I have been hearing more and more members of the Republican party say that their party should only discuss jobs and (pay lip service to) “reducing the size and scope of government in our lives” while leaving every other issue alone. This is the goal of Bill Bolling’s “Virginia Mainstream Project” for example.

Of course jobs and economics are important (don’t misunderstand here), but are these the only things that are important? Are these the only things that make communities function? Is it the only thing that gives one’s life value? Is our ultimate goal to have a nice HDTV in the living room and a swimming pool in the backyard? Is that what life is all about? Bigger TVs, more food in the nice chrome fridge, more luxurious cars and bigger homes?

Republican politicians love to talk about “smaller government” but I say that they don’t mean a word of it. Smaller government means LOCAL control – home rule. The local affairs are the most likely to effect our personal safety and happiness because we are in direct control of it and have the most direct access to those we elect to be in charge. If we don’t like what our local officials are doing, then we can either change them or move to another locality. It is not one size fits all. That is the beauty of our system as originally intended.

And how can we discuss “reducing the size and the scope of government” without correspondingly enlarging the sphere of virtue? This is why I say that the Republican talking point of “smaller government” is largely hog-wash – and even they must know it. I really don’t think that those that call for a “reduction in the size and scope of government” actually know what that means – in reality.

Smaller government and “reducing its scope in our lives” means that without funds coming from Washington, that more of us would, for example, have to take initiative in our local communities. It would mean more people volunteering their skills in the local hospitals, clinics, food banks, and so on to fill in the gaps if the federal government is not providing (and/or seriously cuts back on) such services. It may even mean volunteer firefighters and police deputies. Self government requires a people with a strong commitment to service and sacrifice – and not simple lip service to it. It means caring for our own elderly parents and not expecting others to do it. It means looking out for one’s neighbors. It means painstaking work. (Some even give up vacation time and PAY their own money to volunteer on other places) It requires a people with a culture of volunteering and not expecting the federal government to bail them out at every single turn. How can we build such communities if the only thing we are to discuss is economics?

Volunteers are what makes a great community great. It doesn’t happen magically, and it doesn’t happen because there is lots of money. Show me a local community where the individuals have a strong sense of obligation upon themselves and I will show you a local community that is strong. Volunteers are the life blood of our children’ soccer, rugby, football and lacrosse leagues. Volunteers spend their free Saturday mornings at community clean ups. Volunteers erect homes for programs such as Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers at the PTA make the schools stronger. The current Loudoun County Fair would not be possible without volunteers. This is all part of a culture that should be acknowledged, talked about and passed down to our posterity. But some of the Republican politicians don’t want to talk about this at all. Just “jobs”, and a little lip service to “small gov’t” and leave it at that. No talk about what leads to a culture of strong local community.

Conversely, look at those communities with poor volunteer ethic. Those communities are failing because you can’t find many people to do anything (even coach a child’s soccer team) without paying them. Those communities have weak to non-existent PTAs at their local schools (and thus weak and failing schools). A community cleanup is next to impossible to organize because of the expectation that “someone else will do it”. There are no civic organizations because communal trust is also very low. All the social workers are paid to do the things that volunteers often do for free in other communities. Volunteering is considered to be “stupid”.

Even after a natural disaster, at the end of the day, the ultimate restoration of any town in the United States should be the business of the people that lived nearby and/or the volunteer efforts of people that migrate to the site out of the kindness of their hearts, wishing to do some Christian charity. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.  In our current condition, there is not a single locality in the United States that is now prepared to deal with a natural disaster without turning to Washington for federal funds. Self government would mean being prepared for such a thing and taking responsibility for it when it does.

But no, we can’t discuss the family anymore although strong families are the very backbone of everything I am talking about above. No, as long as that “family” has a nice mattress and their refrigerators are shipped on site, then all is well and right with the world right? The “American Dream” apparently no longer includes securing our freedoms and liberties and passing them down to our children and grandchildren. It has been reduced to making sure our families can live in a 3,000 sq ft home filled with nice stuff, and a brand-new car in the driveway – full stop.