President Trump and Senator Sanders have radically different political philosophies about what constitutes a good country. Let’s examine.
The United States is a country because it has a defined territory, a defined citizenry, a government that writes its own laws and policies as well as enforces them, and a system to defend its territory, its citizens, and its way of life. It is a country.
So, what makes a good country? That is the question typically debated during most national elections. And the lines are drawn according to how much candidates believe people should be responsible for themselves, or how much government should be responsible to care for people. In the United States right now, typically the Republican Party wants to give as much responsibility to individuals as is reasonable, while the Democrat Party wants the government to provide more supervision, direction, and goods and services. This debate is healthy and should continue. But in the midst of these deliberations, consider the four criteria I use to determine the quality of a country:
- The direction of immigration. Look which direction people are flowing. Are they trying to get into a country or out of a country? Most people care fundamentally about their own welfare and that of their families. Therefore, an easy means of evaluating the quality of a country is simply the flow of immigrants. During the last century, people were willing to risk their lives to escape communist countries, (which typically called themselves Socialist Republics), and countries dominated by religious fundamentalists (typically Islamic) or malevolent dictators. In general, they were seeking political, religious, and economic freedom, and governments that protect individual civil liberties. Right now many immigrants want to get into the United States, Commonwealth countries, and Europe. The direction of immigration gives us a good measurement. On this scale, the United States certainly passes the test as a good country for all races and economic groups.
- Religious Freedom. Most people want the freedom to worship, or not worship, without government involvement (except for the protection of that freedom). Most want to be able to worship according to their own conscience, and in order to protect this freedom for all, they should be willing to respect the way others choose to worship. Most countries influenced by Judeo-Christian values protect the freedoms of those of differing faiths to represent their faith, as long as they never use the power of the state to force others to practice their faith. Violence, threats of violence, or restrictions on other freedoms to manipulate whether or not a citizen adheres to certain religious practices are not characteristics of a good country. The protection of religious freedom is the second measure I use. And on this scale, the United States passes the test.
- A government by and for the people. Communist and extreme socialist movements emphasize that they promote the protection and well-being of common people, but instead they often result in people being enslaved by their government. So, a government by and for the people allows for common people to elect those they believe will best represent and lead them. And those who are elected are supposed to be public servants, not lords over others. On this scale, the United States passes this test the vast majority of the time. However, we must continually be on guard against those who want unnecessary government control over our lives, our economy, or our goods and services. On this scale, the United States still passes this test, though I am apprehensive about the future.
- An economic system that provides the freedom for people to excel or not, and provides maximum goods and services for the most people. To date, a regulated free-market capitalist system makes available the most goods and services at a reasonable price to the most people compared to any other economic system. More people are better off with this economic system than any other system developed to date. Critics of this system accuse it of being inherently unequal, and it is, just as we are all inherently unequal (see my blog, Is Equality a Myth?). This system rewards service and does not reward an unwillingness to serve others. In other words, those who provide more goods and services to others prosper more than those who don’t. And those who competently carry more responsibility prosper much more than those who don’t. Among other responsibilities, our citizen lawmakers promote equal opportunity, encourage innovation by protecting profits earned by developing new goods and services (copyrights and patents), and protect the rewards earned by those who carry responsibility. On this scale, right now the United States passes this test.
These four ideas are my criteria for a good country. And when any nation embraces these ideas, the Gross National Product flourishes, unemployment rates decline, educational opportunities increase, health services improve, and the general happiness of citizens increases.
So, does America need to change? Not fundamentally.
Does America need a revolution? No—our fundamental ideology is good.
Does America need to go a different direction? No – based on the lessons we’ve learned in the last one-hundred years, we are headed in the right direction.
I never cast my vote based on whether I personally prefer someone or not. Governments are based on political philosophies, so I vote for the person who embraces the political philosophy that has given the most people a better life over the previous 100 years. I think this leads to an obvious choice in our current political climate.
Once our votes are cast, then each can make choices that will compliment our vote — we can improve ourselves. We can make choices that will empower us to help ourselves and others instead of making us dependent on others. Most of us can read good blogs (like this one!) and good books that will inform our thinking. We can become more responsible for ourselves and get training which will allow us to serve others. And we can get more involved with a good, life-giving local church so our personal integrity and our understanding of serving others improves. By doing these things, our personal prosperity will have a better chance of strengthening which will provide security for us, our loved ones, and our friends. We Americans already live in a good country, and by doing these things, we can make our world even better.
Just my two cents.
Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).
This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.