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On Limited Government and The Founding Fathers

The letters to the editor section has become a rich forum for addressing issues facing our community. In this spirit I would like to challenge our state representative to rethink the legacy of our founding fathers.

Matt Gurtler is a conscientious politician attempting to serve his community. His quest “for more transparency and accountability in government” is commendable. However, his articulation of “principles” can be misleading in its application to “our founding fathers.”

The distinguished historian Gordon Wood writes that “the sacrifice of individual interests to the greater good … [represented] for Americans the idealistic goal of their Revolution … and all that made their ideology truly revolutionary.” Given the tenuous state of the Union in 1787, the framers of the Constitution believed it imperative to strengthen the national government. This included giving it the power to tax and to regulate trade with other nations and among the states.

The exercise of these powers involved interference in the market, an outgrowth of the understanding that the “invisible hand” of individuals pursuing their own interests did not always serve the interests of the nation as a whole. The framers believed in a market system, but not one free of government interference.

Erin Clark wrote in this space last week about how the government has interfered in the market to protect our nation’s environment. I suggest as well that Rabun County citizens try to imagine the condition of their forests and waters had government failed to manage their development and use, leaving them to the exploitation of individuals and corporations without consideration of “the greater good.”

In addition to the limits of a free market, our founding fathers understood the danger of tyranny. Thus they employed the principle of checks and balances, including an independent judiciary and freedom of the press. If Gurtler is truly committed to limited government and “transparency and accountability,” he should speak out when the leader of his party hides his tax returns and challenges the legitimacy of key elements of the system our founding fathers bestowed upon us.

Written by Bill Stueck, Printed on 6/1/17