Carter's government reorganization plan will tackle the issue by setting up an Office of Investigation within a Bureau of Consolidation that will be part of a Commission on Restructuring under a Federal Streamlining Administration within a new Department of Simplification.