A treatise on government by Wilson

December 09, 1990

The following is the text of the inaugural speech by County Council President Jeffrey Wilson Dec. 3,1990.

Friends, neighbors, cousins: Gathered as the community of Harford County we pause to ponder the enterprise we call "government." The purpose of government is to establish and preserve liberty and order in such a way that the maintenance of one interferes as little as possible with the maintenance of the other.

The job for us who are inside government is to ensure that people are free to be as good, as creative, as compassionate as they are willing to be. Out mandate is not primarily to do, rather the enabling and empowering of every citizen to do himself and for neighbors, and of every community to do for their common needs as well as for those who remain unable to meet personal needs. Our goal ought to be that each person and each community, in caring relationships of reciprocal responsibility, can determine and achieve their destiny.

The declaration of such a goal for government reverses a 60-year trend in which public servants and the people served largely agreed that government should do more, that the duties of citizenship should be appropriated to a centralized institutional expression. The result has been to create great, lumbering giants, awesome in dimension but sadly ridiculous in effect.

The time has come for us to rediscover one of our great, unsung freedoms: the freedom to solve our own problems.

As Mr. Jefferson put it. "The best governed people are the least governed people, because they govern themselves." But to govern themselves the people must be given the opportunity. And for government to govern less, the people must, as persons and as communities, be able and willing to assume responsibility for their own needs.

Our daily work is to govern in such way that the self-government of the people increases. Some who claim to espouse this philosophy have thrown aside the reins of government to let the horse gallop as it would. The result is that we have traveled faster toward a place that we did not want to go. Governing is an art. The goal of governing less requires great skill in governing well.

It is entirely appropriate and necessary, therefore, that government should tackle the principalities and powers which seek to subvert the public good for their private gain. It is vital that government promote structures in society which engender community rather than destroy it. It is essential that laws in their legislation, execution and judgment restrain evil without restraining goodness, creativity and compassion.

One image of government functioning properly is of government wrestling to the ground a person or entity threatening public health or safety. Another is the clearing of obstacles from a path so persons and communities can make their own, way more easily. In a word, we in government must make it as difficult as possible for persons and entities to do the wrong thing and as easy as possible to do the right.

The first and most enduring task for us is to know the difference ourselves between right and wrong. With that knowledge combined with courage the rest is comparably easy.

Is any of this possible? Specifically, is it possible for Harford County government to aid the people of Harford County, as persons and as communities, to determine and to achieve a good, destiny? Toward the end of making it possible I offer the following pledges.

1. The County Council of Harford County shall be the public forum for the community of the county as a whole. Before we deliberate, we shall listen, and before we decide, we shall deliberate. We are committed to wanting to hear what you have to say.

2. Through our participation, on the Board of Estimates we shall ensure fair and honest dealings by the county as a business entity. We shall also work to make the county as a business endity consistent with county's goals of economic development and environmental protection.

3. As the county legislature representing a free people we shall be diligent to promote equal opportunity in both public and private sectors for freedom must always be accompanied by justice.

4. Charged with oversight of land use issues, we shall promote healthy and safe community ties in which citizens living without fear can take charge of their own lives as well as taking responsibility for their neighbors' welfare. Even if we could effect perfect programs, government can never do what neighbors can do: that is, love each other and, greater even than that, take care of each other in spite of love's absence. No Institution can ever express such a relationship.

The United States Constitution, to which each of us has sworn allegiance, begins, "We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution. "The more perfect union as well as the other explicit goals of the preamble can only be accomplished if persons singly and together, can and are inspired to address their own problems with a reasonable hope of solving them.

If, in our four years, the communities of our county and the community of our county as a whole are advanced then all other Items on our agenda shall also be advanced. For the order we find in community is freedom and the freedom we find in community is order. With such a vision, such a hope, such a commitment, let us begin.

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